Michael De Zoysa: A Man to have beside You” — so say Ranjan, Rex and Sa’adi

ONE = RANJAN PARANAVITHANA in Facebook

Sad news…! It is the time to say good bye to a legend on Sri Lanka Cricket…
Former Sri Lanka team manager,
Expert on the tea industry.,
Live wire of SSC cricket..,
Commentator,
Curator,
A man who had athe backbone to fight against wrongdoings at Sri Lanka Cricket ,
Michel De Zoysa.!
Rest in peace…! 😢

TWO = REX CLEMENTINE: “Cricket mourns death of a honest man,” in Island, 1 October 2019

Death laid its icy hands on cricket stalwart Michael De Zoysa on Sunday. He was set to celebrate his 73rd birthday on Monday. Educated at S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, De Zoysa represented school in rugby but it was as a cricket administrator he rose to prominence.

De Zoysa was the Manager of the national cricket team from 2013 to 2015 and in those three years, the Sri Lankan side reached new heights. Two of his successful tours were to England in 2014 when Sri Lanka recorded a first ever Test series win in that country. Two months before that the team won the World T-20 in Bangladesh.

Michael was a straight bat and wasn’t afraid to call spade a spade. Journalists looked forward to interactions with him as he would give them good copies. One such incident happened at the MCG during the 2015 World Cup.

Sri Lanka had been given an horrendous schedule. Their opening two games were in New Zealand, the third one in Australia and the next game back in New Zealand again. The team then had to return to Australia for their last two group games. There was very little recovery time as the gap between games at times were two days. Given the strict quarantine laws in both New Zealand and Australia, players had to go through much hassle.

After the Bangladesh game at MCG, which they had won by 92 runs, the team had to travel to New Zealand to play England 48 hours later. T.M. Dilshan, Man of the Match at MCG turned up for the media briefing and when The Island raised a question about the difficulties of constant travel crossing the Tasman sea, Dilshan passed the buck onto the Manager. Without batting an eyelid Michael responded, “It’s tough no doubt but it doesn’t matter. England is a bye.” All hell broke loose from thereon. It was just the opening the Aussies wanted against the old enemy England and the press went to town. True to form, Sri Lanka thrashed England by nine wickets in Wellington.

After quitting as Team Manager, Michael was once again heavily involved with his beloved Sinhalese Sports Club. He produced some quality cricket tracks. During Australia’s’ tour of the island in 2017, Steve Smith’s side was facing a 3-0 whitewash at SSC. Angered by Australia’s complaints about poor training wickets, Michael called the tourists, ‘Dirty Aussies’. The press had a field day. Michael was put under immense pressure by both the tourists and cricket establishment. He did not buckle under pressure. He could have played ball by claiming that he had been misquoted or quoted out of context. But he owned up to his statement. He was an honest man. And honest men are few and rare in our cricket

Less than a year later, the ball tampering incident happened in South Africa and both Smith and his deputy David Warner received bans from Cricket Australia while their Head Coach Darren Lehmann and CEO James Sutherland stepped down from their posts.

Tea was Michael’s other passion and he was a pioneer in the industry. Apart from being a Secretary of SSC he was also a member of the Executive Committee of SLC.

Sri Lanka’s cricketers were wearing black armbands during yesterday’s second ODI in Karachi. Many Sri Lankan cricketers expressed their sorrow through social media. Former captain Kumar Sangakkara wrote on twitter, “With the sudden and sad demise of Michael De Zoysa we have lost a passionate stalwart and lover of Sri Lanka Cricket, Ceylon tea and the SSC. More importantly we have lost a friend. A man ever ready to help those in need, a man of faith you will be missed.”

AA--MICHAEL DE Z

THREE = Sa’adi Thawfeeq: “Fearless Michael never minced his words,” in Daily News, 1 October 2019

Michael de Zoysa who passed away on Sunday, a day before his 73rd birthday was a man of many parts connected to cricket. The son of former Sri Lanka cricketer and cricket commentator Lucien de Zoysa, Michael, a former Thomian was not only a pillar of SSC cricket but also contributed towards the development of the country’s cricket in a big way in the capacity of holding many positions in the executive committees of Sri Lanka Cricket and as manager of the Sri Lanka team.

Michael gave his heart and soul to SSC a club he served loyally for several decades as a player and administrator and more notably as curator of the SSC cricket ground. Succeeding the late Ranil Abeynaike, Michael has overseen the management of the SSC grounds and its precious wickets for quite a long time so that when the Australian team led by Steve Smith complained about the pitch prepared for the third and final Test at the SSC in 2016, it ignited the ire of Michael who branded them as ‘The Ugly Australians’.

“All I can say is that they are poor losers. They came to Sri Lanka hoping to steam roll our team following our losses in England, but to their surprise they find themselves 0-2 down in the series and the possibility of being white-washed if they lose this Test, so they are whingeing at every turn,” said Michael. For the record the Aussies lost the series 0-3 losing the final Test at the SSC by 163 runs.

One of the finest contributions Michael made to Sri Lanka cricket was seeing the development of Angelo Mathews as a player and captain when he was in charge of the national team as manager from February 2013 till the end of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. It was a period where Sri Lanka had quite a lot of success the highlight being winning their first-ever Test series in England under Mathews and the World T20 in Bangladesh under Lasith Malinga – both achievements in 2014.

“From the time he (Angelo Mathews) captained in the Bangladesh series through to the end of the 2015 World Cup, it was marvellous to see a young man really filling the shoes he was intended to fill,” Michael said.

Mathews in his tribute to his former manager said, “Mr Michael de Zoysa was such a passionate person he gave everything he had towards cricket and he was a father figure to all of us. It’s so sad to hear of his demise. He always wanted us to win playing the game in the right spirit. As manager he went out of the way to help the guys and we could always go up and talk to him, he advised you on life, cricket and everything. He was such a humble personality a straightforward person and an amazing human being.”

A straight talker prepared to level criticism at one’s face, Michael was fearless and did not mince his words.

During the 2015 World Cup when Sri Lanka were given a tough schedule where they frequented between Australia and New Zealand to play their matches Michael was asked by a senior cricket writer whether the constant travel between countries was tough on his team. Michael’s reply was “It’s tough but it doesn’t matter, England is a bye.” When word got around to the England camp the British press picked up the Sri Lankan manager’s statement and one broadsheet said, ‘Sri Lankan manager snubs England,’.

True to his word Sri Lanka went onto beat England quite comprehensively by nine wickets at Wellington with Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara scoring hundreds apiece.

Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Ashley de Silva in a statement said, “’Sri Lanka Cricket wishes to express our deepest condolences to Mr. Zoyza’s family at this moment of sorrow. ’Michael was a great man with a good character and had a proactive mindset. The cricketing fraternity will immensely miss his presence.”

As a mark of respect to its former manager the Sri Lanka team members sported a black arm band during the second ODI against Pakistan at Karachi yesterday.

 

1 Comment

Filed under accountability, cricket for amity, cultural transmission, heritage, life stories, meditations, sri lankan society, unusual people

One response to “Michael De Zoysa: A Man to have beside You” — so say Ranjan, Rex and Sa’adi

  1. An EMAIL NOTE from DAYA WICKRAMATUNGA, dated 2 October 2019: “The Tea Industry has lost a great tea taster, SSC a strong supporter and most of us who were close to him, a dear friend. May God Bless him.”

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