Moving Beyond the Richmond-Mahinda Cricket Team on Their 50th Anniversary Encounter in 1955: Personal Extensions

Michael Roberts

copy provided by Nandasiri Jasentuliyanna

While this classic photograph of an all-important event in Galle will be manna from heaven for those attached to the two schools, it evokes important memories of a personal kind in my reflections on the past.

One: the assembly includes Marcus Jayasinghe as one of the umpires. In 1955 Marcus was the coach of the St. Aloysius College cricket team and I was among those in that squad who benefited from his quiet and personable style of guidance. He was gentlemanly to the core. His presence in my recollections is indelible.

Second: the squads include DH de Silva and Douglas Gunawardena — as captains no less. Both entered Peradeniya University and when I eventually crossed its portals in 1957, we all became colleagues in arms for the Peradeniya cricket team which Dougie and Hema captained in their turn.[1] DH may have been “DH” to those in the Colombo Municipality and the leading cricket sides he played in subsequently, but to us at Peradeniya he was “Hema” – as ebullient and irrepressible as he looks in a classic picture I present here.

Dougie, alas, passed away prematurely some years thereafter; while Hema  the full force of a bullet attributed to a JVP assassin[2] in the late 1980s wreaking vengeance for his temerity in defying JVP underground revolutionary ‘orders’[3] when DH was the Municipal Commissioner of Kandy – a traumatic hit which he recovered from (with bullet fragment still embedded within) … …. but an event which induced his whole family to migrate to Melbourne.

Third: the squad also includes two Burgher personnel I knew of and respected: one being Walter May as coach at Richmond – a gentleman whose hurdling prowess in athletics in representing Ceylon is one dimension of my memory; and the other being Vernon Wambeck, a commanding bowler who went on to play for the BRC in the top-tier of the island’s domestic competition. I gather that both eventually migrated to Australia (and therein lies another chapter in Sri Lanka’s socio-political history).

Fourth: …. and then there are the youngsters – one JLN De Silva from Richmond and the brothers Sisira, Percy and Stanley Amendra from Mahinda College. The Amendras added a range of strengths to the Mahinda cricket team when St. Aloysius faced them: Sisira as a dashing batsman, Stanley as a probing bowler and steady bat and Percy was opening bat and spin-bowler. JLN de Silva was a dashing batsman who went on to captain Richmond; and, then, having flipped over his names to stress their indigenous roots and become Nandasiri Jasentuliyana, moved beyond Galle to straddle the globe as an eminent space scientist based in USA. So, do absorb this picture and its implications: note, too, his recent publication Same Sky, Different Nights (Authorhouse, 2016).

DP “Premachandra” De Silva is standing second from left in the last row of this picture presenting the Ceylon Team that toured India in Dec-Jan 1964/65

Fifth: In this picture presenting us with so many talents one can also find DP de Silva, one of Hema’s younger brothers, standing fourth from the left in the back row. Premachandra eventually outshone his elder brother as a batsman and was among those lined up for the Ceylon teams of the 1960s — in a period teeming with high-quality batsmen from a wide range of schools. I cannot recall meeting him ever beyond the competitive matches on the Galle esplanade. But one moment in our encounters is deeply etched in my memory.

It is a pneumonic imprint that should be etched in cricket history. In those my younger days in cricket, I was a stodgy batsman and an accumulator. Playing against Mahinda once – I suspect it was when Carlyle Rodrigo and myself at No 6 rescued the team after we had lost 4 wkts for some 30 runs — I was holding the fort when, suddenly, I punched a shortish ball from paceman Sirisoma with straight bat past square leg for a resounding boundary.

…. And then! …. There was “DP” at gully clapping the stroke. Here, then, was a student and lover of the game of cricket, an aficianado in cricket like Hema his brother. One, today, only wishes there were/are more such examples in the top tiers of world cricket.

***  ***

REFERENCES

Rohan Gunaratna, Sri Lanka. A Lost Revolution? The Inside Story of the JVP, Colombo, Kandy, Institute of Fundamental Studies, 1990

CA Chandraprema, Sri Lanka: The Years of Terror. The J.V.P. Insurrection 1987-1989, Colombo, Lake House Bookshop, 1991

Michael Roberts, Essaying Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006

Michael Roberts, “In Celebration of DH de Silva, “Hema’ to His Pals,” 6 July 2016, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/in-celebration-of-dh-de-silva-hema-to-his-pals/

Also Note = http://www.ft.lk/entertainment-sectors/book-on-second-jvp-insurgency-to-be-released-on-20-december/10405-585750

 Hema marries Sujatha Jayaweera of Ladies College –a Pera-Uni love match

END NOTES

[1] As far as I recall, Dougie Gunawardena played for Arunachalam Hall in the intra-Peradeniya matches; whereas Hema, I , Tissa Jayasinghe, Merrill Gooneratne and others played for Ramanathan Hall in contests that were always competitive.

[2] Hema and his son Nalaka were playing tennis at the Lawn Tenis Club in Kandy when the hit occurred. The assassin’s gun jammed after the first shot and the killer fled on the pillion of his motorcycle when Hema’s eldest son ran forward with a racquet raised (I presume).

[3] The JVP methods of threat and assassination during their Second Insurrection (1987-1989) were as effective as frightening …. and brought life to a standstill when they declared a specific day to be a STAY-AT-HOME day. Beginning with the books on the subject by Rohan Gunaratna and CA Chandraprema, one must reach further and wider to gain a handle on this complex topi c….and embrace Stephen Champion’s pictorial tale as well.

A Qualifying Note re the Hit on DH De Silva from Gerald Peiris [who was also from Ramanthan Hall And lived in Peradeniya in the 1970s and 80s and interacted with DH frequently]: DH was autocratic in his style of administration and “those of his workforce caught taking bribes – you probably don’t know that the KMC, like most other local government institutions, is replete with corruption – were dealt with by him quite harshly. This is why I suspect that the attempt to kill him was the work of a hired assassin. In addition, attributing that attempt to the JVP is not quite plausible for two other reasons as well — one, the revolver was hardly ever used by JVP killers except in very close encounters such as the Vijaya Kumaratunga assassination (targeting someone even from a distance of, say, 20 meters requires a rare skill), and the other, the JVP is unlikely to have borne such an intense grievance against Hema to murder him.These, Michael, are somber recollections.”

ADDENDUM

An EMAIL COMMENT from Milroy Berenger in Australia, 8 March 2020:

“That was a delightful read. What interesting snippets can emerge from an old photograph if done as threads of thought and knowledge. As is said, to the people in the picture and their kith and kin gems indeed……………….. Appreciated,”

4 Comments

Filed under cricket for amity, cultural transmission, education, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, life stories, patriotism, performance, politIcal discourse, security, self-reflexivity, Sri Lankan cricket, trauma, unusual people, world events & processes

4 responses to “Moving Beyond the Richmond-Mahinda Cricket Team on Their 50th Anniversary Encounter in 1955: Personal Extensions

  1. K.L.F.Wijedasa

    Dear Nandi
    I can remember most of those in the picture. Wally and Wambeck.HSB Fernando was on thevtutorial staff of Ananda along with me. I was out of Peradeniya when Michael entered Peradeniya but his sister Sheila was with us. Michael was one of Peradeniya allround sportsman after CS Fernando
    WijedasaKLF.

  2. Ranjith Gurugamage

    Thnks Dr.Roberts for the write up on De Silva brothers: Third one was Gunachandra De Silva who played in 1957 under Sisira Amendra’s captaincy. I knew all of them as they used to practice at Galle Esplanade under the guidance of Mr.D.L.Hewa (of Galle Stores Tailors), and i was one of the Ball Boys (Bowling and fielding) while among the players practising 4th De Silva Brother D.L.Somachnrdra De Silva is known to most of the present day Sri Lankans.

  3. D.Lam Seneviratne

    Ceylon team to India in 1964/65. Of the 18 in the photograph I am able to name 17.
    Front row: L to R Stanley Jayasinhge, Abu Fuard, Michael Tissera, HIK
    Fernando, A. Polonowita, Nisal Senaratne– Manager.
    Middle row : Devaraj, Neil Chanmugam, Mano Ponniah, Darrel Lieversz, Lasantha Rodrigo, blank, Dhanasiri Weerasinghe.
    back row: TCT Edwards, DP de Silva, Norton Frederick, Ranjit Fernando, Lareef Idroos.

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