Letter from Errol Fernando to Michael Wille, 28 November 2020
Dear Michael, ….. Your letter reminds me of one of my most life-changing experiences–the day my father took me to the P Saravanamuttu Oval to see Bradman ! Dad had been talking for months about the traditional one-day match against Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles and my 8-year-old heart was pounding as we entered the stadium and found our seats. There was a roar when we heard that Australia would be batting and we settled in our seats when Barnes and Brown walked out to bat.All this,of course, was simply going through the motions and all we wanted was for one of them to get out. Eventually the umpire co-operated by giving Brown out LBW– a shocking decision because the sharp in-swinger from Sathi Coomaraswamy was missing the leg stump by miles! Nobody cared because this was the instant we were all waiting for.
I will remember the next moment as long as I live. There was a time of breathless silence before the next batsman entered. The crowd held their breath and the atmosphere was electric. Eventually out walked a figure who was smaller than many of his gigantic team-mates. If God had walked out at number three the atmosphere could not have been more charged.
He proceeded to play a most unmemorable innings and was eventually dismissed for 20, caught De Kretser bowled Heyn. I cannot recall a single stroke that he played– so different from my clear memory later of shots played by batsmen such as Sobers, Gower, Viswanath and Tom Graveney. One off-drive from Sobers in Colombo against K.M.T Perera actually reduced me to tears! I also recall the late-cuts of Sathasivam against my father’s team. Dad played with and against Sathasivam and his eyes lit up whenever he spoke of ‘Satha.’ As wicket-keeper, of course, Dad had the best close-up view of Satha whose late-cuts were a dream.
May I say, Michael, that I was never the same after that day in 1948 when I saw Bradman. It was a ‘Born Again’ experience after which I was completely converted, hook, line and sinker,to the Great Game. I proceeded to follow the Test matches on Dad’s primitive radio with fanatical interest– not surprising because I had just seen players such as Bradman, Miller, Barnes, Harvey and Tallon in Colombo. I vividly remember John Arlott’s descriptions of Bradman being regularly caught at ‘leg gully’ off Bedser, Hutton and Compton’s brave batting against the might of Lindwall and Miller and teenage Harvey’s scintillating innings at Headingley. The closest I ever came to a heart attack was when Eric Hollies bowled Bradman for nought in his final innings. I was glued to the radio! My great hero was Keith Miller whose career I closely followed until he retired in 1956.
From that day in 1948 to the present I have never been able to take my eyes off the game.When my ship from Colombo stopped at Fremantle in 1963 I took a bus to Perth and rushed to the WACA where I persuaded them to let me walk to the middle! In Melbourne Dad and I spent many golden hours watching Tests for decades. I would love to share memories with you sometime, Michael.
Thank you for reading this, and now let me reply to your letter!
Warmest wishes, Errol
FOR the scoresheets in 1948, 1953 …and other such moments, see Michael Roberts & Alfred James: Crosscurrents, Sri Lanka and Australia at Cricket, Sydney, walla wala Press, 1998.
For other embellishments from the eras past, visit Michael Roberts, Essaying Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006