Alston Mahadevan: “Sunil Wettimuny was a stylish opening batsman”
Sunil Ramsay de Silva Wettimuny played for Ananda College from 1964 to 1968, captaining the team in 1968, before joining the SSC. He made his international debut for Ceylon when the M.C.C. team captained by Tony Lewis toured Ceylon in February 1970. The Sunday Observer wrote: “Sunil Wettimuny, a 21-year-old pilot trainee, finds himself in one of the openers’ spot facing the fastest what M.C.C. can dish out”. He opened the batting with Buddy Reid.
Wettimuny toured Pakistan under the leadership of Anura Tennekoon in 1974. He scored his maiden fifty against Clive Lloyd’s West Indians in 1975 when he made 69 against the fearsome pace attack that included Andy Roberts, Bernard Julien, and Keith Boyce. When Sri Lanka played in the inaugural World Cup in England in 1975, he became the first Sri Lankan to score a fifty in the World Cup. He made 53 off 102 balls including 7 boundaries against the hostile fast bowling of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson before deciding to “retire hurt”. Thomson hit him six times on the body before hitting his big toe. He was admitted to St. Thomas’s Hospital and later discharged.
When the West Indians toured Sri Lanka in 1979, the second unofficial Test was played at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium on 22, 23 and 24 February 1979. Wettimuny and Hettiaratchy got Sri Lanka away to a reasonable start with a 63-run opening stand. Tennekoon joined Wettimuny and added 93 runs for the second wicket. Wettimuny top scored with 84 runs.
The 45-over match was played at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground on 25 February 1979. Wettimuny and Sunil Jayasinghe opened the batting to the bowling of Sylvester Clarke and Norbert Phillip. Wettimuny was batting well for his 28 before he was hit on top of his right ear by a bouncer from Malcolm Marshall.*** The Ceylon Daily News wrote that “Wettimuny batted with a lot of determination to the cheers of the Sri Lanka supporters but their jubilation was short lived as Wettimuny was felled by a ball from Marshall. Wettimuny was in a state of collapse and had to be carried off the field. He was later rushed to the Accident Service of the General Hospital”.
Sri Lanka captained by Bandula Warnapura registered its first ever World Cup win when they beat India by 47 runs at Old Trafford, Manchester, on 16 and 18 June 1979 after the rest day on 17. Sri Lanka became the first Associate member to beat a Full member in the World Cup tournament. Wettimuny made 67 runs in 132 minutes off 120 balls including eight boundaries against an Indian bowling attack that comprised of Kapil Dev, Bishen Singh Bedi and Srinivas Venkatraghavan.
Sri Lanka was fortunate to have an opening batsman of the calibre of Sunil Wettimuny during the pre-Test era. He played during an era when batsmen faced dangerously fast bowlers without helmets or any other modern protective equipment. Wettimuny and other gifted cricketers who played during the pre-Test era never lost heart at the repeated rejections of the application for Test status and admirably continued to play the game in the right sprit, ensuring the standard of play was always improving. Their hard work was rewarded when Sri Lanka was admitted as a Full member of the ICC on 21 July 1981.
*** I was in Sri Lanka then on a research trip and was watching the match live. Roy Dias was the non-striker. He rushed down the pitch in concern. All the Wettimunys must be hardy souls. Sunil even flew to Lahore to bring the vitorious Sri Lankan squad back after they snaffled the 1996 World Cup. … Michael Roberts
ADDITION: “When I tickled Sunil about his second name “Ramsay” in jest, he had this pertinent response:
“You need to ask my dear father and unfortunately he is well gone from this world in 1974.. …. great and awesome fantastic father, if not for him I wouldn’t have achieved many things in life.
Take good care Michael…… Sunil
YES, Wettimuny Senior indeed we in the cricket world are indebted to you for siring three world class cricketers.
Alan Gibson: “Sri Lankan prospects please until Thomson injures two batsmen” in Roberts & James, Crosscurrents, 1998 Walla Walla Press, pp. 88-90.
Mervyn Pereira: “Sri Lanka’s gallant display talking point in the press,” in Roberts & James, Crosscurrents, 1998 Walla Walla Press, pp. 90-94.
Thuppahi: “Sri Lanka at ‘War’ at Kennington Oval,” 1 August 2016 https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/sri-lanka-at-war-at-kennington-oval-london-on-8th-june-1975/
Michael Roberts: “Tamil Demonstrations and Thommo’s Thunderbolts: Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval at the 1975 World Cup,” 1 February 2019, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/tamil-demonstrations-and-thommos-thunderbolts-sri-lanka-at-kennington-oval-at-the-1975-world-cup/
Michael Roberts: “Landmarks and Threads in the Cricketing Universe of Sri Lanka,” Sport in Society, 2007, 10(1), 120-142.
Michael Roberts: “Wunderkidz in a Blunderland: Tensions and Tales from Sri Lankan cricket,” Sport in Society, 2009, 12(4-5), 566-578.
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