Tamil Demonstrations and Thommo’s Thunderbolts: Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval at the 1975 World Cup

Michael Roberts

While some of these striking photographs have been presented before in Cricketique or in Thuppahi, they have not been assembled under one roof before. They are significant both for political and cricketing reasons.  

In cricketing terms we had a talented troupe of players back home so that the final choice of fourteen left very competent players out of scene. The preparations were quite remarkable. The larger pool of players was sent to Nuwara Eliya in order to acclimatize themselves while practicing at Radalla.

Standing left-to-right: David Heyn, Roy Dias, Sarath Fernando, Neil Perera (Asst Manager), Raja Wickremasinhe (Fitness Trainer( and KMT Perera (Manager)  Squatting left-to right: Duleep Mendis, Bandula Warnapura, Ajit de Silva, Anura Ranasinghe, Lalith Kaluperuma, Dennis Chanmugam, DS de Silva, Ranjit Fernando, Tony Opatha, Anura Tennekoon, HSM Pieris ….. Missing because traveling to Nuwara Eliya by car:  Michael Tissera and Sunil Wettimuny

The team lost all three of their matches in round one. But they revealed their batting prowess in the match against a fearsome Australian side at Kennington Oval on )) June 1975 when they accumulated  276 runs for the loss of 4 wickets in the teeth of ‘bombfire’ and art — the artillery being Thomson, Lillee and Walker and the art being Ashley Mallett. That score was not enough to reach the Aussie total of 328 for 5 wkts. But the short scorecard does not tell readers that two Sri Lankan batsmen, Sunil Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis, were carried off the field injured and one ended up in hospital. Those ‘kills’ were effected by the fearsome Jeff Thomson – Thommo” to Aussie cricket fans.


Nor do the cricket sheets indicate the sturm und drang of a pitch invasion by Tamil militants early in the day — using this showcase event as a platform for their reading of the political scenario back home in Sri Lanka. These activists from the EROS and other like-clusters in London (information from Dayan Jayatilleka who was in the crowd watching the match). They were no threat to any of the Sri Lankan fielding side (see Pics).  Their little leaflet is, however, an important document in the history of the Sri Lankan Tamil struggle (and was saved for the archival record by SS Chandra Perera).

So to snapshot after snapshot we shall proceed -in rough temporal order.

The Sri Lankan squad plus two reserves at the NCC ground before departure.

Standing l-to-rtDuleep Mendis, Lalith Kaluperuma, Sunil Wettimuny, Tony Opatha, HSM Pieris, DLS de Silva, DS de Silva, Dennis Chanmugam, Anura Ranasinghe, Bandula Warnapura ……..Seated l-to rt: David Heyn, Anura Tennekoon (Capt), KMT Perera (Manager), Michael Tissera, Ranjit Fernando

 Sri LankanTamil demonstrators invade pitch with placards and banners making their own pitch …. while the Sri Lankan fielders and the two Aussie batsmen watch calmly …. till the police and other officials intervene and carry or march the protestors off

Sunil Wettimuny square cuts

 Duleep Mendis hooks

  Sunil Wettimuny hit and injured by Thomson

Duleep Mendis is  felled by Thommo

  Mendis being carried by Mevan Pieris and Dennis Chanmugam after being hit on the head by Thommo, ….. with  Manager KMT Perera, two other concerned officials and Anura Tennekoon trailing behind


Sunil Wettimuny indicated that this snap could be a picture of himself being carried off when hit by Malcolm Marshall at an ODI match at the SSC in Colombo (where, as it happens, I was one of the spectators). Therein lies another tale.


Michael Roberts, “Tamil Protest at Kennington Oval, London, 7 June 1975,” 13 May 2010, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/tamil-protest-at-kennington-oval-london-7-june-1975/

Michael Roberts, “Tamil Demonstrations and Thommo’s Thunderbolts at Kennington Oval at t he 1975 World Cup,” 10 February 2019, https://thuppahis.com/?p=34052&preview=true

Surajit Musafi“Shatter and Clatter! Thommo’s Fact Sheet,” 10 February, 2019, https://cricketique.wordpress.com/  …. a reprint of a 2016 article.

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