Antonian legend ACM Lafir passed away peacefully yesterday in Colombo. He was 86. “Verily we belong to God, and verily to Him do we return”.
The name ACM Lafir is synonymous with Antonian cricket and has remained so through many generations. His record-breaking innings of 176 against Trinity and the opening partnership of 266 with Ronnie Steven have achieved legendary status in our history. Let us now reminisce about his cricketing career at college and how he burst into the national scene as a schoolboy.
Lafir made his first XI debut for St Anthony’s College (Kandy) in 1950 under Stanley Jayasinghe at the age of 14 and made an immediate impression by scoring 321 runs in 13 innings with a top score of 82 against Ananda. Other notable knocks include 65 vs Trinity, 41 vs Zahira and 38 vs St Joseph’s. He also bowled usefully to take 7 wickets for the season.
In 1951, under Bernard Weerakoon, Lafir continued his form from the previous season scoring 264 runs in 11 innings. His top score was 74, scored against Trinity at Asgiriya which was reported in the Antonian magazine as a “masterly innings, where his steadiness and artistry personified rightly took the honours of the day’s play.” With his wily ‘slows’, Lafir topped the bowling honours with 14 wickets at 14.4 with 6 for 37 vs Zahira and 5 for 46 against Trinity as his best. For his mighty all-round performance against Trinity, Lafir took away four out of the five awards awarded after the game- the highest scorer, best batsman, best bowler and the best all-rounder (man of the match). He also made 63 against Zahira and an unbeaten 76 against Kingswood in a one-day friendly at Randle’s Hill.
In the following season, again captained by Weerakoon, Lafir emerged as one of the best batsmen in school cricket. He was a model of consistency with scores of 139 and 47 vs Ananda, 99 vs St Joseph’s, 95 vs Zahira, 69 vs St Peter’s, 56 vs St Benedict’s and in the process topped our batting figures with 534 runs at 59.33. He continued to chip away with useful wickets, finishing the season with 14 scalps
At the age of 16, Lafir had the honour of representing the Central Province against the touring MCC in a 2-day match at Asgiriya in February 1952. He was dismissed for 4 and 12 in the two innings, being clean bowled in the first innings by Brian Statham. The MCC team was captained by Donald Carr and included Tom Graveney who scored 120 in the game.
Despite his wonderful performances in the previous year, Lafir found the going tough in 1953 under Edmund Cooray. He finished with 241 runs in 10 innings (2 not outs), including an unbeaten 65 against the Joes. He took 12 wickets for the season.
The year 1954 was the most memorable for Lafir and the season under his captaincy was one of the best ever in the annals of Antonian cricket. What’s more, it was the centenary year for St Anthony’s College, Kandy which was celebrated in grand style with an innings victory against Trinity. He completed the golden mark of 1000 runs for the season. In 13 innings (3 unbeaten), he had an aggregate of 1086 runs at an average of 108.6. He notched as many as five centuries in his 13 innings which made impressive reading – 100 vs Wesley, 50 vs St Thomas’, 91 n.o vs Dharmaraja, 1 and 48 vs St Peter’s, 184 vs St Benedict’s, 86 and 122 vs Ananda, 32 and 18 vs St Joseph’s, 176 vs Trinity, 27 and 151 n.o vs Colombo Schools. Lafir became the first Antonian to reach this milestone since the legendary Jack Anderson in 1918.
In September 1954, Lafir had the honour of representing All-Ceylon against the touring MCC, thus becoming only the seventh schoolboy to earn this honour. He opened the batting with Stanley Jayasinghe against a fearsome attack led by Frank Tyson and Brian Statham. He played for Ceylon for many years after.
Lafir captained the college side for the second season in 1955, scoring two further centuries to finish with 638 runs that included a tour to Jaffna following the proper season. He scored a chanceless 124 against Royal, an unbeaten 126 against Jaffna Hindu College and a fighting 91 against Ananda following a few low scores.
In October 1955, Lafir became the first player to score a century in the Gopalan Trophy matches from either side when he scored 107 in Madras. He produced a memorable knock against Polly Umrigar’s side in November 1956. After a rain delay, Ceylon batting first struggled against Ghulam Ahmed and Subash Gupte considered by many as the best spinners playing at that time. Lafir top scored with 55 out of the team score of 120 with captain CI Gunasekara being the only other batsman to enter double figures with 37. When MCC toured under Ted Dexter in February 1962, Lafir top scored again with 84 before unfortunately given lbw off the bowling of Dexter missing a well-deserved century out of the team score of 210 with captain CI Gunasekara being the next best scorer with 45.
ESPN Cricinfo records Lafir’s first class career as – 10 matches, 659 runs, 121 n.o as his best at 41.18 with 2 centuries and 4 fifties. In addition to this, he played in a number of other representative games, scoring a truckload of runs.
Lafir leaves his wife Carmini and three children Aashiq, Nirala and Mehera. His funeral is scheduled for 9.45 am today (19th June) at Jawatte burial grounds.
May Almighty Allah dwell him in Jannatul Firdaus!
*&* This item was sent to me by the team of Chris Drieber & Victor Melder