Nandasiri Jasentuliyana aka J.L.N. De Silva
Back Row L to R: E.W.G. Hamilton,;Lalith Fernando; Gnanam Benjamin; Amarasiri Liyanage; Parakrama Waidyanatha; R.L. De. Silva; Montgomery Austin; Walter Gurusinghe; Hemasiri Hettige; Chitral Jayawardena; Tudor Jayasuriya.
The venue of Richmond College intercollegiate matches has always been the famed Galle Cricket Grounds with a backdrop of the historic Galle Fort. It is considered one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world, nestled against the Indian Ocean, with the Galle ramparts adding to the scenic setting. The massive clock tower highlights this staging atop the Dutch Fort and the butterfly bridge, enhancing the already beautiful landscape. Before being brought up to international cricket standards, the venue was known as ‘The Esplanade’. It was the home ground of the Galle Cricket Club.
Built-in 1876 as a racecourse, the ground was used for cricket matches after the racing ceased. In 1927, it was officially declared a cricket stadium. On the day after Christmas 2004, the ground was devastated by the tsunami resulting from a quake in the Indian Ocean. It was rebuilt with modern facilities and opened for international matches when the stadium hosted the last match played by perhaps the most outstanding cricketer produced by Sri Lanka, Muttiah Muralitharan, who reached the mark of 800 test wickets, the highest in the cricketing world. He and Shane Warne of Australia, whose record was broken by Muralitharan, helped rebuild it.
In 1958, as Captain I had the privilege of leading the Richmond College cricket team on to those hallowed grounds. That was the last year when a Richmond player could captain multiple years, as it was limited to a single year thereafter. Coming off a historic victory beating Wesley after 27 years following a series of losses and several more draws the previous season, the 1958 team saw some outstanding players and performances. The highlight of the year was the Richmond Mahinda match, dubbed the “lover’s quarrel”, which reflected the close and friendly interaction between the two schools. Following six consecutive years of drawn matches, I was delighted that Richmond won in 1958 under my captaincy.
Historic performances have been made in the course of this series on those grounds. S. Ambawatte, in 1953, when he made a record-breaking 103 not out and took all 10 wickets in Richmond’s first innings, received worldwide accolades but fell short of bringing a victory for Mahinda. That was thirty years after my maternal uncle R.M.M. De Silva’s excellent performance in 1921, which remains Richmond’s most outstanding all-round performance. Under my captaincy in 1958, Hemasiri Fernando took 11 wickets for 64 runs helping Richmond to a victory.
I opened the batting for Richmond and had the ignobility of being bowled out for a first-ball duck by Gunachandra De Silva. But following my early exit, Newton Pinnaduwa, the vice-captain, and newcomer Tudor Jayasuriya made half-centuries, and Hemasiri Fernando, our pace bowler, in a brilliant spell of bowling, enabled Richmond to win by 4 wickets. This was considered a great victory after half a dozen draws in the series.
The second day of the game was rather tense as much of the town had turned up to watch the game and cheer for Mahinda College, knowing that, being behind, they needed the support. They were the days when most common folk turned up to support Mahinda, the leading Buddhist school in the area. A rumor spread in the pavilion that people from the fish market were turning up to watch the match with their fish knives in hand. The end of the match was rather tense, with the players escorted in a rush.
During the fifties, the Mahinda team was made up of members of two famous cricketing families of De Silva brothers (Hemachandra, Premachamdra, Somachandra, and Gunachandra, three of whom played for Sri Lanka) and the Amendra brothers (Sisira, Raja, Stanley. Percy, Punya, Tissa, Asoka, none of whom played for Sri Lanka). In 1958 my rival captain was Stanley Amendra, who now occupies the ancestral house in Galle, where I have had the pleasure of visiting him on my visits to Sri Lanka (see photo).
The friendships made between cricketers were long-lasting, and my rival captain at St. Aloysius College, Galle, was none other than the famed historian and anthropologist Prof. Michael Roberts, and we have carried our long-distance friendship to the realm of octogenarians (we were rival captains from the under 12 team through to the first IX). Among the living, those with whom we carried our camaraderie across continents are Larif Idroos of St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavania, who also took my wicket, the first ball I faced from him, and Lorenz Pereira, who captained the Royal College team in 1958.
In the 1958 season, we had mixed results. Richmond did well against the good sides, narrowly losing a few and narrowly winning with the weaker teams.
The game with St. Aloysius was one of the close games we won. St. Aloysius was captained by Michael Roberts, who was about the most consistent scorer for St. Aloysius during my time. He had captained the junior teams along with me. He was the son of T.W. Roberts, a District Judge who resided within the Galle Fort. His sister, Norah Roberts, published an exhaustive but very readable work on Galle titled Galle: As Quiet as Asleep, which was republished as a second edition in 2005, edited by Michael that brings to memory the cricketing days in the fifties.
One of the not-so-close games that we lost was to Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, captained by Lasantha Rodrigo, an excellent batsman. Prince of Wales also featured Anuradha Polonawita, a fabulous left-arm bowler. Both went on to captain club sides and played in the national team. Polonawita had played for the Ananda College side but transferred to Prince of Wales in his last year of school. He later went on to become a cricket administrator and was the National Curator of the cricket grounds shouldering the enormous responsibility of preparing pitches for international cricket tournaments.
During 1958, for Richmond, good scores were made constantly by vice-captain Newton Pinnaduwa, who also bowled well as a pace bowler, along with Monty Austin and Hemasiri Fernando, our opening pace bowlers. Newton served the Peoples Bank in Colombo and passed away in his early fifties. Hemasiri joined the Air Force and played for the army team, and later served as the Chief of security at the Central Bank.
Good scores were also made by Chitral Fernando, Lalith Fernando Tudor Jayasuriya, our outstanding wicketkeeper Berti Gunasekera and me. Lalith was a stylish left-hand batsman. He later became a medical doctor and immigrated to the United States. There he has a successful practice in mental health in Kansas. He visited me in Los Angeles not long ago along with his wife Shanthi, a physician.
Tudor captained the team later and became a lawyer with a successful career, ending as a senior partner of the leading law firm in Colombo F.J. & G. De. Sarams. During a recent visit to Sri Lanka, I invited him and his wife to join me at a reunion of our mutual friends. We began the evening with the staging of the latest Sinhala play written by our mutual friend Namel Weeramuni. During the play, Tudor had left and was not present at the festivities that followed. When I telephoned the next day to inquire what happened, he revealed that he had cancer and could not last the evening though he tried to. I was most grateful that he did attend, and we had a long conversation about our lives at Richmond. Shortly after I returned from Colombo, I heard the news that Tudor, a good sportsman, and admirably principled person, had succumbed to the fatal disease.
Chitral Jayawardena, a right-hand batsman, was consistently among the runs, and after the season, he transferred to Zahira College, where he played for the team. He later joined the Railway Department and worked himself up the administrative ladder. While Berti Gunasekera, the wicketkeeper and opening bat who captained the team the following year, joined the Survey Department and was a recognized surveyor.
In 1958, our team’s success rested upon the trio of great bowlers: Hemasiri Fernando, the pace bowler; Hemasiri Hettige, an excellent off-spin bowler; and E.V.G. Hamilton, who had a vicious off-cutter as the two spin bowlers. All three, joined the Forces and played cricket for their Teams. We also had a leg-spin bowler in G. Benjamin and a left-arm finger spinner Parakrama Waidyanatha, who contributed well when called upon, thus providing great variety on our bowling side.
Both Hemasiri and Hettige left the Air Force and joined the Central Bank and served as the Head of its security force in succession before retirement. I often saw them at the Bank during my visits to Sri Lanka. Hamilton, who was a good rugby player, received a blow to the head from a boot while playing rugby for his club. After a bad concussion, his short life reached an untimely end. Waidyanatha became the Director of the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) and, later, the Director of the Tea Search Institute (TRI), and Benjamin worked at the Public Works Department (PWD).
The others who were on the team were Bandusena De. Silva, a left-arm medium-paced inswinger; Amarasiri Liyanage, a reserve wicket keeper, who was a senior public servant retired and lives in Australia; Walter Gurusinghe, a dogged batsman and an excellent fielder was a planter and died young as a result of a car accident; and Sarath Balapatabendi, an up-and-coming reserve allrounder, became a Chartered Management Accountant and is a consultant at Kenrich Finance Ltd,
Rev. Geo Weerasooria, a former Richmond cricketer, became an ordained priest and was the team’s coach during the two years of my captaincy. He was a gentle soul who knew exactly how to coach a team to be a winner. He taught us to play the game in the right spirit, win or lose. Later, he went to Manchester University in the UK under a scholarship from the World Council of Churches to do postgraduate studies in Theology. Later he resided in the United States, serving as a pastor.
1958 also saw the first schoolboy team from Australia touring the Island. They played five matches in five provinces, which were popular cricketing areas of the country. Two were played in Colombo, one in Kandy, one in Jaffna, and one in Galle. I had the great honor of captaining the combined schools’ team that played the Galle Match. We did pretty well, and as the game drew to a close, we had a reachable target to win the game, although within a short time frame. I went to bat at the fall of a few wickets, but just as I had settled down and tried to hurry the scoring, a vicious full ball landed on my face dislocating a couple of teeth. With a mouth full of blood, I was taken to the hospital. I later learned that we failed to reach the target, and the match was drawn.
The occasion of this particular match reminds me also of the vital difference in the attire, or should I say, the equipment we used then compared to the present. We played in tennis shoes with pads on, a bat in hand, and a flimsy cap to shield us from the hot tropical sun. We were exposed from head to toe and prone to every injury imaginable. We knew no better and played on merrily. Though the protection was sparse, they were the days when the bodyline bowling was rampant and even became a scandal during the coveted Ashes tournament between England and Australia.
As a memento of the risks taken on the field, I still sport a cut below my chin and a missing tooth from the injury I sustained from a ball to my face during the match against the visiting Australian Combined Schools’ Team. That injury required a few stitches and a visit to the dentist. If we had had the luxury of the helmet and other body armor with which present-day cricketers are protected, we would not have had such permanent scars to show off.
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Nandasiri Jasentuliyana: President Emeritus, International Institute of Space Law & Policy; …………. Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations, and Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs ……….
………… Member, Richmond Team 1955 & 1956, Captain 1957 & 1958.