Chandra Schaffter: A Sturdy Sri Lankan Sportsman and Administrator For All Seasons

Michael Roberts

Sri Lanka has been blessed with generations of talented cricketers over the decades: from

  • the Kelaarts and Saravanamuttus of the 1920s and 1930s … to
  • the Macarthy’s, de Sarams and Heyns of the 1930s and 1940s …
  • the Gunasekeras of the 1950s
  • the Lieversz, HIK Fernandos and Reids of the 1960s
  • Anura Tennekoon, Michael Tissera of the 1960s-1970s
  • Duleep Mendis and the Wettimuny’s of the 1970s/80s
  • Ranjan Madugalle and Arjuna Ranatunga of the 1980s
  • the Aravinda-Ranatunga-Jayasuriya-Kaluwitharana-and-Vaas dynamos of the 1980s and the 1990s
  • the Mahela Jayawardena and Sangakkara duo of the 2000s …..
  • while not losing sight of that unique phenomenon we know as “Murali” in the 1990s-to-2000s.

Some of these threads emerged in my mind as I listened to Kumar Sangakkara’s Q and A session at the Oxford Union Society that was broadcast recently on web.[1] That event and my recent engagements in Sri Lanka have also prompted me to highlight the wide range of services to Sri Lanka provided by a Thomian from a plantation Tamil background who has served the island not only as a cricketer and hockey player,[2] but also as a mercantile executive and cricket administrator.

The reference here is to Chandra Schaffter. The Janashakthi Book on Cricket which his firm produced in 1999 brought to cricket lovers the compendium of data collected so assiduously by another talent – the late SS Perera. However, this little essay here is my emphasis on Chandra Schaffter as a manager of cricket teams and a visionary seeking to alleviate ethnic animosities via the channel of cricket.

It was when Chandra was managing the Sri Lankan cricket team on its tour of England in 2002 that I first met up with him. This was in June that year when I happened to be staying with good English friends at Taunton when Sri Lanka played a practice match vs Somerset. I had a long cricketing chat with Chandra in his hotel room. This was followed a little later with a convivial discussion at the Lighthouse Hotel off Galle when our team was facing England in early December 2003 in my old hometown of Galle.[3]

At this point of time I cannot recall the details of our conversational exchanges, but I conjecture that they extended beyond player performances and challenges on the field to the far greater political storm clouds associated with the Eelam clouds associated with Pirapāharan and the Tamil Tigers.

Indeed, it was precisely at this point of time that Chandra Schaffter deployed his Janashakthi firm and his cricketing role to fashion a conciliatory move of great political potential: he asked the SL Cricketing Board to send the team to the Jaffna Peninsula to play a charity cricket match.

I believe the SLCB agreed, but then prevaricated so that the cricket team that went included only three players of the top tier: Muralitharan, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Ruchira Perera. This was a muted outcome…. a disappointment for Chandra and peace-loving personnel.

An illustrated account of that visit and its cricket against a “Jaffna Districts XI” has been presented in 2009 in Thuppahi: ……………………………………………………..

Note that Pirapāharan and LTTE personnel were among the spectators at the match. The story above is, now, a must-be-seen tale. This photo of the adulation showered upon Murali is one dimension of the story.











That picture, as well as those displaying the joys directed at Schaffter and others during their parade through town, are misleading. Writing much later, I have added this caution: “In 2002 Schaffter, Kaluwitharana and other well-intentioned organisers of the encounter would not have been aware that Pirapāharan was determined to secure independence for Thamilīlam and quite confident of success. [In short this meant] that the ceasefire would not last.”

 The impact of the tsunami on the LTTE battle capacities in late 2004 delayed the final move on Pirapāharan’s part. But the inexorable determination and confidence remained. One momentous step in Pirapāharan’s move towards independent Eelam involved the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar in Colombo on the 12th August 2005[4]  …. with the Tiger sniper using the top-floor of a Tamil neighbour in the prestigious Cinnamon Gardens suburb as his shooting perch.[5]

Eelam War IV was about to commence and the closing of the floodgates at Mavil Aru in July 2006 became the opening shot. All along, Pirapāharan and his cohorts were supremely confident about their march to independent status. On one occasion in 2006 Thamil Chelvam, the head of the LTTE’s civilian administration, confidently told a Sinhala negotiator: “we will teach you a lesson.”[6]


[1] See … and …..

[2] See …. And ….

[3] If my memory is reliable on this count, it must have been the match in early December 2003 when England was captained by Flintoff and Sri Lanka was skippered by Hashan Tillekeratne …. and when Murali bamboozled the Englishmen, but they hung on for a heroic draw. ……………………….  ………….   See

[4] See

[5] The owner was a former Royal College cricketer named Thalayasingham who, at stage, was an incorrigible drunkard. The second floor of the house seems to have been accessed by the LTTE with the connivance of the Tamil servants. Be that as it may, Kadirgamar himself and the State security services seem to have been quite lax in covering this possibility: Kadirgamar was shot when he prepared for his regular early morning swim in his swimming pool.

[6] My recollection …. Probably a snippet relayed by Lalith Weeratunga when I interviewed him at my sister’s house in Wellawatte at some point in the years 2009-12 about the events leading to Eelam War IV. Weeratunga was a trusted figure in the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration: see


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Filed under accountability, anti-racism, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cricket for amity, Eelam, ethnicity, Fascism, historical interpretation, life stories, LTTE, martyrdom, meditations, patriotism, politIcal discourse, power politics, prabhakaran, S. Thomas College, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, Sri Lankan cricket, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, Tamil Tiger fighters, unusual people, world events & processes

One response to “Chandra Schaffter: A Sturdy Sri Lankan Sportsman and Administrator For All Seasons

  1. Michael, you had failed to recognize Mahadevan Sathasivam of 1940s, in your listing of notable cricketers!

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