Standing from left: F.A. Fernando, A.T. Fonseka, V. Narendra, M. Guneratne, F. Burke, M. Siriwardene D. Rajaratnam … Seated from left: H.C. Perera, N. Weerasinghe, F. Perumal, B.A. Jayasinghe (President GSCA) Minister of Health E.L. Senanayake, E. L. Abeygunewardene (IGP), T.B. Werapitiya, S. Kuruppu (Secretary GSCA), D. Weerasinghe, T.B. Kehelgamuwa
We go back in time to 1968, some 50 years ago, when the Police led by Felix Perumal who passed away recently, won the Govt. Services ‘A’ Division Cricket Tournament, a feat not achieved for eleven years before. Another aspect of interest was that until about 1970, a large number of renowned cricketers played for the Police. Much lesser-known players formed teams that took part in the ‘A’ Division tournaments thereafter, in an environment where the quality of cricket had suffered irreparably in government institutions. The drift of talent away from the public service, beginning in the mid-60’s, accounted for such decline.
Felix Perumal captained the formidable Police team in 1968. He wrested the coveted ‘A’ Division Trophy after a long lapse of time. These were times when the majority of national players were nurtured by government departments. The Police had accomplished players in Perumal (Tamil Union), H.C. Perera (Royal and NCC), Neil Weerasinghe (St. Josephs and NCC), F. Burke (St. Anthony’s, Bloomfield and Colts), Dhanasiri Weerasinghe (Ananda, Bloomfield and Ceylon), Firmin Fernando (St. Sebastians and Catamarans), Tilak Fonseka (BRC), ‘Duke’ Rajaratnam (St. Benedicts), T.B. Kehelgamuwa (Dharmaraja and Ceylon), Mithra Siriwardane (Ananda), and V. Narendra (Zahira).I represented the University and Colts.
The Municipality had D. H. de Silva, D. Buultjens, A. Polonowita, D. Sahabandu, Devaraj and D.S. de Silva. Health Dept had an extremely formidable team with L. Idroos, (S. Thomas’, University & Ceylon), Nihal Gurusinghe (S. Thomas, University and CCA), B. G. Reid (BRC, S. Thomas’ and Ceylon), Balakrishnan (Nomads and Ceylon), Sivanathan (University and CCA), Cyril Ernest (St. Benedicts, University and NCC), Ranjith de Silva (Royal, University), Carlyle Perera (St. Joseph’s, University, NCC), and Mohanlal Fernando (Ananda, University). Prisons boasted of Stanley de Alwis (SSC and Ceylon), Maurice Fernando (Schoolboy Cricketer from Kingswood), Daya Amarasinghe (Ananda) and Ben Fernando (St. Sebastians and Colts). Railway had the famous Amendra brothers from Mahinda College, Galle, amongst a number of good players. CTB had N. Frederick (Bloomfield and Ceylon), Anura Tennakoon (S. Thomas’, SSC and Ceylon), D.P. de Silva (Prince of Wales, Nomads and Ceylon), Nihal Soyza (St. Benedicts and Nomads), and Sylvester Dias (Moratuwa Sports Club and Ceylon).
DH De Silva
It was an era when the best of talent in many sports from schools opted for the Police and Armed Services over other fields. The Police alone attracted exceptionally outstanding sportsmen.
Apart from those constituting the cricket team of 1968, Sumith Liyanage, CP and HP Jayasuriya, Dharmasiri Weerakoon, Percy Wijesuriya in Boxing, Sathkunarajah, Nimal Fernando, Dareeju, Ivan Boteju, Lawney Silva, Lesley Jayabandu, C Navaratnam in Athletics, T.N. Hajreen and Judy Preena in Soccer, Sivendran, Rohan Gunaratne, Benedict, Rodney Aluvihare and Muni Gomes in Rugger are only few of the many outstanding schoolboys who joined the Police. Such excellent performers added glamour to the public face of the Police.
The standard of cricket in the Government Services ‘A’ Division tournament in 1968 was on par with the ‘Saravanamuttu’ Trophy tournament, the reason being the opulence in talent, with virtually all participants being formidable players. The tournament itself was so well organized as to preserve quality and standards. There were six teams in all: Police, Municipality, CTB, Prisons, Health and Railway. Each played the other twice, so that each side played 10 matches. The standard of cricket was infinitely professional and from the top drawer because the best of the best participated, a far cry from ‘Sara’ tournaments in subsequent times when ordinary teams were able to perform in the premier league, lowering the quality of cricket, and enabling mediocrities to amass runs and capture wickets at will, thereby asserting misleading claims for national ‘caps’.
The quality of leadership was also profoundly professional. D.H. de Silva led the Municipality, Ranjith de Silva, Health, F. Perumal, Police, Percy Amendra, Railway, Bobby Wickramesinghe, Prisons, and Sylvester Dias, CTB.
The Police won all their matches and the coveted Trophy. Felix Perumal scored two 90’s against the Municipality and Health Dept. and three 50s, averaging over 45 runs in the tournament. Tilak Fonseka, a late addition to premier cricket whose talents were recognized by the BRC, scored a century and three 50s. He was also a fine right arm leg spinner and a brilliant fielder. Other batsmen who chipped in with valuable contributions regularly were Dhanasiri Weerasinghe, H.C. Perera, Neil Weerasinghe, Kehelgamuwa, Franklyn Burke, Rajaratnam and Firmin Fernando.
Bowling was perhaps the forte of the Police. Kehelgamuwa and I opened bowling, ably supported by Franklyn Burke as first change. Felix Perumal and Firmin Fernando were useful supports, with medium pace bowling. The team was rich in spin with Neil Weerasinghe bowling his off spin with craft and guile. He belonged to the classical breed of off spinners who deceived batsmen with flight and variation, akin to the likes of Robert De Kretser, Abu Fuard, Priya Perera and Lalith Kaluperuma. Tilak Fonseka and Dhanasiri Weerasinghe were competent right arm leg spinners. I captured a haul of wickets, with Kehelgamuwa, Burke and Neil Weerasinghe following behind.
Our match against Health was replete with tension and drama. Once we asserted our prowess over such a formidable team, there was no stopping us marching towards the coveted trophy. Despite a modest score of 150 runs, we were able to rout a strong batting line up cheaply. This was the victory that provided the momentum for the Police to thereafter make mincemeat of many teams. The Police steamrolled over Railway and Prisons in their last two matches to wrest the coveted trophy.
Felix Perumal was a batsman of the classical genre. Tall, with an upright stance, he strolled to the wicket at No. three, and often faced the new ball. He was technically sound, an aggressive player with a penchant for the drive. He treated medium pacers with disdain, frequently lofting them to vacant spaces in long off and long on. He had the flair to score rapidly. Leaving the police service early, he played for Tamil Union in the premier tournament and scored runs consistently. He could also bowl slow, medium pace, to break stubborn partnerships.
It is perhaps as the captain of the victorious team that he carved a permanent niche in the annals of police cricket. He triumphed in a highly competitive tournament. His achievement was no ‘fluke’, for despite playing each side twice, police remained unbeaten. He was one of the best captains I played with. Felix led by precept and example. His consistent scores in batting inspired team mates to live up to his expectations.
Felix Perumal, has to be acknowledged as the best captain among those who led the Police between 1950 to date, for none other could equal his achievement. His feat was achieved when the police team which was extremely formidable, could easily have been fierce competitors if they were allowed to participate in the Saravanamuthu Trophy tournament. Sadly, his finest hour was his final hour in the police, for not long after, he left and joined the private sector.