Percy Abeysekera has passed away recently …. carrying the Sri Lankan flag and reams of cricketing memories with him to an abode in the skies: memories that encompassed at least 70-72 years of cricketing cheer. Yes, that long a span. To me, Percy was first and foremost, an Aloysian. When I joined the St. Aloysius cheering squad as a 14-to-16 year old at the Galle Esplanade during our cricketing matches against Richmond, Mahinda and other schools, Percy was one of our cheerleaders. So, his patriotism and his crazy cricketing virtuosity was nurtured in Galle …. at our school.
It is likely that most Sri Lankan cricket-fans will have a mental picture of “Pissu Percy” escorting some of our cricketing heroes to the boundary gates after some on-field cricketing achievement. Yes, I display such moments a few lines hence: but the most iconic of these patriotic displays occurred at Katunayake airport in July 1981. This was when Gamini Dissanayake returned to the island after having secured ICC status for Sri Lanka’s cricketing team. A momentous occasion that Percy recognised in association with a small squad of schoolboys marshalled by (one presumes) the cricketing board of that day.
So, dwell ….. and reflect on this photo. Mark the fact that Gamini Dissanayake was obliterated by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber on 24th October 1994; while the other figure in this picture, Sujeeva Kamalasuriya was swallowed whole at Unawatuna beach by the massive tsunami of 26th December 2004. Thus. Percy outlived both by a considerable span of time. Such is life.
Percy lived life to the full. For Ceylon and Sri Lanka. For its cricketing squads he did so amiably; with spirit; with repartee…. AND with energy. In his early days he sometimes sprinted around the field whenever our batsmen hit a boundary. Indeed, in his younger days he did so with remarkable energy. What FERVOUR! What SPIRIT!
Consider the fact that Percy was able to enter this space between fence and boundary rope – an arena reserved for ground staff, security personnel, officials and players. It indicates that Sri Lankan cricket officialdom had recognised Percy’s talents and his ability to occupy that arena without interfering with the course of the cricket. Needless to say, Percy had to cop remarks (maybe even abuse?) from the Sri Lankan crowd every now and then. He was ready to face it and bounce back with repartee. The picture of his ‘verbal duet with an English lass expresses it all in a manner words cannot convey.
Indeed, virtually all the photographs displayed here carry this spirit. Percy the PISSU was all animation, energy ……. and FUN.
So, dear Percy, do spice the life of the gods and goddesses in the realms above. Give them some Sri Lankan curry with both the bat and the ball.
Michael Roberts: Essaying Cricket, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications 2006.