Ajit Jayasekera — Email Memo to Michael Roberts, 15 February 2021
When we went to Australia for the Tri Nations tournament with England and Australia in December 2002/January 2003, the team was captained by Sanath Jayasuriya and the Coach was Dav Whatmore. We were after a rather disastrous tour of South Africa, where we were roundly beaten in both formats of the game and started this tournament in similar disastrous manner getting smashed by both England and Australia in the opening games.
The semi final was over around ten pm at Eden Garden in Calcutta. Unruly crowd behaviour when all was lost for India ended in the Match Referee Clive Lloyd awarding the game to Sri Lanka on that Tuesday night, the 14 th of March.1996. I managed to get through to Cricket Board ‘s President Ana Punchihewa in the players dressing room, to convey congratulations and retired to bed truly happy !
We had qualified to play Australia in the Wills World Cup final, at Lahore on Friday 17 th. Just after midnight I had a knock on the door. Bernard Wijetunge and Channa Wijemanne, two of the Directors of our Travel subsidiary had woken me up for a reason. “Boss we must do a charter for the Final.”
CALCUTTA, INDIA – MARCH 13: Sri Lanka captain and batsman Arjuna Ranatunga picks up some runs during his innings of 35 runs during the 1996 ICC Cricket World Cup semi final against India at Eden Gardens, Kolkata on March 13, 1996. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Allsport/Getty Images)
One day in 1996 our doorbell rang at Woodlark Grove in the suburb of Glenalta in Adelaide . …. And there was Joe Hoad with two paintings he had composed in celebration of Sri Lanka’s triumph at the World Cup earlier in the year. These products had not been commissioned. They were self-inspired and emanated from his profound joy at the manner in which a little island nation – one that was not unlike his own birthplace of Barbados – had tamed a powerful cricketing force that was a bullyboy in the cricketing politics of the 1990s.
This photograph taken there and then in our back garden marks the moment of the gifting ….. appropriately within an Australian backdrop of the bushfire danger kind. But, unlike that landscape, the paintings are unique. To my mind they are heirlooms. In conjunction with Verite Research and Shamara Wettimuny, I have approached the National Library Services Board in Colombo with the suggestion that they should be placed within its portals in public display with a suitable plaque.
Today, 4th February 1948, as we mark the day when Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon) secured political independence, I present a cohort of photographs marking the moment when Sri Lanka’s cricketers battled through fire to claim adulthood in the field of cricket.
Intrigued by my speech inflections and my appearance, a friend of mine, a teacher in English Literature, made inquiries after my familial background and my ethnic identity within the melange of ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. She learnt that my Barbadian father had related very few stories in his life and times in Barbados and that my sense of West Indianness was muted. This puzzled her. Forced thus into retrospective reflection I now conclude that I lived my youthful life immersed in my everyday activities without much concern for a distinct self-identity of an ethnic sort.
In moving from a pictorial depiction of the parental and local urban background where Kumar Sangakkara has been nurtured, to a photographic ‘sketch’ of his cricketing endeavours, it will be easy for readers to forget the dangerous Sri Lankan circumstances hanging over the cricketing scenario within Sri Lanka in the period when Kumar strode on to the field in Sri Lankan colours – from the mid-1990s. These were the sporadically continuous dangers hanging over the urban and rural byways around Colombo and Kandy as a result of the Eelam Wars and the capacity displayed by the Tamil Tigers in mounting suicide assassinations as well as massive blasts directed at high-profile urban targets.
Tiger Bombing of the Central Bank in the Fort, Colombo, 31 January 1996
An Accidental Encounter …. and An Illuminating Outcome
When I was in Sri Lanka at some point in the late 1990s on research work, my cricketing links with such individuals as PI Pieris and Michael Tissera encouraged me to take in some of the international cricket matches taking place in the capital city of Colombo. On one occasion I witnessed a match at the Khettarama Stadium where Sri Lanka A took on a West Indian side. I was in the BCCSL section at midwicket where the spectators were few and quite interspersed. I heard an elderly gentleman behind me explaining some of the finer points of the unfolding match to his wife beside him. At one point I turned round and amiably indicated that he understood the finer points of cricket. It turned out that he was a venerable lawyer from Kandy named Kshemananda Sangakkara. Kshema and Kumari Sangakkara were watching their son Kumar playing for the A team.
Thuppahi's Blog · This web site presents the interventions of MICHAEL ROBERTS in the public realm with reference to Sri Lankan political affairs. It will embrace the politics of cricket as well. ROBERTS was educated at St. Aloysius College in Galle and the universities of Peradeniya and Oxford. He taught History at Peradeniya University and Anthropology at Adelaide university. He is now retired and lives in Adelaide.