Royal People

A dedication to those wonderful people who served Royal Primary School & Royal College, in Sri Lanka, since 1835, and, who will be remembered for their committment, sincerety and unselfishness.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

C I Gunasekera

A life lived to the fullest

'C.I.' - the great cricketing giant recalls early days

CRICKET: The cynosure of all eyes of a bygone era of explosive entertainment of matches packed with sixes, a versatile cricketer and then Captain of the Ceylon cricket team way back in 1962, I am told, is non-other than the eminent C.I. Gunasekera whom I was fortunate to have the pleasure of talking to; which inspired me to write about the intriguing way of life of a great gentleman, now turned geriatric and who now stays aloof and very modestly dispelled all attributes to his credit.

C.I. Gunasekera, a living legend of cricket, better known as 'C.I.' among his colleagues and peers as he told me in the course of the conversation, hadn't the faintest idea that I was going to write about him.

He took me far back in time as 1921, the year he was born and his days at Royal College, his alma-mater, having played for his school cricket team which he subsequently captained. Thereafter, he joined the Law College but fate did not permit him to pursue his studies as the World War Two broke out and he joined the Army where he enlisted in the Artillery as an anti-aircraft gunner.

He rose to be Major by 1946 and it was after the war that he engaged in cricket actively once again.

He was picked to play for Ceylon against Don Bradman's team of Australians where he performed remarkably to secure the award for most outstanding fielder in the Ceylon side.

The memorable year 1959, when C.I. was chosen to lead the Ceylon side which he did for three notable years during which he played many enthralling innings of an all rounder records reveal.

C.I. Gunasekera continued playing for the Ceylon team for 17 years and there was never a dull moment when 'C.I.' played, I was told by many cricketing fans of yesteryear, a name synonymous with cricket.

They told me that he simply thrashed many stalwarts and was in par with international cricketers which he of course very modestly declined to acknowledge but his office room at his residence at Dickman's Road, Colombo 5 spoke of his performance and achievement, as in it hung a number of cricketing photographs of yesteryear to his credit.

Yet a good looking, lanky, well-mannered but indomitable man at 86, C.I. Gunasekera spends most of his time at home reading vividly, driving around to attend to his chores and insists on being independent.

He spends the evenings with his friends having a drink or two or watching television and never misses the Test matches. Mr. Gunasekera told me that he may be the only living geriatric of his era and that speaks for the very few friends who are good company.

A great lover of vintage cars over the years, Mr Gunasekera spoke of his passion for the two vintage cars and a motorcycle he still had in his possession safely locked up in a garage which he said he had kept as a souvenir for his son. A true sportsman, C.I. Gunasekera didn't seem to have lost his love for sports. Even at the age of 80, he had still been playing golf and to date he goes for short evening walks for exercise a few days of the week as he says it eases his breathing problem which he attributes to the fifty years of heavy smoking and irrevocable he says smiling. "It is a condition of Emphysema if you know what I am talking about my child" he told me, taking a deep breath.

Much has been achieved in C.I. Gunasekera's life and now all he longs for is to see his one and only son, Chris and his family who are residing in the UK, sooner or later. A proud father and grandfather, Mr Gunasekera still feels the loss of his wife, Doreen, who passed away in January 2007 after sixty five years of marriage. Nothing can fill the void and sorrow he lives with; life has to go on till the calling comes from above, Mr Gunasekera poignantly says. An honorable salute to a living legend and master of the game "May God Bless You."


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