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, March 15, 2009


The year was 1958….. It was my cricketing debut, and I was preparing to open the innings for Royal Primary School, when our master in charge of cricket,
Mr William drew our attention to a Board erected outside the boundary line. It had the following all familiar inscription on it.

“When the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

Fifty one years later, on the 4th of January 2009, I stood alongside my classmates of Royal’s Group of ‘59 at the Navarangahala Hall, at a memorial service, in solemn remembrance of fifteen departed colleagues, and realized the extent to which that priceless inscription had influenced the lives of my fellow Royalists and me.

True to our watchword “DISCE AUT DISCEDE”, we learnt of books and of men, and most importantly we learnt to play the challenging games of life, keeping our cherished values intact.

We learnt when we were barely knee high to our Teachers, to differentiate between right and wrong …….. and that the two could never meet.

We learnt to emulate the strong, but didn’t forget to protect the weak.

We learnt that every right implied a responsibility and that effective leadership required exemplary conduct.

We learnt that success in governance, in any field, was synonymous with accountability.

We learnt that not all men are just……… not all men are true….. but we also learnt that for every scoundrel, there was a hero.

We learnt that a life with dignity, required integrity.

We learnt when we stumbled, to ascertain why we fell, and not look at where we fell.
We learnt to be gracious in defeat and humble in victory.
We learnt that next to life, God’s most precious gift to us was our conscience.

We learnt that there was no greater peace of mind, as the contentment reposed in a clear conscience.

As we approach that prestigious and phenomenal landmark of 175 years in 2010, we Royalists past and present can all rise as one, and say proudly to our fathers, “YES SIRS,……… WE KEPT THY FAME INVIOLATE”

May that one great scorer continue his writing………


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cricket Fever

That shattering crack of willow on leather,
crowds roaring hither and thither,
the boys in blue, gold, and black
sprinting far ahead of the pack.

The batsmen walk and take their stance
the bowlers pounding in a trance.
Colts screaming, Mustangs roar,
Lovely ladies, fashions galore.

Another great moment is at hand,
Old boys arriving from far-off lands.
In shorts and caps and hats ablaze,
Flags and rattles, it’s the weekend craze.

And the ball doth fly across the grass,
Fielders scrambling, one big morass.
Umpires waving, fingers and hands
Its cricket fever, bring out the band.

Battle of the Blues 130 Years On

DN Fri Mar 13, 2009

The Royal-Thomian - 130 years on:
The Battle of the Blues Steeped in tradition

The most looked forward to sporting and social event in the calendar of both past and present Royalists and Thomians, the Royal vs. S. Thomas' big cricket match will be played for the 130th time on the March 12, 13 and 14 at the SSC at Maitland Crescent in Colombo.
S. Thomas' College Mount Lavinia, a private Anglican School has about 2,400 students on its roll while Royal College Colombo, a Government run non-denominational school has approximately 8,000 students.

Origins of Ceylon Cricket
History records S. Thomas' College Colombo (first in Mutwal and later in Mount Lavinia) as the first school to play cricket in Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known). In 1864, S. Thomas' has played the first match against the small Pass Cricket Club in Colombo. The result is recorded as an 8-run victory for the College. More importantly this 1864 match has gone down in history as the first recorded Ceylonese Cricket match played in the country. From 1864 to 1877, S. Thomas' has continued to play matches against the clubs - including the elitist European dominated Colombo Cricket Club - as there was no other school played cricket during that time in Ceylon.

The Royal-Thomian Big match celebrations
The sub-warden of the College Reverend Felton Falkner, a Cambridge 'Blue' has rendered Yeoman service to develop cricket at S. Thomas' during those initial years. A pioneer of cricket in Ceylon, Rev. Falkner has coached the boys and was the Thomian Cricket Captain for several years.

Mr. Ashley Walker also a Cambridge 'Blue' arrived in Ceylon in January 1877 to take up duties at the Colombo Academy in the Pettah (later renamed Royal College and shifted to Ried Avenue). Mr. Walker started coaching the Academy boys and organized the first Academy cricket team in 1878. The very first 'College vs. Academy' cricket match (as the Royal-Thomian was then called) was played in 1878. Incidentally this is the first cricket match played by the Colombo Academy, thus becoming the second school to play cricket in Ceylon.

Although the scores are not given, the result is recorded as a win for the College team by an innings and 3 runs. The second match in 1879 has ended in a win for the Academy team by 56 runs. But both these matches are not taken into account as masters played in both teams.
The first schoolboys only 'College vs. Academy' match was in 1880. J. W. de Silva captained the Academy and F. W. McDonnell led S. Thomas'. The result was a 62 runs win for the Academy.
World class cricketers

Since the 1880s, the hallowed match, which is the oldest uninterrupted and unbroken cricket series in the world, has churned out world class cricketers. Royal's Dr. C. H. Gunesekera, Sargo Jayewickrema, Col. F. C. de Saram, Sathi Coomaraswamy, C.I. Gunesekera, Gamini Goonesena, Ranjan Madugalle and Thomians A. C. Amath, D. L. de Saram, S. Saravanamuttu, Vernon Prins, Michael Tissera, Dr. B. G. Reid, Anura Tennekoon and Duleep Mendis, have captained the country at different levels against foreign teams.

Leaders as Cricketers
Even Sri Lanka's national leaders have played in the prestigious 'Battle of the Blues'. President J.R. Jayewardene played for Royal in 1925. The 'father of the nation' D.S. Senanayake played for S. Thomas' in 1901 and 1902, and Sir Francis Molamure played also for S. Thomas' from 1898 to 1903. Sir John Kotelawala has played for Royal in 1914 and 1915 and Dudley Senanayake played for S. Thomas' from 1927 to 1929. National hero Edward Pedris has turned out for S. Thomas' in 1907, while the only Ceylonese to be awarded the Victoria Cross for valour Basil Hosfall was a bit unfortunate to be named the 12th man in the Thomian team.

Great benefactors
Some of the great benefactors of Ceylon Cricket have also come from these two schools. Royalist Dr. John Rockwood was the founder President of the Ceylon Cricket Association. Thomian P. Saravanamuttu was the first President of the Board of Control for Cricket, and President of the Ceylon Cricket Association as well. Thomian Robert Senanayake was the longest serving president of the Board of Control for Cricket-20 yrs. He was also the President of the Ceylon Cricket Association. The Thomian Captain of 1899, F. L. Goonewardene of Kandy was another prominent benefactor.

Cricket Legends
Over the years, these two Colleges have produced many cricketing legends who went on to bring glory and honour to Sri Lanka. The first All-Ceylon Cricket Captain Douglas Lee de Saram (1922) who's also the first Ceylonese to get his name in the cricketers 'Bible' the Wisden (1912) played for S. Thomas' from 1989 to 1902. William Greswell, the top English County Cricketer who played in Ceylon during that time, has said in an interview: "If the Ceylon players are understudying their popular idol D. L. de Saram, they should continue to do so. No better model cricketer or sportsman ever donned flannels in Ceylon".

Famous sports writer S. P. Foenander has said: D. L. de Saram is the finest all-round cricketer and the most popular in the history of the game in Ceylon. For sheer stroke production and power he has never been surpassed and his presence in the cricket field has made him a cricket personality second to none in the history of the game in the island.

"Royalist Ranjan Madugalle is the Chief Match Referee of the International Cricket Council. Thomian Alfred Holsinger became Ceylon's first Cricket Professional (in England) in 1902. Thomian Dr. James Arthur Scharenguval is the first Ceylonese to play for a foreign country and also the first to play against a Test Country. He played for All-Scotland vs. South Africa in 1902 and vs. Australia in 1905. Thomian Michael Tissera captained All-Ceylon to its first ever unofficial Test victory over a Test Country in 1964 (Pakistan). He also led All-Ceylon to victory over India in India in 1965. Thomian Anura Tennekoon's innings of 169 not out against India ('74/'75) is rated as the finest technically correct innings played by a Ceylonese in the unofficial Test era. Thomian Duleep Mendis captained Sri Lanka to its first ever official test win in 1985 (India) and the first Asia Cup win in 1986 (Pakistan).

Royal-Thomian series records
Royalist Sumithra 'Charlie' Warnakulasuriya's marathon 197 scored in four and a half match sessions and spread over two days in 1980 is the highest individual score for the 3-day match. Thomian Duleep Mendis's champagne innings of 184 runs in 1972 remains at the top for the 2-day match. Thomian Bathiya Karunaratne's 100 runs in 101 balls (he scored 116 in 1997 is the fastest century. Thomian Fred Thomasz's 8 for 3 runs in 1884 in a single innings and Thomian Leonard Arndt's match bag of 14 for 55 are the best bowling feats. Another Thomian Ernest Wanduragala has also taken 14 for 76 in 1906. The wicket keeping record goes to Thomian Carl Cooke. He has had 9 dismissals - 2 st, 6 ct and 1 run-out - in the 1923 match.

Not many know that the time honoured match is played for the most coveted D.S. Senanayake Challenge Shield.

So after 129 'Battles' the score according to Royal records, stands at Royal College won 33 matches while S. Thomas' has won 34 matches. But according to S Thomas' College statistics the tally is: Royal College won 33 and S. Thomas' - 35 won! The difference is obviously due to the controversial 9-run match played in 1885. The Royalists say the match was drawn, but the Thomians record it as a win! Since then the fierce tussle for supremacy between the arch-rivals has brought out the very best in 'Royal Courage' and the fame 'Thomian grit' on the field and off it as well.

When asked to comment on the relationship between the two schools, former Royal College principal Bogoda Premaratne has had this to say: "There is no Royal without S. Thomas' and no S. Thomas' without Royal!"

(The writer is a Life member - Royal College Union and the Group of '76)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Darrel Lieversz

Darrel Lieversz

Darrell Lieversz at the Colts nets, at the end of the 1962 school cricket season, in preparation for the final round of the Sara Trophy in which the Colts were edged out by a mere .01 of a point.

RC 1st XI Cricket Team 1962

RC 1st XI Cricket Team 1962
Standing, left to right: S. Mendis, V. Gowrishankaran, J.D. Wilson, R.C. D. de Silva, T.R. Jansen, S. Rajaratnam, V.P. Malalasekere and S.D. Jayaratne
Seated, left to right: S.S. Kumar, M. Rodrigo (Coach), D.W.L. Lieversz (Cpt.), D.K.G. de Silva (Principal), S. Thiagarajah (V.Cpt.), E.C. Gunasekera (Master-in-Charge) and P. Withane

Of the persons in the above picture, Darrell Lieversz, Jansen, Wilson, Gowrishankaran and Withane are in Australia. Wilson is a teacher, while Gowrishankaran and Withane are accountants. Jayaratne and Thiagarajah are in America, the former an academic and the latter a doctor. R.C. de Silva is a successful businessmen and entrepreneur, and the current president of the Nondescript Sports Club. His business involvements are more diverse and buoyant than his overarm deliveries ever were.

Malalasekere and Mendis are in Sri Lanka. The former is the director of Ceylon Tobacco’s legal division, while the latter is the Chairman of Hayleys. Rajaratnam recently returned to Sri Lanka after working overseas as an engineer.

Mahes Rodrigo celebrated his 70th birthday in 1998 and these days plays with a very straight bat after surviving a close appeal. S.S. Kumar was not so fortune, being shot dead by a gunman in 1998 whilst playing golf. Dudley de Silva passed away in the seventies while E.C. Gunasekera succumbed to cancer on 10 June 1994.

Darrell Lieversz turns out for his old school in the annual Royal-Thomian match played at Melbourne. These days he is better known for his paintings than his late in-swingers. He mows the lawn, washes three cars, rides go-carts, watches his grandson grow, dabbles in genealogical software and fields frequent questions from the writer, in his spare time.

Darrell frequently ponders what might have been if E.C. Gunasekera hadn’t changed the batting order in Royal’s second innings, without him knowing, which saw Jansen go ahead of Rajaratnam, thereby insuring Royal against loss but depriving her of any chance of victory. E.C. Gunasekera (EC) resigned as master-in-charge mid-way through the 1967 season.

In the mid-sixties, R.N. Mudalige, under XVI captain of 1962, out of contention after crashing the GCE ‘O’ level barrier, held forth at the entrance to Royal College that led pass the cycle sheds, expounding his theory that Royal would never win the “big match” as long as EC was in charge. This was as much an attempt to find a scapegoat for Royal’s lack of success, as much a reflection of the mixed feelings school going Royalists had for him. However, although the writer most certainly would not have obtained cricket colours if EC hadn’t abdicated, like every other old boy, on leaving school he came to admire, and identify with, the very characteristics of EC that he once despised. Even those old boys who were at the receiving end of his martinetism felt a deep sense of personal loss at his passing.

A Childhood Romance

Reflections on Royal Cricket and the Royal/Thomian

This article is inspired by the article by my former captain Ranjith Gunasekera titled “Demi-Gods and Little Boys”, that appeared in the 1995 Royal souvenir, and Sarath Samarasinghe’s 1998 article. Ranjith hit the nail on the head by remarking that the quasi-mystical status of the Royal-Thomian had dissipated by the time of our own playing days. Sarath was obviously one of those demi-Gods and his description of his contemporaries brought back poignant memories and triggered a bout of nostalgia.

Rampant Heroes & Alter Egos

The Royal-Thomians of 1955 and 1956 are a blur, and all I recall are the outlines of batsmen, distinguished only by their caps, returning to the pavilion at the Oval tennis court end. The names Jothilingam, Nirmalingam and Perimpanayagam were imprinted in my mind by my father, and I saw them as the equivalent of the three Ws of the West Indies, gallantly taking the fight to the enemy. Later I discovered that Jothilingam scored a century in the 1956 big-match while Perimpanayagam scored three consecutive centuries in the same season.

The first innings I remember was Michael Wille’s 121 in 1957, which I observed from under the sight screen at the tennis court end, keeping company with a Thomian friend who, lacking a ticket, had to be sneaked in by my father. I distinctly remember Wille’s habit of strolling to leg between deliveries, not unlike Ted Dexter. Although I was never able to establish the truth of it, I am still moved by my father’s remark that, before scoring his century, Wille slept on his late father’s bed.

However, for the most part, only the names and their glorious associations matter. Sarath Samarasinghe seemed to play forever, and after a while, his whimsical persona, reflected in his crouched stance, and the cartoonist’s caricature of his cheeky guardianship of the space behind the stumps, came to embody the quintessential characteristics of my Royal heroes – chirpy, humorous, competitive, courageous and affable.

Lorenz Pereira was another player I came to identify with, thanks to the media (souvenirs) which portrayed him as larger than life. I admired him from the dead horizontal tree trunk that used to lie at the entrance to Royal primary, as he walked past after practice with a Gun & Moore bat in his hand. This was about the closest I came to my idols.

I always made excuses for Royal, as I later did for Australia. If my heroes didn’t come up to scratch it was always because of poor luck, not because St. Thomas’ (or England) played better. After all, Royal’s cricketers had far more exotic names, the hallmark of champs. We outgunned St. Thomas’ in multi-syllabic surnames. More importantly, they came in pairs, namely, Samarasinghe and Senanayake. And no name had the etymological intrigue of Kodituwakku. Perairawar held fascination on account of its exotic aura and the difficulties in pronunciation, while N.J.S. de Mel lingered because it seemed so stately and dignified in comparison.

From 1958 to 1960, the composition of the team hardly changed and, in addition to the names mentioned above, the names Sahabandu, Samerajeewa and Vidanage conjured up images of spells weaved from the mists of Aryan antiquity. That one of them had the very English personal name of Dooland, only added to the intrigue. And the name “Minah” Wijesinghe had acquired near mythical status after his four wickets in 4 balls at Campbell Place, the only event I vividly recall apart from Wille’s century.

With few notable exceptions, the names had more relevance than faces. For instance, whenever I impersonated Royal cricketers in softball games or while throwing the ball against a wall, I did not have a visual template to guide me. I had a better idea of what test cricketers looked like (thanks to the Times of Ceylon sports pages) and played like (thanks to the plethora of literature, match descriptions and coaching manuals). ). However, this only served to enhance the mystique of Royal cricketers, the mere mention of whose names conjured up rich images untarnished by any empirical yardstick.

The Royal-Thomian of the fifties was quite predictable. St. Thomas’ would bat first, post a large score and Royal would spend a good part of the second day averting the follow on, which she inevitably did. Although one didn’t fear a Royal loss, losing the toss was frustrating because it meant that victory was out of the question. (My peers and I feared the Thomians less than older Royal students who were constantly on the prowl for opportunities to “flick” rosettes, flags, rattles and other spoils from unsuspecting juniors.) However, despite my anxieties and disappointments, no festival in the world could compete with the sensuousness of the Royal-Thomian, as exemplified by the sparkling caps our heroes wore, their exotic names, the flags we waved, the pulsating Portuguese derived rhythms we pranced to, and my Aunt Tim’s corned beef sandwiches. A victory for Royal would have been a bonus.

Truly, the lead up to the Royal-Thomian was at times more interesting than the game itself. The endless speculation as to who would fill the last spot, the cycle parades, the crawl to Wanathamulla, the awesome sight of figures scaling the radio towers (a feat performed by me in 1970) and the gradual emergence of the players from the shadow of the pavilion to have a hit, created a wonderful ambience. It was all part of the riveting ritual and rich pageant.

During the fifties my fierce loyalty to Royal was sustained by the constant teasing I received from Mahes Rodrigo. Whenever I accompanied my father to the CR&FC clubhouse, Mahes never failed to needle me by making derogatory remarks about Royal. “What man, Royal parippu, no?” was his favourite taunt, to which my inevitable response was one of predictable outrage. I wished Royal could beat St. Thomas’ just to teach him a lesson. I hadn’t the faintest idea at the time that he was a Royal stalwart. (He was to coach Royal in that memorable 1962 season.)

In 1960, my first year in Royal College, we won the toss for the first time in memory and controlled the game thanks to a good double by Lalith Senanayake. This was in stark contrast to our perilous position of 1959, 5 ducks, and a near funeral, if E.L. Pereira hadn’t come to the rescue. Watching Ferdinands bowl to the diminutive Kodituwakku in 1959 made me feel distinctively vulnerable. I asked myself why we got the best Burgher bats, but not the Burgher fast men, who, like Ferdinands, played for St. Thomas’?

In 1961, after a poor start we ended the game with a flourish. By throwing caution to the winds, S.S. Kumar and S.D. Jayaratne effected a profound psychological shift. Although falling short of 64 runs of our target, their whirlwind unbeaten third wicket partnership of 70 runs made us feel that we had resources in reserve that none of us were aware of, and completely erased the ignominy of our first innings total of 67. On the way out, Professor E.O.E. Pereira rued our missed opportunity and speculated on what might have been.

King Cricket
Despite the uneventful nature of the Royal-Thomian, the period 1956-1961 was full of romance and fond childhood memories. Elvis came into my world and I constantly withdrew into an imagined world of American culture. On the cricket field, Richie Benaud’s Australians defeated England by 4-0 nil in 1958-9 and in new recruit O’Neill I had a cricketing idol who increased my emotional involvement with Anglo-Australian cricket. In January 1961, almost the whole school was glued to the radio following the progress of the West Indians in Australia, who had captured our imagination and hearts. Although, I failed to make the Boake House under XIV team, it didn’t matter. Boake won anyway, the West Indians and Australians touched down long enough to saturate my mind with rich and evocative images of cricket’s unique aesthetic, and Benaud’s Australians had a great series highlighted by that amazing win at Manchester, when all seemed lost.

Cricket was truly king at Royal. An indication of the grip the game had on our psyche is that preliminary trials to pick any one of four under XIV teams, attracted well over 100 hopefuls. As for me, it was cricket, lovely cricket. And the 1962 Royal season continued the magic.

Bowling Blitzkrieg

Of all the Royal cricket seasons I have been involved in as a player or spectator, nothing comes close to 1962. For one, my cousin Darrell was captain, which lifted my status amongst my peers. My uncle would convey information to my father who then passed it on to me. I could pretend that I had privy to the captain’s thoughts. Above all, Darrell was in devastating form, and along with his partner, R.C. de Silva, struck fear into all our opponents. How did we feel? Like Germans at the beginning of WWII. How did the Thomians feel? Like England in 1939, alone and expecting a German invasion any moment. Victory in the Royal Thomian was not a forlorn hope; it was a real possibility. We had our best chance in years.

The circle had come round full circle. In three years, we, not St. Thomas’ had the fast bowlers. Darrell was as muscular as Ferdinands was, and far more menacing. We were going to give the Thomians a hiding. The vulnerability I felt in 1959 was behind me.

The lethality of our attack first became evident in the second innings of the Ananda game when our opponents, set a simple target, collapsed in a heap. The following week, St. Benedicts were 6-11 at one stage in their first innings. Yet, we all wondered when the bubble would burst? Surely, this couldn’t last? I personally felt that our good run would come to a crashing halt against St. Peters, particular since their captain had reached triple figures in the preceding week. Royal’s modest first innings total was little cause for optimism. No one, least of all Royal, were ready for the batting holocaust that followed. St. Peters collapsed to be 8-12, a score rare even in junior cricket.

Richard Heyn, the Peterite captain, almost played on before a few balls later his bails took flight not unlike the flutter of doves outside the book depository when Oswald fired three shots at JFK. His dig in the second innings was no less brief and humiliating. St. Peters were routed and an aura of invincibility surrounded the cricket team, which rubbed off on the entire school.

From a personal point of view, Darrell, the good Burgher had prevailed over Richard Heyn, the enemy Burgher. Richard had arrived whistling, supremely confident. He left with his tail between his legs. Imagine my disappointment, when the headlines following the Wesley game, read, “Darrell the hero, and the Darrell who failed”. On the Campbell Park mat, Darrell Maye of Wesley had come good and Royal had met her Stalingrad. My moral order was disturbed. I wanted to believe that good Burghers, like my cousin, had God on their side. I felt much worse when Keith La’Brooy, an enemy Burgher, rather than Darrell, was ascendant in the 1962 Royal-Thomian. (La’Brooy captured 9 wickets to Darrell’s 8 and had Royal in a spin in her first innings.)

Reflected Glory

One had to be a 12 year old attending Royal to understand why I am so elegiac and nostalgic about the 1962 season. Of course, it helped that my cousin was captain and in such deadly form. Just as much as my father took credit for his nephew’s achievements (being constantly corrected by friends on this issue) I too took vicarious credit for the achievements of my namesake. (If Royal had truimphed at the Oval there is no doubt that I would have walked with my head held up high.) I also accompanied Darrell on visits to doctors and cricketing experts. Although he barely tolerated me, I was close to the centre of power and thrived on it. More importantly, Royal have rarely produced such a deadly pace duo working in tandem.
Going into the Royal-Thomian Darrell and RC had taken 56 and 42 wickets respectively. Many of these were bowled or LBW, which was very exciting to spectators who either exclaimed, bowled or appealed in unison at such events. Wickets fell at such regular intervals that the success rate of the incantation “Come on Darrell or RC, bowl him out!” was very high.

Whereas RC had a classic fast bowler’s action, using a high trajectory to make the ball lift, Darrell made the ball zip off the wicket. Whereas RC was hostile, Darrell was clinically efficient, varnishing the top of the stumps sufficient to send the bails flying. If RC was mortar fire, Darrell was a cruise missile honing on the target with unerring accuracy. There was always an air of anticipation whenever either of them took the ball.

The camaraderie of the team was palpable, although the team consisted of a fascinating bunch of individuals, whose styles contrasted markedly. The diminutive Jayaratne, who excelled in the back foot cover drive and leg-side stumpings off the pacemen, carried on from where S.C. Samarasinghe left off. And who couldn’t help but be intrigued by RC’s elaborate ritual when taking guard and Gowrishankaran’s St. Vitus dance, popping up and down outside the popping crease, as he awaited each delivery?

I was in awe of my heroes, and followed them all over. When the souvenirs came out I cycled to the homes of some (Jayaratne at Campbell Terrace and Thiyagarajah at Horton Place). Although I could have got their autographs through Darrell, I was keen to obtain personal audiences with them, exploiting my relationship to the captain. My romance with Royal cricket had reached its pinnacle. It was a wonderful time to be a cricket lover and a Royalist.

The End of Certainty

From about 1956 to 1962, the Royal-Thomian held its greatest fascination and romance for me. My loss of faith commenced when Royal, despite its awesome bowling firepower, still conceded 197 on the first day of 1962 Royal-Thomian. (I was not alone in entertaining visions of the Thomians collapsing for under 50. Royal’s campaign, that was widely expected to “Dunkirk” the Thomians, had turned into her Khe Sanh.) Clearly, the Thomians were not the pushovers I assumed them to be. (Analysing why a side so certain of victory was held to a draw, the importance of the toss was driven home to me. We had to bat first if we had any hope of winning the two-day game.)

In the months following, amidst post mortems, I was overcome by disillusionment and fatalism. If Royal couldn’t win with Darrell, we would be hard put to do so any other time.

From 1962 onwards, in the wake of a Thomian resurgence, and my entry into teenhood from adolescence, my idols began to lose their shine. 1963 was a watershed for me. I left a government bungalow at C84 Gregory’s Avenue and softball cricket played barefoot on soft sand, and a house with enough garden and wall space in which to play cricket alone, forever. The Beatles dethroned Elvis (my hero since 1956) and I gained my first exposure to the bitterness of defeat when Boake lost her preliminary under XIV house cricket game under my captaincy.

The first XI cricket seasons immediately following 1962 were an anti-climax for me. Never again would Royal go into the Royal-Thomian with the capacity to rout our opponents with time to spare. Never again would the Thomians arrive for the big match intent purely on survival. Alas, Royal cricket seasons would never hold the same magic and grandeur for me. Only two years after we had an attack that gave our opponents sleepless nights, we were mourning a big match defeat at the Royal Fair held at the former racecourse. (The euphoria of the following year was derived not from victory but from narrowly escaping defeat.) In addition, I was too close to the action, under the critical gaze of others, experiencing the ups and downs (mostly downs) associated with striving for representative honours, for Royal cricket to retain its earlier mystique.

To my mind, 1962 represented Royal’s best chance for a big match victory. In the same year, Colts missed winning the Sara trophy by a mere fraction of a point; coming so close because of Darrell’s bowling genius. It seemed to me that the two Sri Lankan cricket teams I identified with most had allowed once in lifetime opportunities to slip through. Australia was also losing her dominance over England, which she didn’t regain until 1974. Yes, 1962-3 was a watershed in my life as a cricket follower. It was a simple case of innocence lost. The old certainties were fading and my Gods (musical as well as cricketing) were becoming increasingly human.

Eardley Lieversz

Article first appeared in the Royal College Cricket Souvenir of 1999 and subsequently in the Autumn 1999 (vol 6, no. 3) issue of Floreat.

Monday, March 02, 2009

My Most Memorable Game of Cricket 1962

When the Total stood still

The most memorable game I have played... by Darrell Lieversz

Whenever the 1962 cricket season comes up for discussion, the game against St. Peters is the one most often mentioned. Royalists were not accustomed to such a total domination of ball over bat, especially in a game that they came into as underdogs. I have been told by many Royalists who were present over those two days, that this particular game was one of the most sensational, uplifting and inspiring cricketing moments in their lives and which they feel privileged to have witnessed.

In fact many of them can still recall where they watched the game from. My cousin Eardley, who captained the Royal cricket team of 1969, admits that he never hero worshipped and idolised a Royal cricket team as much as the 1962 side, mainly because of our performance in the Peterite game. He never felt so proud to be a Royalist as he did in the aftermath of this game. In fact, the expectations raised by Royal’s performance made it very hard for Royal’s supporters to subsequently stomach defeat to Wesley on the Campbell Park mat and the failure to prevail over STC.

We had performed fairly well in the games leading to the game against St Peter’s. The first game of the 1962 season ended sensationally when Ananda, who dominated the game from the very beginning, fell 18 runs short of what seemed a relatively modest target of 88 runs. Thanks for the win go to Chanaka "CD" de Silva who took 5 for 16 and vice captain "Thiagu" Thiagarajah’s "break through" spell when he clean bowled D. Jayasinghe and had Sarath Wimalaratne beautifully stumped by Siri Jayaratne, finishing up with 3 for 16.

In the next game, against St. Benedict’s, we only conceded 11 runs in capturing their first six 1st innings wickets. We eventually beat them by 2 wickets in a hard fought game. We then went on to beat St. Anthony’s by 9 wickets and enforced the follow on against St. Joseph’s, who, to their credit, batted with a lot of determination in their second innings and left us with insufficient time to score the runs required for victory.

Royal was back on home soil for the Peterite game. Under normal circumstances St. Peters would have been outright favourites as they had cruised to an innings win over Ananda, the very side against which we had to dig deep in order to win on the Reid Avenue turf.

In that game against Ananda, St. Peter’s batting first scored over 300 runs with captain Richard Heyn scoring a century hitting a formidable attack to all parts of the ground, including a six over cover. A demoralised Ananda side offered very little resistance losing by an innings by as early as 2 pm on the second day.

On the strength of St. Peter’s performance against Ananda and Royal’s injury toll, the press, as indeed many Royalists, tended to play down Royal’s prospects.

Reporting on the first day’s play the Daily Mirror conceded its gross misjudgment in writing off Royal, in the following manner -"Royal playing without Jayaratne, Mendis, Withane and Kumar were expected to succumb to the mighty Peterite batting machine which had only the previous week annihilated the Anandians".

Team selection News that ‘S. S’ Kumar and Sunil Mendis were unable to play due to influenza was a shock to the selectors when choosing the team to play the Peterites. This information was rather depressing because Padde Withana and Siri Jayaratne were already on the injury list carried over from the previous week and were not available for selection. Freshmen Hamsa Macan Markar, "Sokka" Sockanathan as wicket keeper and Mohamed "Ganja" Mahroof (left arm spinner) were brought in to replace the three coloursmen out of action.

Royal struggle for runs

Because the English cricket team was scheduled to play a game against Ceylon on Saturday, this game was played on a Thursday and Friday, commencing at 1.30 pm and 10.00 am respectively. Winning the toss I decided to bat first on a fairly dry, flat wicket. "Shaw" Wilson and V. "Gowri" Gowrishankaran opened the innings against Maurice Decker and left arm seamer Travis Fernando.

After a steady start we lost our first wicket, that of Shaw at 33, when he was caught by Ravinda Fernando off the bowling of Tyrone Le Mercier in his second over. Hamsa Marcan Markar was in next but was also caught by Ravinda Fernando off the bowing of Kevin Ruberu. Vijaya Malalasekera livened the game up with some attacking drives but was out edging the ball to Richard Heyn at slip for a sparkling 17 runs. Finally, opener Gowri’s watchful innings of 20 ended when a throw from Maurice Decker found him short of his crease.

Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals but a characteristically tenacious innings of 32 not out by Roger Jansen took the score from 6 for 75 to 113 all out. Tyrone Le Mercier captured 4 wickets and three dismissals resulted from ‘direct hit’ run outs.

The game had progressed predictably and the Peterite bowling showed the same bite that it had displayed against Ananda. The three run outs were indicative of how competitive St. Peter’s were on the field. Everything pointed to them being equally competitive at the crease. Ominously for Royal, the stage appeared set for Richard Heyn to continue from where he left off the previous week and enable his team to quickly overhaul Royal’s modest total and set themselves up for an innings win. Royal in turn would have hoped to restrict the lead of St. Peters and stay in the game.

The best case scenario from Royal’s perspective would have been to capture early wickets and at best, slow St. Peter’s progress. No one, least of all Royal, could have predicted the mayhem that lay just around the corner. Defending a modest total St. Peters went into bat a little before 5 PM. I had picked the College end from which to open bowling but due to an unexpected change in wind direction, decided to take the other end.

The batsmen were already at the wicket, and the field almost set. Instead of wasting time changing ends, I gave the ball to Chanaka "CD" de Silva to open the bowling. CD bowled a superb first over with the ball swinging beautifully away from the right handed Adithiya de Silva. In the course of the first three overs, the score crawled to 6 and consisted of many ‘play & misses’. In the last ball of my second over, without any addition to the score, Adithiya de Silva did not offer a stroke and was clean bowled by a ball that swung in late. Tyrone Le Mercier was next to go, LBW in the third ball of my fourth over (the eighth over of the innings). With the score at 2 for 10, Richard Heyn the Peterite Captain, brimming with confidence walked to the wicket whistling and twirling his bat.

Eye witness accounts describe a surge of optimism amongst the Peterite supporters watching the game from Reid Avenue. He took his guard, looked around the field and settled into his stance. He attempted to leave a ball from me that appeared to him to be wide outside his off stump. However, much to his surprise it dipped in and knocked back his off stump, clean bowled by the first ball he faced. First to give me pats on the back were my deputy Thiagu and CD followed by the rest of the team. The cheers and applause from spectators all around the ground were pretty exhilarating. Two wickets had fallen with the score at 10 and four more were to follow with no addition to the score.

St Peter’s in total disarray Left hander David Heyn replaced his brother and prevented a hat trick. Heyn and Fernando didn’t score off the next four overs which meant that the overs (12) exceeded the runs scored (10) to that point. In CD’s 7th over Fernando lofted the ball over my head towards the mid off boundary at the College end. Instinctively, I turned around and chased after the ball hoping just to save a boundary. Looking up I found the ball still in the air and falling fast. Keeping my eye on the ball I reached for it desperately twisting my body and right arm. It was freakish luck that the ball stuck in my right hand completing the catch to dismiss Fernando. But the effect was sensational and it seemed like Royal could do no wrong. As Fernando and Heyn had crossed, Heyn, rather than new batsman Tissa Jayaweera, had to face the next ball from CD which was the last ball of his 7th over. He was clean bowled by a beautifully pitched up ball that swung in late hitting his middle stump. The first ball of CD’s next over was played down preventing a hat trick.

Eardley described to me the emotions of the Royalists in attendance at this stage of the game in the following manner. To quote - "Royal’s supporters were equally astounded by the scale of the stranglehold Royal’s bowlers had over the Peterite batsmen. The frequency with which wickets fell, and the ratio of wickets and overs to runs, was an unprecedented cricketing occurrence in the lifetimes of most cricket enthusiasts. Royalists were in turn elated and astonished by a turn of events which was inconceivable and unimaginable at the commencement of the Peterite innings.

To many Royalists there was an air of unreality to what was taking place in the middle". Maurice Decker then joined Jayaweera who was next to go, LBW for a duck in the 2nd ball of my next over. C. Bartlet the new batsman, and Decker immediately appealed against the light but the appeal was not surprisingly disallowed. At a little after 5:30 PM the light seemed to be pretty good and clearly the morale of St Peter’s was in tatters. On the last ball of my same over Bartlet was bowled between bat and pad for another ‘duck’. The score was still 10. In the 4th ball of my next over with the score at 12, Travis Fernando was bowled in a similar manner for yet another ‘duck’. A telling indication of how dramatically the game had swung around was that with 2 wickets remaining St. Peter’s still needed four runs to avert a follow on when an hour earlier Royal expected to have a fight on her hands in order to avoid an innings defeat.

On Thiagu’s suggestion, to forestall another appeal against the light I replaced CD and myself with "Sugi" Rajaratnam and Thiagu. Kevin Ruberu had come in to join Decker and together they took the score to 20 without further loss by close of play on the first day. At this stage, CD had bowling figures of 9 overs, 5 maidens, 12 runs, 2 wickets and I had figures of 8 overs, 7 maidens, 3 runs, 6 wickets.

Talking things over breakfast Early next morning Thiagu and I met Mr. Mahes Rodrigo (our coach) at his home for our usual mid match meeting when his wife Yoges always provided us with a scrumptious breakfast. This was where the previous day’s play was assessed, and tactics to be employed on the second day were discussed. Mahes very rarely visited the team’s dressing room unless there was something very urgent to convey. He encouraged us to make our own decisions and work things out ourselves perhaps preparing us for the tougher innings of life. Although the newspaper reports laid out in front of us highlighted how well Royal was placed after the first days play, Mahes urged us to disregard the press and concentrate on getting the Peterites out twice before the end of the day. He said he was happy with our performance but would have liked us to have got a few more runs when we batted. When I asked him "What would be a good total to declare the second innings", he smiled and said "One step at a time Darrell". The meeting concluded with Mahes reminding us how important it was to maintain the pressure by capturing the two remaining wickets as quickly as possible. He wished us luck and we were away.

Mahes is of legendary status to the 1962 Royal team for being inspirational without being either obtrusive or patronising. Play started on time at 10:00 am on yet another fine day. Kevin Ruberu faced the first over of the day from me and in the fourth ball of the over he played down an in swinger towards Gowri at short leg, who, seeing Ruberu outside his crease, picked up the ball and tried to run him out but missed the wicket. With no one covering up, the ball reached the boundary giving Ruberu four free runs. However, CD soon cleaned up the innings. In the first ball of his second over of the day he had Kevin Ruberu out LBW for 12. The last man R. Abeyasundera played down his first ball from CD but was clean bowled by the next. St. Peter’s were all out for 30 runs. Although the last two partnerships doubled her total, it was a paltry score from a team with a much vaunted batting line up. CD finished the innings with 4 wickets for 14 runs and my final figures were 6 wickets for 7 runs.

Putting the game out of St Peter’s reach With a handy lead of 83 runs, twice St. Peter’s total, Shaw and Gowrie again put on 33 for the first wicket. Shaw was bowled by David Heyn in his first over. Ten runs later Gowrie was out stumped by Ravinda Fernando off the bowling of Travis Fernando. However, cushioned by a handy lead we were never under the same pressure as we were in the first innings. Hamsa and Vijaya took the score to 67 with some positive cricket when Vijaya was bowled by Maurice Decker who seemed to be bowling with increased pace. Sugi joined Hamsa and they batted steadily until Hamsa got an edge and was caught behind by Ravinda Fernando off Decker for 26. CD was in next, mistimed a hook off a short pitched ball from Decker and was caught by Abeyasundera with the score at 93 for 5. Sugi was out next bowled by Travis Fernando after making a useful 16. The next two wickets fell in rapid succession and I declared our second innings closed at 121 for 8 wickets.

Another early collapse Set a target of 205 in a little over 3 hours, the Peterites made another disastrous start when in the second over of the innings Ravinda Fernando hit a swinging full toss from CD to Thiagu’s safe hands at mid on without a run on the board. Tyrone Le Mercier was in next and along with Adithiya de Silva, immediately adopted the usual tactic of batting outside his crease in an attempt to counteract our swing bowling. However it made no difference. In the second ball of my fourth over I clean bowled Adithiya de Silva who was responsible for all four runs of the total up to that point. In walked a nervous looking Richard Heyn. He was clearly feeling the pressure and played down the first ball. He appeared to be shaping to cover drive the next delivery but the ball dipped in late and he was bowled for another duck. Le Mercier was next to go when CD trapped him into giving Vijaya a catch at slip. Losing 4 wickets for 4 runs was a worse start than the first innings and not what St Peter’s had hoped for. David Heyn hit me for a four to the cover boundary but played and missed several balls that were swinging away from him. A straight ball in the same over knocked back his middle stump with the total at 12. CD and I had bowled eight overs each and I thought we should have a break. Sugi, "Ganja" Mahroof and Thiagu shared the next nine overs, five of which were maidens and conceding only nine runs. CD and I then came back on.

Mopping up the tail Tissa Jayaweera and Maurice Decker slowly took the total to 37. Off the first ball of my eleventh over, another overthrow gave Decker a free 5 runs. This brought Jayaweera to face my next ball and he was bowled. The score became 7 for 42 when Bartlett was clean bowled off the first ball he faced giving me my second opportunity for a hat trick in the game. Kevin Ruberu played down the next ball to avert a hat trick, but was out in the last ball of my next over. Three wickets had fallen with the score at 42. The last two wickets fell at 44. A no ball and a single in CD’s eleventh over added to the total but Travis Fernando who had come in at the fall of the 8th wicket was clean bowled in the last ball of the same over.

Decker who was not out in the first innings was the only batsman to provide some resistance but seeing his efforts coming to naught and now joined by the last man he seemed to lose concentration and was well caught by Thiagu off my last ball of the game. We had won the game with an hour to spare. CD finished up the second innings with 3 wickets for 13 runs and my 7 wickets cost 17 runs.

A team effort

They say opening bowlers click in pairs and serve as an inspiration towards each other. I firmly believe that this was the case with CD and me in the years we opened bowling for Royal. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to members of the 1962 cricket team for their unreserved support at all times, on and off the field. Their loyalty is greatly appreciated to this day. I went on to produce bowling efforts which contributed to victories by teams at both club and national level. But no bowling and team effort gave me as much satisfaction as the victory against St Peter’s. As my cousin Eardley often reminds me - "It was not so much that St Peter’s failed to reach 50 in either innings, but that we throttled their batsmen to such an extent that dismissing them seemed an act of mercy".

It was truly my most memorable game of cricket.


Anyone who attempts to accurately capture events which took place 46 years ago is hugely indebted to the journalists of the time and their newspaper coverage. I am no exception. I wish to thank Thiagu and Eardley for their editorial assistance and for casting a critical eye over numerous drafts of the article. Eardley was one of the many excited spectators who cheered Royal on over the two days of February 1962 and relished the opportunity to relive that famous game through his involvement in the article.

I wish to thank Shaw, Vjjaya, Gowrie, CD, Thiagu and Tyrone Le Mercier (of St Peter’s domiciled in Melbourne) for filling information gaps and sharing their experiences of the match with me. Most of all, I wish to thank every person who represented Royal during the 1961-2 cricket season without whom it would not have been possible to develop the camaraderie that was so evident in the Peterite game when the game appeared to be slipping from our grasp during the early stages. I feel privileged to have played alongside such a talented and spirited bunch of cricketers.

R * O * Y * A * L - ROYAL!!!