Antonian Cricket season of 1960 and Trinity-Antonian Big Match
By Group Captain (Retd) Tilak Pananwala.
Following is a compilation of articles penned down by former Antonian Cricketer (now retired) Group Captain Tilak Pananwala based on his memories of Antonian Cricket from 60’s with epilogue added by another Antonian stalwart in Australia, Bernard VanCuylenburg on his memories of College days at Katugastota from that era and shared by Antonian Cricketer Ranjith Peiris for publication on Quadrangle. Hope you will enjoy this trip down memory lane.
The Antonian cricket team of 1960 led by Charlie Joseph had a successful unbeaten year. Out of the eight (08) matches played we had victories against Kingswood, and Dharmarajah, and drew against St.Peter’s, St.Joseph’s, St.Benedict’s and Trinity. Charlie was the star and headed the batting averages and, for the second year in succession, he had the honour of being chosen as “The Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year”.
THE TRINITY-ANTONIAN BIG MATCH. 17th & 18th March 1960 at Katugastota
The Big Match of 1960 was a watershed due to several factors. It was the final match for St.Anthony’s College as an Assisted School (It became a private school in 1961). It was also the farewell match for many outstanding players such as Sarath Pamunuwa, Franklin Rudolph, Sweenie Mulholland, Thilak Thalakada and Totti Premaratna, Include three future Captains; M.Muthalip, N.Dunuwila, and Michael Joseph, and was also the farewell event for the long standing legendary Prefect of Games Reverend Brother Columban Macky, and the Coach Mr.T.M.A.Cooray.
We had a scare a fortnight before the Big Match as our captain Charlie Joseph injured a finger while batting against St. Peter’s College. He retired hurt and was unable to attend practices during the vital days before the ‘Big Match’. St. Peter’s had a well-built very fast bowler named Anton Perera who like Harold Larwood during the ‘Bodyline Ashes Series’, directed the ball at the batsmen’s bodies rather than at the wickets! He was also the Public Schools Putt Shot Champion and a relation of Mr. Maurice Perera an Old Peterite, and our coach during the 1954 centenary year. Charlie sustained this injury while facing Anton. We were instructed to wear padded hats (Toppees) for protection when batting, instead of caps.
Click here to reach more about Anton Perera
When I went in to bat, Anton greeted me with a lightning delivery aimed at my head. Before I could respond it flew past my head GLANCING OFF MY HAT leaving a dent and a reddish smudge. Adiel Anghie the Peterite wicket keeper made an acrobatic save as the ball flashed past towards the boundary. A worried Sarath Pamunuwa our Vice Captain and the batsman at the other end walked up to me and said “Are you OK? Be very careful!” I replied “Don’t worry. It’s OK, I am alright….”. HOWEVER BOTH OF US KNEW VERY WELL THAT A SERIOUS INJURY WOULD HAVE OCCURRED IF THE BALL WAS A FEW INCHES LOWER. The crowd was infuriated at Anton’s tactics and barracked him throughout. The barracking turned into a crescendo when it was his turn to bat and he got out cheaply.
It was only on the morning of the “Big Match” that Charlie decided he was able to play although the injured finger was still bandaged and he was in some pain. But his greatness was manifested in no uncertain terms as he put the Trinity bowlers to the sword in punishing fashion, and went on to score a magnificent century despite the pain each time he hit the ball. The Antonians after an unbeaten season under Charlie’s captaincy were the clear favourites. Jayantissa Ratwatte was the Trinity College captain. The ground was packed with supporters on both sides. The terraced stands closest to the pavilion had been allocated to the Trinity supporters, while the Antonians were in the stands further to the left.
Winning the toss Trinity fielded first. It was a good move as the Antonian frontline batsmen fell in quick succession and the score read a dismal 26 for 4 wickets with the tall Trinity fast bowler Eric Roles in full flight. The Trinity supporters near the pavilion were cheering jubilantly in contrast to the silence from the Antonian stands. It was at this critical juncture when a total batting collapse was looming that Franklin Rudolph joined Charlie at the wicket. Franklin had better bowling credentials than as a batsman, but he rose to the occasion and joined Charlie in a rescue mission taking the score to the 180’s when he lost his wicket for 58 while Charlie true to form went on to score an inimitable century (127) before retiring with leg cramps. Eventually, the declaration came at 255 for 9 wickets. Out of this total, 185 runs had been scored by Charlie and Franklin. The previous year at Asgiriya, Charlie had been stranded on 95 not out when we were all out for 241. Forty-two years before in 1918, the legendary Anthonian batsman Jack Anderson had scored the first-ever century at Asgiriya. I believe that Antonian Ralston Burke emulated this feat in 1965 with a well-timed knock of 165.
About an hour’s play was left when Trinity batted and this time it was their top-line that collapsed with three wickets falling for 18 runs and our supporters vociferously cheering us on. Another 45 minutes of play was left when Trinity appealed for bad light and the umpires upheld their request. This decision did not go down well with the Antonian supporters as they felt the light was reasonably good. They vented their anger by loud barracking with a few stones thrown onto the roof of the pavilion. On Saturday Trinity made a recovery of sorts thanks to a gallant century by their skipper Jayantissa Ratwatte (105) and they were all out for 204. It would have been a different story if a difficult stumping chance off their skipper had not been missed by our wicket-keeper early in the innings. Batting again, our openers Muthalip (81 not out) and Thalakada (51 not out) made amends for their failure in the first innings by putting on a total of 151 runs for no loss before the declaration came with about two hours of play left. This opening partnership brought back memories of the 266 run partnership by A.C.M.Lafir and Ronnie Stephens in the 1954 centenary “Big Match”.
Click here to read about A.C.M.Lafir & Ronnie Stephens
Trinity played cautiously, for a draw and struggled to reach 105 for six wickets when the match ended with St. Anthony’s taking the honours.
Principal : Reverend Father Hilarion Rudolph.
Vice Principal : Mr.George Macky.
Prefect of Games: Reverend Brother D.Columban Macky.
Coach : Mr.T.M.A.Cooray.
Team : Charlie Joseph (Captain). S.Pamunuwa, (Wicket Keeper) F.Rudolph,
F.Burke, S.Mulholland, M.Muthalip, T.Pananwala, N.Dunuwila, T.Thalakada, S.Premaratna, M.Joseph.
Reserves : V.Ching, C.Chandrasekeran, G.Stevens, M.G.Cyril, S.B.Sangakkara (Kumar Sangakkara’s Father).
It is with sadness I record that all the Staff and many of the colleagues mentioned have passed away leaving indelible footprints on the sands of time. They gave us lifelong friendships, unforgettable memories, and precious remembrances. May they rest in peace!
FAREWELL BROTHER MACKY
At the end of the season we were saddened to hear that Reverend Brother Macky was leaving for Rome to obtain his higher ordination for the priesthood. Reverend Brother Macky dedicated long years of service for the improvement of sports in College since the pioneering days in 1928, when the premises were shifted from Kandy to Katugastota. During his tenure, he introduced new sports such as Rugby, Badminton, and Basketball as part of the sports curriculum and in these sports he took St. Anthony’s to the highest pinnacles.
He is recognized as one of the finest Prefect of Games the College was blessed with, and was a role model for those who held this post in the years to follow. I would say that he was the Role Model of all Role models! In appreciation of his long and devoted service, a formal dinner was held in his honour and the members of the cricket team made a contribution of a wristwatch as a farewell gift. I still remember the emotional speech which he made at this function which moved many to tears. It fills me with deep emotion thinking about it it even today.
In addition to Reverend Brother Macky, five stalwarts of the team; Sarath Pamunuwa, Franklin Rudolph, Sweenie Mulholland, Totti Premaratne and Thilak Talakada were leaving. It was also Charlie’s last full season due to the rules governing the age factor. Little did we know then that it was the last season for the college as an assisted private school due to the schools take over by the government later in the year! This was completely unforeseen.
At the end of the term Reverend Brother Macky organized a trip for the team, thanks to the sponsorship of some old boys. We proceeded to Dambulla in the cars of some old Antonians and stayed overnight at a farm belonging to Mr.and Mrs. Reggie Barber. Mr.Barber was an old Antonian and their son Ron was a student at College who was with us in the boarding. They provided us with accommodation and “Cordon Bleu” meals which included delicacies such as venison and wild boar meat. Having toured local sites of interest like Sigiriya, we proceeded to Trincomalee where we were hosted by another old Antonian Mr.Vass.
He, like Mr.Barber treated us to mouth-watering local culinary fare such as crabs and prawn curry. The prawns caught in the Nilaveli Lagoon were a special favourite! The next day we returned to Dambulla before going back to college. At Dambulla Reverend Brother Macky had to leave us due to commitments he had in connection with his impending departure to Rome. A.C.M.Lafir who was then working for Lever Brothers offered to take him in his car. Lafir had a Volkswagen Beetle given to him by the Company. Since the cutlery and crockery brought for the trip had to be taken back, I was enlisted to accompany them as a helper. I sat in the back seat keeping a protective hand on the box of cutlery, while Reverend Brother Macky and Lafir sat in the front chatting away happily on the trip to Katugastota.
On arriving at College and having unloaded the items, I had the very difficult task of wishing Reverend Brother Macky “Bon Voyage” along with my “Goodbye”. It was the April holidays and the College premises were deserted. A feeling of utter sadness and loneliness filled my heart as the realization hit me that I was parting with an iconic Prefect of Games for whom I had a deep respect and with whom I had associated since the early 1950’s. Having bid him a fond farewell, I collected my bag and took a bus home with a heart full of sorrow. It was one of the loneliest and saddest journeys of my life.
How could I know then that we would never meet again? Sixty years on, the memory of our “Goodbyes” on that distant April day is still vivid in my mind. I never thought then, that it was the last time I would see him on this earth. I wish to conclude with two verses as a special tribute to Reverend Brother Macky for all he meant to me and to everybody who knew him;
Memories are a gift to treasure
Mine of you will last forever
Sorrow at losing you will always stay
Loved and remembered everyday
Your nature was loving and giving
Your heart was made of gold
And to those who truly loved you
Your memory will never grow old
Epilogue by Bernard VanCuylenburg.
Since Tilak now scored the cricketing trifecta with a superb article on the Trinity-Antonian Big Match of 1960. In his account of this match he refers to a serious finger injury sustained by Charlie Joseph when he faced the Peterite opening bowler Anton Perera in the match against St.Peter’s. As stated, it was the fear of all Anthonian supporters that Charlie would not be able to play in the Big Match.
If I may strike a personal note, Charlie did not look well at all on the morning of the match. We were in “The Journey’s End” and I observed that he seemed to be in some pain. When he went in to bat I remember thinking it was not his usual walk to the wicket. Later that evening Reverend Father Robinson told me that he went in to bat with a slight temperature. But as Tilak says “he put the Trinity bowlers to the sword….!” That was the greatness of Charlie Joseph.
And on a humorous note; when Charlie sustained that injury to his finger facing the Peterite opening bowler Anton Perera, the barracking which Tilak refers to continued long after stumps were drawn. At that time all visiting teams were lodged in “The Nest” almost opposite “The Villa” This later became the music room. One of my fellow boarders Cyril Tissera was furious that Charlie was injured. He was a volatile character at times and that night after dinner he worked up a small crowd and they marched down the road leading from the refectory shouting “Anton come out !!!”. Cyril led “the mob” like Robin Hood and his merry men! The Peterite team meanwhile was relaxing after dinner, and when Anton heard his name being called, he came out thinking somebody wanted to meet him. Off the field Anton was a gentle giant. He came out and stood on the steps of “The Nest’ a smile on his facing, facing the crowd of boarders, a hulk of a man. The moment they saw him, Cyril and the gang vanished into the night faster than melting ice!
I watched this amusing incident with Anton Wijeyratne, Sunderalingam Marie, Senerath Iddawela, and Palamakumbura from a safe distance! What memories…….
Tilak has thrown few logs on the fire to keep the Antonians aglow and the old memories aflame. Although these articles which he shared are of mirth and fun, it is tinged with a great deal of sadness since it involves partings and partings at the best of times are not easy. Apart from parting from some stalwart cricketers who were his team mates, the final parting with Reverend Brother Columban Macky at the end will move the hardest heart. And the mention of Ron’s parents Mr & Mrs. Barber will surely bring back pleasant memories to many Antonians.
I cannot help but recall my memories of Reverend Brother Macky before I turn another page in the book of life. Tilak was a sportsman and interacted with the Prefect of Games much more than I did. I never studied under the great Mr. George Macky but my memories of Brother Macky go back to my days as a boarder in “The Rainbow Cottages”. I remember him as somebody who always had time for you and a friendly word. As I went on to “The Mansion” “The Villa” and ultimately to “The Journeys End, my associations with him through the years were extremely warm and nurturing and I treasure the words of advice he gave me. As a senior boarder, whenever I felt that life was unkind and needed somebody for a heart to talk, it was always Brother Macky I reached out to, and not once did he say he was “too busy”. On the contrary, his nurturing words of advice and counsel were a tonic to a troubled soul. I will remember him as a spiritual warrior because he certainly won the hearts and minds of people.
The last time I saw him was when I visited him in the hospital. He looked frail but managed a joke or two about my being in the advertising profession. When the time came to leave, I held his hand, reluctantly said my last farewell, and walked away knowing that it was the last time I would see him. I console myself with the thought that goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. But for those who love with their heart and soul, there is no separation. Memories, even those most precious sometimes fade quickly. But I do not go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t even see them fading.
Our memories are the only paradise from which we can never be expelled and are life’s greatest treasures. Where would we be without them?