By Sujith Silva
It was a pleasure to meet up with a versatile sportsman of Trinity College, Kandy, Tikiri Ellepola who excelled in cricket, rugby and badminton in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. A Ryde Gold Medallist in 1980, the highest honour the school can bestow to its student, Ellepola went on to lead the Trinity First XV in 1980. His brother Chula Ellepola also too played for college during the same period, and was a member of that famous champion side of 1977. They were following in the footsteps of their father Professor S.B. Ellepola who won rugby colours in 1948 at Trinity. Prof. Ellepola, a doctor, was attached to the Faculty of Medicine at Peradeniya. He was a past President of Old Trinitians Sports Club (1981), and was regarded as an untiring social worker, and did yeoman service to his alma mater, the University of Peradeniya, Rotary movement and the Buddhist associations in Kandy. He passed away few years ago. Tikiri has been invited as the chief guest for the first leg of the Bradby Shield this year to be held at Pallekele.
Here he is reminiscing about his good old memories and life at Trinity College…
Talking of my memories at Trinity College and rugby, the season of 1970 comes to my mind as that was the time I started to follow the game. I was boarded at college during the initial years with my brother Chula. Then the seasons of 1973 and ’74 stand out as we had some brilliant sides and individuals during the period. Jeffery Yu was an inspirational player and a captain, so was C.Y. Ching (Snr). Then we had Ravi Balasuriya who galvanised our teams with his brilliant captaincy.
This was the time we used to play inter-house rugby with so much passion. The games were really intense. Some of us were playing in the junior levels, like in under-15 and under-17. I was also playing cricket at that time, but the late Bertie Wijesinghe who was our cricket coach didn’t want us to play rugger and cricket together as both sports (junior fixtures) were clashing. We followed the rugby team and the players were our idols. One match strikes out, the 1974 encounter between Trinity College and S. Thomas’ College. What a game it was. Played at lightning speed and for the first time in my life I was a witness to some breath-taking ploys such as scissors, loops and dummies. It was fascinating to watch and inspire anyone to take up the game.
The 1977 Trinity-St. Peter’s match was another exciting game which I watched. St Peter’s was led by Angelo Wickremaratne and Trinity had a champion side under Ravi Balasuriya. Angelo was all over the park, he was omnipresent and it was superb game which we won with a close margin (8-7).
I was a member of the Trinity College First XI in 1978 captained by Andre Tissera. We had Naren Dambawinna who scored a brilliant century at the big match then P.S. Dinesh who went on to captain in ‘79, and Ravi Ratnayake who captained in ‘80. I played under both of them. The late Alick Halangoda was our coach at that time. I played as a left-arm spinner and as an opening bowler. I captured 30-odd wickets in that season. My personal best bowling that year was against Vidyartha College, where I captured 7 for 13 at Asgiriya.
My first year in the Trinity First XV jersey was in ’78 when I started playing under Janaka Kiridena’s captaincy. I was playing as a prop forward. By then I had played along with most of my teammates at junior levels. Some continued to play even up to ’81 – the likes of Lalith Pilapitiya, Ravi Ponnambalam, Sumedha Ratwatte, and Ravi Bandaranayake. My first game was against St Joseph’s College at Bogambara and we won it comfortably. Maurice Perera was our coach. We did well during that season as most of them played in Ravi Balasuriya’s team of ’77. The first leg of the Bradby was drawn but we lost the second leg. It was bit disappointing to lose the Bradby.
The ’79 season started off in a somewhat controversial manner. My brother Chula was appointed as captain but as per Educational Ministry ruling he couldn’t remain in the college. So, he had to step down and Jan Tissera was appointed as captain. Then, we didn’t have a coach so Irwin Howie stepped in. We had a good season but lost to S.Thomas’ (7-6) after a close game. We won the first leg of the Bradby (4-3) but Royal fought back and won the second leg (18-0). We lost the Bradby Shield for the second year in a row.
Ravi Ratnayake captained the college First XI in 1980 by then Dambe (Naren Dambawinna) and P.S. Dinesh had left and we had Pradeep Dunuwila and Riza Thahir. A decent side with Ravi who was a very good captain and his father Yasa Ratnayake was our coach. Ravi was our opening bowler and he used to bat at No. 4. We knew each other very well as we used to play together for some time both at cricket and rugger. In fact, during that period, 1977-1980, many of us played both sports. So we had a good understanding and a good team spirit.
One match strikes out from that season; it was against Ananda College. We were the first to play at their new grounds at Ananda Mawatha. There was a big crowd on both days. We set a target of around 200 runs for Ananda to win. Arjuna Ranatunga was part of that team and they had a very good side. Ravi had a good bowling spell during the second innings of Ananda. They were reeling at 137 for 8 wickets and then crowd invaded the pitch. The umpires called off the match and we had a time getting out of the grounds.
In rugby, I was appointed captain for the 1980 season. Irwin Howie remained as our coach. Some of the senior players were Shen Wei Chang, Sen Yu Suan, Ravi Ponnambalam, Sumedha Ratwatte, Ravi Bandaranayake, Tony Bertus and Faumy Samad. We had a very good season. We remained unbeaten until the Bradby, beating St. Peter’s, S. Thomas’ and our toughest game was against St Joseph’s. The Josephians under Ravi de Silva had a very good side. The match was played at the University of Peradeniya grounds, and Josephians were leading till the last minute when the youngest of the Suan brothers scored and won the game for us (8-6). S. Thomas’ also had a good side under Boteju’s captaincy with Didi and Christo Jordash playing as centres. However, we managed to beat them, with Ravi Ponnambalam scoring all points for us (9-6), at Nittawela.
We had a depleted side for the first leg of the Bradby as six of our regulars were ruled out due to injuries sustained in our previous game, which was against St Anthony’s at Nittawela. The game was an intense and a physical game. There were lot of injuries though we won 25-0. Gunda (Nihal Gunawardena) and Ananda Wickremasinghe our wing three-quarters and full-back Ravi (Ravi Ponnambalam) and the two centres were also injured. Our scrum-half Faumy Samad had to shift to one of the centre positions and Ashan Ratwatte came in as the scrum-half. Pradeep Adihetty moved from flanker position to full-back. So, there were quite a lot changes for the first leg. Royal too, under Sujanthakumar, had a very good side. Irshad Rahiman who played earlier for Trinity (in ’77) turned up for Royal as he had to move out of Trinity College. Irshad as No. 8 and Sujan as scrum-half combined well and we found they were too tough to handle. The match was played at Longdon Place (CR & FC). A tough game but we played well, yet we couldn’t win it.
Then before the second leg, we played St Peter’s at Nittawela. The Peterites were led by Ainsley Baldsing and we knew they had come to win as St. Peter’s couldn’t beat Trinity for a long time. It was another tough game for us. However, we managed to win it comfortably in the end.
The Bradby second leg was played at Nittawela and the game was to be televised for the first time. We had our full side back. Nihal Gunawardena, Ananda Wickremasinghe, Baratha Mendis, Ravi Ponnambalam and Ravi Bandaranayake were back and occupying their places. For the first time Sumedha Ratwatte, as stand-off position, was pairing for the first time with Ashan Ratwatte who was kept as our scrum-half. Ashan would have been just 16 years. Our goal was to secure the Bradby. However, we still found Royal forwards tough to handle. They were big and used that to their advantage. Sritharan and Ravi Wijenathan, and once again Irshad and Sujan who paired so well troubled us throughout the game. We held them for some time but felt we were not strong enough or not fit enough. Royal was the superior side. We lost the game by 3-16, and the Bradby for the third consecutive year. It was disappointing as no Trinity rugby captain would like to lose the Bradby. However, most of those who played in those losing years for Trinity remained and continue to play in ’81 when we regained the Bradby under Ravi Bandaranayake.
I left college and joined Aitken Spence Travels in 1981, and worked under Mr Ratna Sivaratnam, who was another past ruggerite and Royal captain. A brilliant personality. I’m with the company for 35 years now, hopefully my first job would be my last job too. In the same year, I joined CR & FC when Malik Samarawickrema invited me to for a CR B side, though many Trinitians, traditionally played for Havelocks and I never had any intentions of playing for CR & FC. There was no turning back from there as I continued to play for the club until 1986 where I had to give it up due to work commitments. I really enjoyed playing with most of those Royalists and Thomians whom I played against at school level, then there were players from Isipathana who joined the club. It was a wonderful experience.
In 1989, I married Devika who I met at Aitken Spence. Our only daughter, Yolanthika, like her mother, went to St Bridget’s Convent but later she moved to Stafford International and Colombo International School. She is now an economist attached to IPS, and Devika is now with Emirates.
Looking back, the grounding and the experience at Trinity College and the boarding life helped us to be who we are today. The values, the leadership skills and sharing, all inherited from college days. We learnt to be human, to be humble, respect each other and share things in life. Our greatest supporters came from Mahaiyawa and we were taught to give back to the society and to school. I was part of the Old Trinitians Rugby Scrummage, and was involved with the Trinity Cricket Foundation when it was formed. It was a joy to give back and an honour to be at Trinity!