The entire team rose up in respect when one of the greatest fast bowler to have played the game Sir Richard Hadlee paid a visit to the Sri Lankan dressing room during the first Test Match in Christchurch. While Hadlee collected a few autographs from the players, he apparently asked Chaminda Vaas how his great pal Percy Abeysekara was. Hadlee has been a great admirer of Percy and had even presented the Sri Lankan cheerleader some of his memorabilia after he saw the Sri Lankan’s knowledge and passion for the game. ‘Percy, don’t lose your voice, Sri Lanka needs it more than you,’ he’s supposed to have written in one of Percy’s autographs.
Many players have had a liking for this cheerleader. His knowledge of the game and its history is second to none and Percy comes up with certain anecdotes that stun you at times. Percy has been a usual visitor to the cricket ground even before the country gained Test status and present day Sri Lankan players call him affectionately ‘Uncle Percy’. No doubt that some of his comments have angered overseas players, but none of them have a had a row with him for they know that Percy doesn’t mean any harm. Today in ‘Outrageous moments of Sri Lanka Cricket’, we look back at some of those unforgettable comments by Percy the legend.
Andy Flower probably was the greatest Test batsman produced by Zimbabwe. He was in terrific form during his country’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2001. Flower had made a big hundred in Colombo in the first Test and at the end of the game, Percy paid him a rich tribute with a poem that indeed would have made any great poet proud.
You are indeed handy,
When you come to Kandy,
I’ll give you brandy,
But you bring the shandy,
If you try to be chandi
And hit Murali out of Kandy,
I will make you nondi.’
When the dressing room attendant explained to Flower the meaning of some of the Sinhalese words all Flower’s teammates laughed out.
One of the best Percy masterpieces was of course reserved for former Australian opener David Boon, whose appearance reminded you of a smart street fighter. Boon was coming down from the SSC changing room to open batting and Percy quipped in with some carefully selected words.
Come back soon,
Good old Boony obliged uncle Percy duly.
In a Test against England in 2001 in Kandy, Sri Lanka had gained the initiative, but Captain Nasser Hussain fought back with all-rounder Craig White and the partnership was frustrating the hosts. Captain Sanath Jayasuriya made a bowling change by brining in Chaminda Vaas and all of a
sudden Percy erupted.
You are Classy,
Now get a wicket for uncle Percy.’
Not much success for Percy this time as Hussain went to get a hundred and England went onto win the Test.
No doubt that Aravinda de Silva has given many thrilling moments for Sri Lanka’s supporters. The pull and the hook were his trademark shots. Early on in his career, while these shots paid rich dividends for the star batsman it also brought about his downfall a few times.
On one such instance as Aravinda headed towards the pavilion Percy shouted.
Api hamoma Dukwinda’
In the early 1980s when New Zealand toured Sri Lanka former all-rounder Lance Cairns, father of Chris Cairns, hammered former fast bowler Vinothan John for 23 runs in the last over of a one-day international and as a disappointed John headed back to the dressing room Percy showed his disappointment.
‘Hey John, why were you born?’
While appreciating Sri Lanka’s cricketers, Percy at times can be harsh on them as well if they weren’t up to the mark. One of Percy’s popular quotes whenever there’s a misfiled is, ‘Percy, has no mercy, for cricketers who are lazy.’
One day, again in Kandy, Percy was going on and on with some of his common remarks such as one above at the end of day’s play when the players’ were warming down. He was probably after a visit to the adjoining Old Trinitians Sports Club as well and as he was uttering the same things over and over again Russel Arnold chipped in and said, ‘Ok, ok Percy now you are boring.’ Percy smiled and instantly shot back. ‘I am boring, but putha your are not scoring.’ Even Arnold was amused. Not even a good player like Arnold could put Percy down and after hitting back at the batsman Percy proudly announced
Balapitiye Percy hamadama kelin.’
Two of Percy’s favourite players are Sachin Tendulkar and Sir Garfield Sobers. In fact he named two of his grandsons ‘Sachin’ and ‘Garfield’ after the two cricketers. But in Colombo, when once Tendulkar got out playing a rash shot Percy was compelled to give one back to one of the greatest players he admired.
‘One fine day, Gavasker came,
Another fine day, Vengsarkar came,
Yet another fine day, Manjrekar came
Today Tendulkar came,
None of the bast—s knew how to play the game.’
Percy is a person who loves the traditions of the sport and may have been hurt when the match fixing controversy embroiled so many leading players including his good friend Mohammad Azharuddin, the former Indian captain. During a warm up game between India and Sri Lanka Board President’s XI at the P. Sara Stadium, Percy frowned at the Indian dressing room and came up
with this beauty.
‘Cricket is a game of gentlemen,
Invented by the English,
Improvised by the Aussies,
Mastered by the Sri Lankans,
And f—ed up by you bloody Indians’
During the pre-Test era, England were playing an unofficial Test in Colombo and off-spinner Jeff Cope was having a difficult time and didn’t look like getting a wicket and Percy hit back.
There’s no hope,
Until you call the Pope.’
Captain Tony Greig didn’t like the remark and supposed to have told something nasty to Percy and our man soon took Greig to task.
You’ve got your height,
I’ve got my might,
I’ll send you up like a kite,
If the air is right,
And I’ll have you for a bite,
Especially if I am tight.
Every since Percy and Tony have been great friends.
Not only the players, even the spectators have got it from Percy. One spectator who tried to irritate him once shouted, ‘Percy go home!’ Percy hit back immediately asking, ‘Your home?’
Another spectator trying to upset Percy one day shouted ‘Ado Percy pina’. The genius wasn’t bothered and hit back at the troublemaker.
Bat karanne Sana,
Umbalage amma gona’
Percy truly is a great character. People who see his exterior hardly know what a fine human being he is. He’s got no hidden agendas and derives great satisfaction in supporting the team. Percy truly,
Two of the PICs are courtesy of the Sunday Times
6 responses to “Percy Abeysekara, Lanka’s Iconic Cheerleader”
Many may not know that he was a Cricketer himself whilst at St. Aloysius, Galle and I think played in the first XI.
Are you sure ANDY? I cannot recall that fact –playing for “college”. I knew him as our CHEERLEADER together with Royle Barthelot. I am ALOYSIAN through and through.
I know you are from SAC Galle and remember the times well. This is what Percy once said to me. He said he was coached by my dad in as much as you were done. Perhaps he played in later years or could it be that he had one too many. I need to ask around to figure this out.
AH!! Son of Marcus and nephew of DD. Now I get it. delighted to have you comment. Where are you now in world space?
I am in Sri Lanka and in Mattegoda. You could contact me when you are in Sri Lanka on (011) 2845717 or 0776040218.
I tried to draw your attention sometime ago for mispronouncing Nandasiri Jasenthuliyanage’s name but had no response and gave up. Anyway thanks for the reply and also remembering me. We had a photograph of the team (you were in it!) of the year when SAC beat all schools at cricket. But sadly it is misplaced.
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