Cricket is an enchanting, fantastic, and a graceful game. To quote Harold Pinter; “Cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created in the World.” Today, it has become, an unofficial national sport of Sri Lanka. It appeals to the people. It’s one sport, that Sri Lanka had made great strides even internationally. This game which has a prestigious history and for more than one hundred years have produced great personalities gentlemen who played and administered the game. As a cricket administrator, Gamini Dissanayake’s contribution was enormous.
The print and electronic media also played a big role in popularising cricket. It produced some of the best batsmen. The list is long. Before we gained test status, one of the “star batsmen” produced by Ceylon was – Sunil Ramsay de Silva Wettimuny. A batsman is the Star Actor or star attraction of the “Lovely Game”. Today, I feature one of the greatest opening batsmen produced by Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Wettimuny’s possessed a unique record – Sunil, Mithra, Sidath three brothers, gentlemen of the highest order, opened batting for Sri Lanka.
Sunil Wettimuny, born on February 2, 1949 in Colombo. He is the son of former SSC cricketer Ramsay Wettimuny. He was an Engineer by Profession, who served in the Ceylon Railway and later Transport Board. His five sons are Sunil, Mithra Ranjan, Sidath and Nimal. He was a devout practising Buddhist who enriched the Buddha Dhamma in writing books in English propagating Buddhism. Mr and Mrs Indrani Wettimuny, brought up their five sons under great Buddhist traditions and today they are all productive citizens and gentlemen.
Sunil, was a born leader. Having captained Ananda College, the “Crest Jewel of Buddhist Education,” in 1968, he joined S.S.C. After leading the club with outstanding success, Sunil Wettimuny captained Ceylon under 25 youth team against Pakistan led by Wasin Raja. He had all the necessary ingredients to be the First Test Captain of the country. Unfortunately for Ceylon, it missed the opportunity of having a “Fine Gentleman Captain. How did this happen ? In 1982, Sunil Wettimuny started his career as a Pilot with Air Lanka.
It was a matter of choosing his career or cricket. Sunil selected a career as a Pilot. Air Lanka’s gain, was the biggest lost for Sri Lanka cricket. But, that’s how the game and life goes.
If my memory serves right, Sunil captained SSC, in 1974, 1975 and 1976 and the Sinhalese Sports Club won the “Plum of cricket in Sri Lanka Saravanamuttu Trophy”. They had some of the great gentlemanly cricketers Thomians like Mevan Peiris, the “King of Swing,” a great scholar in Science and Management, Anura Tennekoon, Duleep Mendis, Dennis Chanmugam, Sriyantha Rajapaksa and three Wettimuny brothers. Mithra, Sunil and Sidath batting artist of Sri Lanka, who opened in the first test in 1982 and first Sri Lanka Centurion and who scored a memorable 190 lit up lords against England, with his stylish batting.
The highlight of Sunil Wettimuny’s career was the 1975 World Cup. On 11th June 1975, S R de S Wettimuny (Sunil) opened batting with E R Fernando (22) (Ranjit). Sunil Wettimuny scored 53 in 102 balls with 7 beautiful boundaries before Australian “Demon Fast Bowler” Jeff Thomson sent Sunil Wettimuny to hospital with a toe crushing yorker.
Added to Sri Lankan misery, Duleep Mendis also joined Sunil in hospital with a head injury. Again the bowler was Thomson. Sri Lanka fought hard with Anura Tennekoon (48), M H Tissera (52) and Anura Ranasinghe hammering Thomson for three boundaries in his unbeaten 14. Mervan Pieris who captured 2 for 68 in 11 overs remained unbeaten with no score with Ranasinghe. Sri Lanka fell 52 runs short scoring 276 for 4 wickets in their 60 overs in reply to Australia’s 328 for 5 wickets.
In 1979, at Sara Oval Colombo, Sri Lanka, facing a battery of fierce Fast bowlers Malcolm Marshall, Sylvester Clarke and Norbert Philips, this star batsman Sunil Wettimuny scored 84 in the first unofficial test against West Indies. Then, in a Limited over game played on his home ground SSC, Sunil Wettimuny was hit on the side of his head. Then, he was 28, going great guns when the Windies Paceman hit him just above his right ear. He was rushed to hospital. I was commentating over the air waves of SLBC. I still remember Sunil, the batting star, was wriggling like an eel. When he retired Sri Lanka were 71-2. Believe it or not they were all out for 88.
Another classic innings of Sunil Wettimuny was the one he played against India in 1979 at Old Trafford. At that time Ceylon was an ICC Associate Member. Due to the brilliant artistic batting of Sunil Wettimuny who scored a fluent 67 in 120 balls, Sri Lanka scored 238 for 5 in 60 overs. Sri Lanka had the distinction of beating a full member. Thats history. Indian bowling attack comprised Kapil Dev, Kharsen Ghavar, Venkataragativan, Mohinder Amaranath and Bishen Bedi.
Sunil Wettimuny is one of the nicest gentleman I have ever met. He is a charming, charismatic, unassuming personality. He is an ornament to cricket. Sunil Wettimuny probably would have gained all the high concentration power of a cricketer as he practices Meditation. As the scholar Dudley Wright mentions mind training is vital. Buddhism is the most complete effective system of mind training, yet placed before the world.
Two Captains with the World Cup, March 1996 —Pic by Hennayake
Presently, Sunil Wettimuny is flying for Maldivian Air line. He is settled down in Germany with his wife Karin. She is a tower of inspiration to him and she is the wind behind his sails. They are blessed with two sons. Sahas is a doctor in USA and Sayan is a Physiotherapist.