I. “Debonair cricketer Neil Chanmugam is no more” —Lal Gunasekera in The Island, 25 April 2014
Former S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, Tamil Union and SSC cricketer Neil Chanmugam is no more. He was 74 at the time of his death. After his retirement from cricket, he took to golf. He passed away on Tuesday (22) and his funeral took place at the General Cemetery Kanatte, yesterday (24), amidst a large gathering of relatives, friends, former cricketers and employees of Maharaja Organisation, where he was Group Director at the time of his retirement.
He played for S. Thomas’ under Michael Tissera and D. Ferdinands in 1958 and 1959, and after joining Maharajas, won the Mercantile ‘A’ Division title for three consecutive years, and also on their maiden tour of Thailand, Malayasia and Singapore, they were unbeaten.
He also captained the Mercantile CA team on a tour of India in 1973.
After the retirement of C. I. Gunasekera, Chanmugam stepped into his shoes with his D’Artagnam type of batting. He was also a crafty off spinner and an excellent close-in fielder. He made his debut for All-Ceylon in 1962, against England led by Ted Dexter where he claimed 2 for 72 and 5 for 43 respectively, in both innings.
He claimed 5 for 26 against England in 1965. England was captained by the late Sir Colin Cowdrey. In 1964, he played against Australia led by Bobby Simpson and England led by Tony Greig, in 1973. Against Bill Lawry’s Australians, where he had a match haul of eight wickets,, Lawry was quoted as having said that he would have loved to see Chanmugam in the Aussie side.
Chanmugam played against the West Indies under Sir Garfield Sobers in 1967, where I witnessed Chanmugam hammering 72 in 68 minutes, with eight fours and a six, with his first 50 runs coming in only 42 minutes. He put on a stand of 110 runs for the 10th wicket with Ian Pieris in 55 minutes. Pieris made an unbeaten 46.
I can also remember Chanmugam’s 125 for Tamil Union against BRC, with 17 fours and two sixes, in a Sara Trophy match in 1964 and his 88 not out also in 88 minutes for SSC against NCC, in 1967.
Chanmugam also toured India for Unofficial ‘Tests’ in 1964 under Tissera and against Pakistan, led by Imitiaz Ahmed in the same year at the Oval where he claimed 4 for 28.
I extend my sympathies to his wife Oosha (nee de Saram) and children Anouk, Dipika and Devin.
May the turf lie gently over him.