The Island, 17 May 2015. where the title is “Key post for cricketer and gentleman Skanda”
Former cricketer and Secretary of Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka S. Skandakumar has been appointed as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Australia. Skanda, as he is popularly known, retired in 2008 after 34 years of service at George Steuarts. He was group Chairman at the time of his retirement having joined Sri Lanka’s oldest company in 1974 as an Executive.
George Steuarts’ 21st Chairman S. Skandakumar (right) in conversation with Muttiah Muralitharan
A fine gentleman, you can expect Skanda to play with a straight bat in carrying out his tasks in his new position. Skanda held key positions in the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka on two occasions. When he retired from George Steuarts, many involved with cricket were happy as they hoped that it paved way for him to serve the game once more. But he declined many offers politely stating that by taking on administrative positions at the Cricket Board, he was denying opportunities for younger persons to develop administrative skills.
In 2009, the International Cricket Council (ICC) offered him a lucrative contract to be the Tournament Director of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. The package included a monthly salary of US$ 5000 and many other perks. Skanda declined the offer politely and was content to spend time doing social work in Haputale, where he spent most of his time having retired.
As Secretary of the BCCSL in early 90s, Skanda played a crucial role in campaigning international cricket teams to return to Sri Lanka after many years in the isolation due to political unrest. As a result, within a year, Australia, New Zealand and England toured Sri Lanka and by the next year, India, West Indies and South Africa came over.
When the government appointed the first ever Cricket Interim Committee in 1999 under former banker Rienzie T. Wijetilleke, Skanda was an influential member of that committee. He was responsible for negotiating with Dav Whatmore for him to return to Colombo to coach the national cricket team after Sri Lanka’s dismal performance in the 1999 World Cup.
He was the President of Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club in late 90s and during his tenure a non-Tamil – Tissa Jayatilake was elected as the Secretary of the club for the first time.
An off-spinner and top order batsman, Skanda was a fine cricketer for Royal College and then Colombo University before representing Tamil Union. He won the Best Performance award in the 1966 Royal – Thomian and was made a Prefect later that year. Many expected Skanda to succeed Abu Fuard and Neil Chanmugam as the country’s next leading spinner, but Skanda fell seriously ill in 1976 and his cricketing ambitions were shattered. He was out of the game for four years.
Skanda was back playing Division One Cricket in 1983 and was captaining a side that had many young players, who had just got out of school. One incident that happened during the season told us all about the man. Tamil Union were playing Bloomfield in the final and the former had to secure a Bonus Point to win the title. This Tamil Union did and secured the title by the narrowest of margins. The next day the papers said, ‘Tamil Union – the ‘Kings of Cricket’. Skanda was jublilant.
However, Bloomfield had re-examined the scorebook and brought to the notice that Tamil Union had not been reprimanded for their slow over rate in their very first game of the season. When the points were recalculated, Bloomfield were ahead by the thinnest of margins. It was so close that Bloomfield had won by 0.015. Skanda’s dreams were shattered.
Skanda was also the Chairman of the Tournament Committee that year and the practice was that the Chairman of the Tournament Committee had to give away the trophy to the champions. This Skanda did gracefully and then President of Bloomfield Mr. Shelly Wickramasinghe described Skanda as a ‘fine, honest man and a true sportsman.’He was a pioneer in identifying talents from outstations and bringing them to Colombo. Many cricketers identified in this manner went places. Champaka Ramanayaka and Chandika Hathurusinghe are cases in point.
Now with him being called to Canberra, the government is making most of this fine gentleman’s skills.
ALSO SEE “One of Skandakumars’ Reflective Journeys in 2012,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/one-of-skandakumars-reflective-journeys-in-2012/#more-16618
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