James Arthur Scharenguivel: A Thomian Captain who played Cricket for Scotland


A hundred and more years ago James Arthur Scharenguivel, ILLUSTRIOUS THOMIAN CAPTAIN OF 1898, from the prominent Scharenguivel family of Kalutara, played in and for Scotland soon after he left college. He became the FIRST CEYLONESE to play for a FOREIGN COUNTRY. So little is known about Scharenguivel, so little written about one who must have truly been one of our great cricketers and like so many others, an unsung hero.

How good was James Arthur Scharenguivel? This question can only be answered by looking at the limited writings of some that saw him play, and others who have written about him at infrequent intervals. I do know that his batting record in Royal – Thomian matches was not significant but he did capture 19 wkts in the three matches he bowled including a match bag of 11 wkts. He was CAPTAIN OF THE FIRST EVER COMBINED COLLEGES XI IN 1898.

The erudite, articulate Leonard Arndt wrote in the 1951 S Thomas’ College Centenary number a most interesting paragraph in a lyrical, colourful article: GREAT  THOMIAN CRICKETERS –

I pass swiftly to our greatest name:  Scharenguivel the Magnificent. Heard for the first time in 1894, it has reverberated for half a century having been heard also in Scotland and Malaya. Still going strong, Scharenguivel remains our wonder while with the modest charm of greatness he helps the school at Gurutalawa. Names dwarfed by his scale are: Julian Heyzer, C. Orr, O. G. d’Alwis, the Edirisinghe brothers, the Abeykoon brothers.

When Arthur Scharenguivel left as Cricket Captain he was the best all round player in Ceylon. He had made 77 against the Colts; he had bowled 8 wickets of the Colombo Club for 24 runs and again 7 for 25. In 1897 and 1898 from 18 innings he got a batting average of 52, and in bowling he took 77 wickets with an average of 4. Within a few months of arrival in Scotland he was in the British News.

Just as the habitat of the balls he hit with grace and ease was the tops of the trees beyond the verges, so he continued to top the averages (once it was 47) in Aberdeen while he studied medicine. He figured in International games though not against England by a mischance.

Douglas de Saram stood for election as Captain with Scharenguivel. Rarely is a syzygy of two such brilliant stars seen. Beau Douglas (as a later generation was bound to have styled him) more sturdily but less generously built eclipsed his rival in some respects. At any rate he was nearer our time and always in our eye, for he remained in Ceylon”

The hugely built Scharenguivel the Magnificent and the debonair Beau Douglas – what a duo they must have been as schoolboys annihilating Royal in the only two “Big Matches” they played together. What a tragedy they were not seen playing together in maturity, combining to demolish our Colonial mentors! What a tragedy so few have been made aware of his contribution to our rich cricket history. As F. L. Goonewardena has stated in his memoirs “They were unquestionably the greatest pair ever turned out by a Ceylon School.”

S. P. Foenander, the doyen of our cricket historians, in his classic history – SIXTY YEARS OF CEYLON CRICKET 1863 – 1923 had this to say. ”Dr. J. A. Scharenguivel has claims to rank as one of the six greatest cricketers Ceylon has ever produced. In his school days at S. Thomas’ he enjoyed a remarkable reputation as an all round cricketer, and before he left school he had the honour of playing in representative cricket for the Colts against the Europeans. His achievements with bat and ball at S. Thomas’ were such as to stamp him as an exceptionally gifted cricketer. As a schoolboy he equalled the record for the highest score ever made, up to that time, against the Colts. After leaving school he studied medicine at Aberdeen University and while in Scotland he shone both as a brilliant left hand batsman and a deadly left-hand bowler. He was INVITED BY A. C. MACLAREN TO PLAY FOR LANCASHIRE, and was qualifying for that honour, when he was called away to the Far East by the serious illness of his father. In Singapore he has proved himself one of the greatest all round cricketers that the Straits have ever had.

SP. Foenander’s book was published in 1924, long before Dr. Scharenguivel came back to his native land in the late 1920s.

The recent (1999) Janashakthi Book of Sri Lanka Cricket compiled by S. S. Perera reveals more and records that Scharenguivel was CAPTAIN OF THE FIRST COMBINED COLLEGES XI – “The first time a Combined Colleges XI was raised to play the powerful Colts CC was in 1898. J. A. Scharenguivel of S Thomas’ Mutwal, captained the schoolboy team. The others in the team were D. L. de Saram and C. E. Arndt (S. Thomas), M. L. Warish and C. L. Wickramasinghe (Wesley), C. H. K. Scharenguivel, F. A. Obeysekera, A. W. Beven and E. Weerasooriya (Royal), J. Fernando and C. O. de Silva (St. Joseph’s). The Scores: Colleges XI 99 and 136 for 6 (Scharenguivel 77 not out, the highest score against the Colts up to that time) drew with Colts CC – 194 (Scharenguivel 5 for 38). The match was played at Galle Face”.

The Janashakthi book further records that “THE FIRST CEYLONESE CRICKET PROFESSIONAL, THOMIAN ALFRED HOLSINGER, (Ceylon’s fastest bowler) and probably the first “coloured cricket pro” was performing great feats in English League Cricket in 1902, when another old S Thomas’ boy, James Arthur Scharenguivel, was proving equally efficient with the bat (left-hand) and ball (left-arm) for Aberdeenshire in Scottish County Cricket.

Scharenguivel scored THE FIRST CENTURY BY A CEYLONESE OVERSEAS. Scharenguivel returned to Ceylon in the late 1920s and played for the Kalutara Town Club and the Nondescript CC. In the last years of his life he migrated to Australia and passed away there in his 90th year. In 1938 when he was 58 he opened the batting for the NCC with D. Vollenhoven an 18 year old from Royal. In 1940 he represented the Kalutara Town Club in the Daily News Trophy Tournament. Kalutara Town club in 1938 were the winners of the inaugural Daily News Trophy Tournament, the first organised cricket tournament in Ceylon.

Neil Leitch and Tim Lamb (prominent cricket administrators in U K) have revealed to me that one of the Aberdeenshire club histories notes the following: -.

“J A Scharenguivel was a noted player with Aberdeenshire.

Although Aberdeen University had long been a rich source of talent for Aberdeenshire CC, 1899 introduced a fresh vein with the introduction at Mannofield of overseas student cricketers. The first of these was J. A. Scharenguivel, a native of Ceylon, who for 7 seasons proved himself to be one of the most talented left-handed bats in the Club’s history. In each of his best seasons (1899, 1903 & 1904) his runs aggregate exceeded 500, while in each of the other years his contribution was such that he finished in the top five in the Club. In the light of such batting success, it seems strange that he had been recommended to the Club as a bowler, a role in which he produced only slightly less formidable results, still, however, taking well over 100 wickets for the Club.

The history also confirms his score of 105* against Stirling County in 1902. He also scored 7 50s in Scottish County matches and once took 5 wickets in an innings. Scharenguivel does not however appear on the list of Scottish Cricket Caps as he never played in any recognised as a full Scotland game. He did however play for “15 of Scotland” in July 1905 against Australia. The match was played at West of Scotland’s ground in Partick, Glasgow, Scharenguivel scoring 15 & 5. The match against South Africa may have been in 1901 when the tourists travelled to the North of Scotland to play R Williams Aberdeenshire XI and also Aberdeenshire”.  

Dr .J. A. Scharenguivel became one of the leading cricketers in the Straits Settlements and did play against a visiting Australian side led by Monty Noble, (the then current and famous Captain of Australia) in November 1909 on the Singapore Padang. Unfortunately he failed to score in that match. The Singapore Matches had other players, N. E. Grenier, A. W. Beven and Martensz who surely must also have been Ceylonese. The Australian visitors had with them Warwick Armstrong (subsequently a remarkable Captain of Australia), Albert Cotter (the fastest bowler of his time), Frank Laver and A. J. W. Hopkins. I am indebted to Imran Khwaja of Singapore for the material he has provided about Scharenguivel in Singapore.

Many of this huge family migrated to all corners of the globe. Despite this, from those who were left, many figure prominently in our sports history. A very close relative, (half brother or young uncle) Albert Julian Richard Scharenguivel played for STC from 1899 – 1901 and subsequently went on to hold high office in the PWD. Cousin C. H. K. Scharenguivel, an outstanding wicket-keeper for Royal (1897 – 98). Lloyd Scharenguivel, an uncle but younger than James Arthur played for STC in 1904. Lloyd’s eldest grandson Wyvill Captained the water polo and swimming teams and coached at STC in the late ‘50s.

CHK’s granddaughter Deanna married the record-breaking batsman Ronnie Reid; grandson Cecil was a prominent schoolboy athlete in the late ‘50s. The distinguished Thomian tennis player Rupert Ferdinands and Royalist cricketer and ruggerite, Lorensz Pereira were mothered by younger cousins of James Arthur.

The Scharenguivel dynasty lives on, young cousin Hugh, schooled in Kalutara, was an enormously successful bowler for Kalutara Town Club playing a huge part (88 wkts in 11 matches) in the Daily News Trophy triumph of 1938. Present Sri Lanka Captain Marvan Atapattu and his cousin Marlon Von Hagt are direct descendants of James Arthur through their grandmother. Incidentally their grandfather Adrian Francke was a member of the winning 1938 Kalutara Town Club side. Douglas Scharenguivel, Ceylon Davis Cup player who played regularly at Wimbledon and won the West of England Tennis title was a young cousin.

Apart from his cricket exploits Dr. James Arthur was a prominent public figure and according to Mr. R. D. P. Gunewardena of Kalutara  “Burly Dr. Scharenguivel, a nominated member of the Kalutara U. C. was a Medical Practitioner who rendered his service reasonably and dedicated to common people living in and around Kalutara without monetary considerations. When he heard about the railway disaster of Katukurunda in 1928 he at once rushed to the spot to treat casualties.”

It appears that he lived in the Bandarawela area for some time during World War Two as the History of the Gurutalawa School states that “Dr J. A. Scharenguivel offered his services free of charge as the College Doctor. He has always been willing to come to help us at any hour of the day or night. It is impossible to express adequately the debt of gratitude the boys of the Branch owe to him.”

It is almost impossible for us who have followed in the footsteps of giants to adequately express our gratitude for the example and inspiration they have set.

Leave a comment

Filed under child of empire, cricket and life, performance, Sri Lanka Cricket, tower of strength, unusual people

Leave a Reply