In Celebration of DH de Silva, “Hema’ to His Pals

HEMA A picture that captures the ebullient vitality of this cricketing man ,,, without revealing another trait: his cricket brain and assiduous attention to technique.

When DH de Silva passed away in Melbourne I deployed data within his son’s funeral eulogy, further information from family quarters and personal knowledge to pen an Appreciation. Disquiet in family circles led me to remove this item from my web site. However, Hema’s friends and admirers have resurrected this essay and it has appeared in the internet world. Now that time has passed since his bereavement, it may be feasible to reproduce that essay.

Be that as it may this event has generated other comments from Ceylon cricketers and others in the know. I gain quiet satisfaction in reproducing these knowledgeable notes or essays in this moment in Cricketique’s history. Michael Roberts 

Buddy Reid: Hello Ranjan, Thanks very much for sending me this article, beautifully written by Michael Roberts.To me Hema was a great man, a great cricketer, a great captain a great example and a great friend. As a total package, I can’t think of anyone better…………………..BuddyBUDDY REID

Mahinda Wijesinghe: “Many thanks Ranjan. When he was playing Sara Trophy I had the honour of playing against him. What a dedicated skipper of Nomads. Later, when I used to visit my son in Melbourne we used to spend a lot of time together with Suji and Hema. What a man. Really enjoyed Michael’s tribute……………………………………. Mahinda MAHINDA 22

Jagath Fernando: ” All those who played in the 1970 Sri Lanka U19 Schools Team will remember him well. The final team selection was done after a practice game against the Nomads played on the SSC Grounds….. Nomads being the only team that could muster enough players (with a few school boy trialists included)  mid-week for the ‘trials’!!

Bandu  and DS played and as expected spun their web around most of us. As school boys we knew him as DH De Silva and can vouch that even in this practice game he was as competitive as ever.Jagath Fernando
Ranjit Fernando: “DH,What a cricket brain,  who had the courage and the organizing skills to take on the so called big clubs and gave his team leadership and belief, that it was only skill and brains that mattered in being successful at cricket.

He was a terrific opponent, But at the same time a genuine friend. I always enjoyed talking cricket with him and had the highest regard for the man, who amongst others paved the way for the lesser advantaged cricketers in SriLanka to find a place at the top. Playing cricket for SRiLANKA was made  truly representative due to efforts of people like Hema. His name must be inscribed in Gold in the history books of SriLanka Cricket. He lived cricket.” aa ranjit f'do

Chandra Wickremasinghe: Thank you Mike for all the fitting valedictory eulogies to Hema conatained in the email . He was my classmate at Mahinda College along with Leela[nanda de Silva]. He was fanatically addicted to cricket even at that stage. He captained Mahinda and went on to captain Nomads and play for SL. He was a true friend. It may perhaps not too well known that Kumar Sangakkara was coached in tennis by Hema in Kandy. Hema also discovered the potential young KS had  for excelling in cricket and encouraged him to concentrate on cricket which the latter did in spectacular style. It may not be wrong to say that cricket was his Life! He will be sorely missed by his friends. Cheers. Chandra

Prasad Kariyawasam: “DH was a farther figure for those of us who were from Galle . As a Mahindian he felt a need take care of us  Richmondites as well,  since those days we felt  like fish out of water when playing in Colombo on turf wickets . Invariably we would get beaten badly by Colombo schools who naturally had a ” ground advantage”. DH would always commiserate and encourage, would say ‘never say die putha’ . Times have changed , Galle has international stadium , and  Richmond was  best School Cricket team  in the  in the  Island last year. DH may have rejoiced. May he attain Nibbhana”  prasad-kariyawasam_1


Mahinda Wijesinghe’s Vale:

Dandeniyage Hemachandra de Silva, universally known simply as ‘DH’, passed away a few days ago in Melbourne, Australia, aged 81 years after a brief illness. His brothers ‘DP’, ‘DS’, & ‘DG’ too were outstanding cricketers.

Without fear of contradiction, as a cricket theoretician who assiduously (and honestly) practised what he preached,   I can claim, ‘DH’ has no peer.  At a time when commercialism had not gripped the game of cricket, as it is today, here was a man who dedicated his time, expense – he was not endowed with endless riches either –  and energy, to discover/help budding cricketers. His theory being : “ help a 100 players and you may discover one champion.”  Well he did discover a champion in Daya Sahabandu. The former Royal College left-arm opening bowler later became a champion leg-spinner under the tutelage of ‘DH’, and was a tower of strength for Nomads Cricket Club captained led by ‘DH’ . The captain, whilst fielding at leg-gully for instance, used to sometimes indicate to Sahabandu the bowler, with three of his extended fingers which stump to bowl at! It was not fun watching this charade if one was the non-striker.

During my visits to Melbourne our main discussions (what else?) used to be about the current state of the game in Sri Lanka. “Surely Mahinda,” he used to repeat over and over “if you discover a paceman who can bowl like Wesley Hall or Ray Lindwall that is a bonus. C’mon, are you trying to tell me you cannot discover a classy left-arm spinner like ‘Bandu or Ajith de Silva, or a flighty right-arm leg-spinner? You got to look around and make a careful search and identify such players. Sri Lanka can win matches at Tests level or 50-over games (he considers T20 cricket as baseball) if we had a penetrative set of spinners as India used to possess in the 1970’s  you remember?”   What else could I do except nod in agreement to these words of wisdom?

There used to be a story doing the rounds at one time that ‘DH’ purposefully failed his final examination at the University so that he could captain the cricket team in the following year. I confronted him with this story – and he admitted so! This should give an idea of the man’s dedication to the game. Early morning practices for the players – take 100 close-in and high  -catches,  practice on slip-cradle for the slip fielders (where are the slip cradles gone now?),  2 rounds along the perimeter of the grounds were part of the routine under the gimlet-eyes of the captain. Another innovation of ‘DH’ – as told to me by Daya Sahabandu – to ensure bowlers to get their arm past the ear, a javelin was stuck at the bowling-end. If the bowler is bowling square-arm the chances are that he would strike the javelin! Such methods were not in any MCC book of coaching.

With the aid of the then Municipal Commissioner, Mr.B.A.Jayasinghe, another cricket addict, ‘DH’ was able to start the Nomads Cricket Club, which he captained for a period of ten years and also led his side to championship honours during one year as well. More effective than his competent right-hand batting his shrewd captaincy played a vital role in annexing the title.

Whilst being the Charity Commissioner of the Colombo Municipal Council he did yeoman service to cricket and cricketers until he was transferred to Kandy in a higher capacity, and there too cricket and tennis played a big part in his life in the hill capital.

A tragedy almost took his life there and he then decided to migrate to Melbourne with his family. During his final period of illness his loving wife Sujatha (“Suji” to all) and/or his children always kept vigil by his side. Such was their devotion to this legendary, honourable, person until inevitable death took him away.

May his sojourn in Samsara be short and devoid of much suffering.



Filed under child of empire, cricket and life, cricketing icons, sportsmanship, Sri Lanka Cricket, tower of strength, unusual people, welfare through sport

2 responses to “In Celebration of DH de Silva, “Hema’ to His Pals

  1. Sriman Jayawickrama

    DH, was my Captain when I started playing cricket for Mahinda I had the previlege of learning the basics of batting under him way back in the mid 50s

  2. Pingback: Moving Beyond the Richmond-Mahinda Cricket Team on Their 50th Anniversary Encounter in 1955: Personal Extensions | Thuppahi's Blog

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