Rex Clementine, in Sunday Island, 18 November 2017, where the title is “Young captains have lot to learn from Michael Tissera
The Ceylon team that beat India in an unofficial Test match in 1964. (Picture credit Darrell Lieversz)
Young cricket captains have got a lot to learn from one of the finest captains produced by the country – Michael Tissera. The exemplary manner in which Tissera carried himself both on and off the field was tremendous. He was only 24 when the captaincy of the Ceylon team was thrusted upon him. Having been thrown to the deep end, his positive approach helped him to come out with flying colours.
Tissera remains the only Sri Lankan captain to have won a ‘Test’ match in India. That win in 1964 at Ahmedabad before Sri Lanka had been granted Test status and hence the game was an unofficial Test match. Since then, many Sri Lankan captains have tried to win a Test match in India but failed.
The ‘Test’ win over a strong Indian side wouldn’t have been possible if not for the optimistic approach of the captain. Ceylon were 2-0 down in the series having lost heavily in Bangalore and Hyderabad and in the third Test in Ahmedabad heavy rain had washed out the entire opening day’s play and a significant portion of day two too, and a result looked unlikely.
“Some 25,000 people were there in the ground mid afternoon on day two and the Indian captain Nawab of Pataudi came to me and said, ‘There are so many people who have come to see the game. Can we play? I had no hesitations,” Tissera, now 78 said.
On an uncovered pitch, it was a big call by the captain. “Luckily we won the toss and put them in. It had rained so much and there was mud all over the pitch. Those days unlike now, pitches weren’t covered. So on a bad wicket, the underdogs had a bit of a chance,” Tissera went onto say.
In the first over of the match, Ceylon were reduced to ten men as opening batsman Trevelyan Edward was injured. “He was fielding at leg slip and got hit and had to be carried off the field. He took no further part in the game,” Tissera recalled.
Having bowled out India for 189, when Ceylon’s chance came to bat, Tissera promoted Abu Fuard in the absence of Edward. “Abu was a very good leaver of the ball. He knew where his off-stump was and scored a very good 40 in the second innings. On a wicket like that his skill of leaving the ball was important.”
Ceylon’s domestic cricket was one and half day’s duration those days and it took the tourists sometime to adjust to four-day cricket and as a result suffered the heavy defeats in the first two games. But by the time the final ‘Test’ came, they had had a taste of the virtues of batting long and the flamboyance had vanished.
“No doubt it took us some time to get used to things. The second Test we should have saved. We could have done that had we battled for another 15 minutes or so. Had we drawn that game, the series would have been 1-1. But we had learned our lessons by the last Test,” Tissera went onto say.
At stumps on day three, Ceylon were 144 for seven, still trailing by 45 runs. Then the captain made a bold decision to declare with the overnight score. “On the final day, had we batted, it would have been a tame draw. There was obviously dew on the wicket as the wicket wasn’t covered. So we wanted to give our bowlers a bit of a chance, but what we didn’t expect was for India to get bowled out before lunch for 66.”
“It was a bit of a struggle to get those runs after a good effort by the openers. Just managed to hang in there. We were concerned at one stage. But Anuruddha Polonowita, who had batted well in the first innings did well again to hold on from other side,” Tissera, who brought up Ceylon’s win with a boundary commented.
“The Indian players were very friendly with us. I built up a good friendship with Hanumant Singh after that tour. Pataudi was an absolute gentleman. He was a charismatic leader. India had not had someone like him before. He had got the team to play together and gave them confidence. He was a very good leader of men and I had a lot to learn from him,” Tissera commented.
SEE Roberts, Michael Roberts: Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2006 … ISBN 955-1266-25-0 pb ….and …. 955-1266-26-9 hb. … where this image is Fig 44
Standing: Lieversz, Tissera, Stanley Jayasinghe, Polonowita, Fuard…
Squatting: DP de Silva, Norton Frederick, Lasantha Rodrigo, Mano Ponniah, TCT Edwards….
Neil Chanmugan replaced DP de Silva in the XI that played the Ahmedabad “Test” match