Tilak in Daily News, 26 June 2018
At long last, I got the opportunity through Leo Wijesinghe to meet the much talked about Michael Tissera whom I met at his residence at Nawala. Although aged 78 he still looked the neat smart cricketer I used to epitomize as a budding cricketer.
As we started the ball rolling he mentioned to me that he has nothing to do with the administration of the present set up at the moment, and for very good reasons too, well more of that later.
Michael mentioned to me that cricket came naturally to him and he was fond of reading cricket books, playing book cricket and collecting pictures of famous cricketers of the day. He was boarded at S. Thomas’ College and as was the case he got involved in many sports that were available at the school by the sea. He took a particular liking to tennis and was good at tweaking the tennis ball and bowled leg spin and googlies, which was spotted readily by one of the masters in charge of the first eleven team. As a result, he was invited to bowl for the first eleven guys for two days and in next to no time he was summoned to play against St Benedict’s in the first eleven team at the raw age of 14. Michael stated that although his school cricket career with the first eleven team spanned five years it was not a great one having only scored a hundred against Wesley College in 1958. He noted that he captained S Thomas’ in 1957 and ’58 and his rival captains were Michael Wille and Lorenz Pereira respectively. He had another year left in him but he opted to leave school.
Michael had more success in club cricket by playing for the NCC. He recalled playing for the Daily Mirror Eleven in 1961, with some of the West Indian cricketers after their famous series in Australia where they tied a Test match in Brisbane, they were returning to England to play league cricket and it was a sort of a whistle-stop engagement, he reminisced that he got a hundred in that match and according to reports published at the time it had been a magnificent knock.
As is the case I too had to ask some of the “run of the mill” questions! And here goes,
Michael was of the view that Sir Garry Sobers was simply fantastic and his first choice as the best he had seen, followed by Tom Graveney (long Tom), Norman O’Neill, Ted Dexter, Doug Walters and Ian Chappell whom he mentioned as a magnificent captain.
Out of the present lot, Tissera had high praise for Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva and as regards Mathews, Michael was emphatic that a half fit player whoever he may be cannot contribute 100% to the team and would jeopardize the team plans. He also added that due to Mathews’ fitness issues it’s worse since the vital batting all-rounder was missing.
He was 100% against politicians being office bearers in any sport.
Michael was of the view that the present team had a long way to go and stressed the point that it was not the talent which he said was there in abundance but harnessing that vital ingredient.
Michael was questioning the validity of having 14 to 15 clubs and according to him some of them are not having basic facilities and are like “white elephants.”
Michael pointed out the fact that in 2000-2001 a provincial tournament was started and all five teams had sponsors and Kumar Sangakkara and Muthiah Muralitharan commended the set up very well.
Michael was critical of the women’s cricket team losing to lowly placed Thailand and he was at a loss why a player in the caliber of Chamari Attapattu was left out. (The author feels that Hemantha Devapriya resigning after that debacle was a good omen and the others should follow suit). Michael further added that during Nihal Kodithuwakku’s tenure as the head coach of cricket the team fared much better and some girls of the present team still ring him up for advice.
Michael said that during the period between 2001 and 2018 there were 7 interim committees and Tissera questions why oh, why should they have interim committees when the elected bodies have done so well.
SHOWN THE DOOR He also stated that when he was at the helm and put the house in order by sorting out discipline, planning and cricket matters in general after 6 or 7 months the higher ups then had shown him the door and have said thank you very much.
Although the enthusiasm and the fanfare that were inculcated to our fans after the World Cup triumph in 1996 has somewhat eroded all is not lost stated Michael. There is a lot of money in the game and he quoted IPL in India where they have done extremely well, the same could not be said of our equivalent. Michael noted that we both have similar cultures but why we cannot succeed is due to mismanagement.
According to Michael the discipline, manners and the etiquette went down the drain in the last ten years and people of good quality are hard to find. In his days there was no match-fixing, and bowlers did not bowl wides or no balls to get paid since there was no money involved.
The bookies in India started the rot.
Michael harped on the fact that the players to play well needed a stable mind. He further said, “The last couple of years we have sacked two or three coaches, sacked Ford for no reason, brought Asanka from nowhere he was away for 20 years and the high performance manager left and Hathurusingha came, had seven captains in the last year.
Michael further added that if the captains are not sure whether they are coming or going obviously the players are not sure because they are walking on thin ice not sure of their place.
This malady has also gone to umpires and there is no continuity and when one set of businessmen takes charge and then another set takes up and the whole thing has gone topsy-turvy, Michael concluded with a furrowed brow.