ONE = Callistus Davy in Sunday Observer, 6 October 2019: “Michael de Zoysa: If only he could write his own lines!”
In today’s set-up where corruption, dishonestly, cheating and rouge ways hold sway in sections of Sri Lankan society and some people who boast of culture can only put on a face for the cameras, Michael de Zoysa was a cut above the rest and went to his grave on Wednesday evening like the true professional he was. Perhaps Michael de Zoyza will be able to give a better account of himself to his Creator than many others who hobnobbed with him and were no match to his integrity.
Michael belonged to a breed that is fast dying out in the country and that he had to put up with or fight against some of the miscreants running the affairs of Sri Lanka Cricket over the years, just showed that he could not be separated from a sport that meant so much to him whether it was in the commentary box behind the mike, managing players or taking care of administrative challenges.
He will be remembered for his professional conduct in handling whatever job he undertook or was given to him although some may not have seen him as their kind of man. Michael had a conscience and a name to live by and was a strong advocate of openness in administration and never held back anything he thought benefitted cricket.
He was fiercely protective of cricket officials he worked for at Sri Lanka Cricket during election run-ups and was never afraid to open out to journalists at Press conferences or on the sidelines at matches and cricketing functions. Subscribing to dirty inside politics where many a pound of flesh is demanded and the for-services-rendered syndrome is the name of the game, was never Michael’s cup of tea.
His name first became synonymous with cricket as somewhat of a junior commentator among the heavyweights that included his late father Lucien de Zoyza. But Michael had the kind of professionalism, the Radio Voice, that is now only history, that made him live up to expectations and eventually made him an inseparable pillar of the elite Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) that he served until his death last Sunday as its vice president and ground secretary.
There will be many stories said about Michael and many lines written about him, how he coached and managed players including the Sri Lanka team and the many cricket functions he graced. But Michael de Zoysa leaves behind a kind of legacy that can only be best presented by the man himself.
TWO: An Email Comment from Prabodha Kariyawasam, 6 October 2019
Callistus Davy deserves a medal for showing the general public the true character of Michael, often misunderstood for his frankness & outspokenness by many who did not know him well enough. Some guys in the Cricket Board with personal agendas hated his guts. Only those who were close to him, like I was, appreciated what he was trying to do for the betterment of Cricket as a whole. He fought tooth & nail for the Ground Staff [at the SSC]. There will never be another who had the Club’s interest so close to his heart. In my opinion, the only other who lived for the Club as he did, was the great Col. FC [De Saram]. Mike treasured the Club’s image so much that whenever there was a Test played at SSC, he would never sleep. At various times in the night he would visit the ground to see that nothing was amiss. Such was his dedication.
Then there was the funny side of Mike or let’s say, the way close friends took the mickey out of him. He fancied himself to be a bowler who could bowl at blistering pace & a batsman who could tear an attack apart. We had two Div III teams, one of which was skippered very proudly by Mike. I played in Mike’s team. There was one weekend when both teams were playing on adjoining grounds, ours at SSC & the team comprising youngsters, at the NCC. We bundled out for 8 (yes, EIGHT) some hapless team (cant remember the name) who didn’t have a clue about playing on Turf. Mike leads us back beaming & announces,”I will open & knock these runs off in an over”. We didn’t say a word (no one cared about getting into pads), but actually didn’t expect what unfolded. Whoever the bowler was, Mike’s first movement was to prod forward, often feet nowhere in line. He took strike & that’s exactly what he did that day too. Next moment the fielding side was in the air: Mike had got an edge & was snapped up by the Keeper. The elation of the fielding side was nothing compared to the huge roar that emanated from our pavilion & we cheered him all the way back. The team playing at the NCC had guessed what had happened & we had a hearty laugh over beers that evening.
Mike, as always, took it in great spirit. He would take a jab at himself any time, provided he was in the midst of those he regarded as friends.
Tomorrow is SSC’s monthly Executive Committee meeting date. It will be hard to see that empty seat.
THREE: Mevan Pieris, responding to Kari’s Email, 6 October 2019
Hi Kari, ……………………….. So interesting reading your little note on Michael captained if only he could write his own lines!!!! Of course, he would write ” I am the greatest “. He was blessed with both a thundering voice and thundering laughter. Death the great leveller has silenced it all.
May his soul rest in peace and may the Lord he believed in offer him a VIP seat in God’s pavilion for he did for the downtrodden and the poor.
I shall indeed never forget him and his memory shall live for ever.