1956: A Champion Year for St. Aloysius in Cricket

Mohamded Anver’s Recollections of His Years at St. Aloysius

Soccer was our forte at SAC and although we often had good performances on the cricket field, we were more often than not on the losing side. So, when we produced something out of the ordinary, we had every reason to be proud of ourselves.

The 1956 season was one such success story when we emerged unbeaten among the schools with Anver captaining the side. But it was a rough road for Anver leading up to that season, so let’s ask Anver to open the batting :

“The first touch of the leather ball was with my head in the first game I played for Neut House. Elster Perera, my House Captain made me keep wickets. The first ball passed me and the fieldsman behind me collecting it threw it towards the stumps but the ball found my head. I fell unconscious momentarily. That was the end of my first game!

After that mishap I continued to play as a bowler. Playing for the Under 14 side against Richmond, I dived forward full length on the gravel laden Richmond grounds to take a catch. Though I held the catc,/ I was badly injured and was bleeding from my hands and chin. I had to retire and did not play for the rest of the season.

Father Peter Gomez, who was the Under 16 Coach, found me too good and sent me to join the First XI. Batting at the nets and facing Lee Vedamuttu, one of the fastest among the schools, I was hit on the head by the second ball I faced. This flattened me to the ground and that was end of cricket for that season.

The Earlier Seasons

In the year 1952, under BEN FERREIRA, I was a reserve and played in two matches. The following year under Terence Jayasuriya I was a regular. The year 1954 saw us nearly beat Richmond under NOEL EDEMA. Unfortunately we missed out by 13 runs. This left me sad and I told myself that I would not leave SAC till we have beaten Richmond. The year 1955 under CARLYLE RODRIGO was a disaster, losing to Richmond by an innings.

Other matters besides cricket

In the meantime I sat for my Senior Exam in Science and the second time in Arts, but did not pass as I had no second language. However, staying on in school was difficult. Fr. Chiriatti, Acting Rector, and Fr. Peiris, Prefect of Studies, were not in favour of my continuing in school. But Fr. Morelli, the Rector, who as away, strongly supported my stay in school and informed Fr. Chiriatti by letter that I should continue to stay in school.

Senior teacher Mr. Vedamuttu, ckass master HSC, made it clear that he did not want me in his class. I reported this to Fr.Peiris and he promptly sent me to Commercial Class Two. Thus I sat for my Senior exam in Commerce and achieved the impossible of sitting for the Senior in Science, Arts and Commerce.

The 1956 Season

When the time came for the election of the captain for the ’56 season, the day before the election I headed straight to Fr. Chiriatti and asked him “Father, if I was elected captain am I to accept it ?” He thought for a moment and said “Why not my boy”. This I did due to my uncertainty in continuing in school.

I was duly elected captain unopposed with VERNON REGIS as my deputy. Others in the team were CARLYLE RODRIGO, MICHAEL ROBERTS, JOHNNY DE SILVA, CEDRIC AUWARDT, VINNIE VEDAMUTTU, OSWIN SILVA, ROY VANDERPUT, D.E. JAYANETTI. LAKSHMAN ABEYSUNDERE, NALIN PEIRIS, MELVIN DIAS and SHIRAZ CASSIM.

The games against Richmond and Mahinda take pride of place as they produced a high degree of commitment, tactics, excellent bowling and fielding performances and above all a spirited display of keenness and desire to come up victorious. I will deal with these two fixtures separately.

Here are…….. Results of Other Games

Vs. St. Sebastian’s –       we beat them outright by 5 wickets even  though they gave us 35 minutes to get 75 runs.

Vs. St. Servatius’  –        we bundled out the Matara boys for 41 and 62 in their stay at the wickets and won easily by 165 runs.

Vs. St. John’s  –             Although we were cruising to victory, time intervened and we had to be satisfied by

winning on the first innings by 1 wicket and 4 run.

THE RICHMOND MATCH

 Against our arch rivals Richmond we did some research and studied their batting and found them weak facing the short pitched delivery, directing same on the leg stump with the field placed accordingly on the onside, with 2 slips and a short square.

Our weapon was VERNON REGIS. The Richmondites were all at sea against such tactics and folded in their batting efforts for 135 and 54, enabling us to register a great victory by innings and 23 runs. With CARLYLE RODRIGO playing a gem of an innings for his 87 we were able to put up a very respectable total of 212 runs.

Our last victory against Richmond was as far back as 17 years ago when we won back to back in 1938 and

THE MAHINDIAN ENCOUNTER

Our final game for the season was against Mahinda College. They boasted one of the best teams in school cricket that year beat some of the more reputed schools in Colombo including Nalanda.

Mr. Wijesooriya, Principal of Mahinda, telephoned Fr. Chiriatti and requested the Aloysian team not to adopt tactics used against Richmond. Fr. Chiriatti called me up to his office and asked me what this was all about. I assured him that the tactics we adopted were all within the rules. However, he strongly asked me not to use such tactics against Mahinda and warned me of the consequences.

Came the match and we made a disastrous start being shot out for a paltry 92. Mahinda did not fare much better getting a very modest 124. When stumps were drawn at the end of Day One we had lost 2 wickets for 14.

When the second wicket fell I sent in NALIN Peiris, to which our coach MARCUS JAYASINGHE strongly objected. However, Nalin scored a brisk 31 which turned the tide for us.

CARLYLE RODRIGO and MICHAEL ROBERTS chipped in with valuable scores of 34 and 39 respectively.

DECLARATION DENIED

Ten minutes before Tea in the final stage of the game I went up to our coach and informed him of my intention to declare at Tea. He advised me not to, and instead to declare ten minutes after Tea.

However, I decided to declare at Tea leaving Mahinda to get 180 runs in 120 minutes. Mahinda took up the challenge and scored a rapid 100 in the first hour for the loss of 2 wickets.

We did not panic. Quick bowling changes saw wickets fall. To save the game Mahinda went on the defensive. With the last to be bowled 8 wickets had fallen. VERNON REGIS took the ball for the final over and in his first delivery the 9th wicket fell.

Some do or die tactics

I then exchanged places with CEDRIC AUWARDT sending him to second slip. From mid-off I urged Vernon to bowl the next five balls short pitched on the leg stump, bringing in all the fieldsmen. The last man in fended the next two deliveries ducking and could not avoid hitting the next ball to Cedric at second slip who grabbed the ball to his chest with glee.

Our big and innings score of 213 for 8 gave us a win by 72 runs. Thus we completed a clean sweep of victories for the season.

The bulk of the bowling was shared by ROY VANDERPUT, VERNON REGIS, CARLYLE RODRIGO and J. M. G. VEDAMUTTU. This quartette proved to be a hostile attack and largely responsible for our success.

Some menacing performances came from Vanderput – 6 for 18 against St. Servatius’, Vernon – 6 for 19 against Richmond,  Vedamuttu 5 for 25 against St. John’s, while Carlyle’s 4 for 26 against Mahinda proved very valuable.

The bowling was backed up by some brilliant fielding, Cedric, Carlyle, Michael, Lakshman and Jayanetti snapping up some blinders. JOHNNY de SILVA and young M. DIAS did yeoman service behind the sticks. 

There was a special assembly on the Monday following the Mahinda game. Michael Roberts, Carlyle Rodrigo and myself were already coloursmen but all the remaining players were also awarded colours. A half holiday was declared the next day.

I was happy to have ended my cricket career at SAC with such a wonderful season achieved with the help of a fantastic band of Aloysian cricketers I had the pleasure of leading to victory”.

Although 50 years have passed, Congratulations Anver on a brilliant season

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