Sri Lankan would've been anything less than thrilled over
the country's surprise triumph over favourites India,
Sunday _ but if anxiety tempered the delight of Sanath
Jayasuriya's followers, well, that's understandable. The
left-hander, for years the central figure in our batting,
was not among the eleven that so competently overcame the
team from across the waters, widely regarded second best
in the world.
far as team performances go, this was nearly as perfect as
any the famed men of '96 had produced. Poignantly,
Jayasuriya was one of the front men of that
world-conquering outfit. That was then. The question now:
is Jayasuriya at the end of the line?
The question smacks of insolence _ only because it
has never been asked before. However, it must be quickly
made clear that Jayasuriya was NOT cast aside due to any
lack of faith in his ability.
side strain he picked up in Australia was aggravated on
Saturday, against the UAE, and, after consultations with
manager, coach and captain, agreed to sit out the
psychologically crucial Sunday scrap. To back that decision, the
team management said it was in the best interest of Jayasuriya
and the team that his injury is allowed to mend so that he'll be
tiptop for the coming days' battles.
was the thinking before the match. But after it, and the
glorious outcome, naming future elevens has become a lot more
puzzling. It won't be as straightforward as it used to be: slot
Jayasuriya in as no.1 and choose who ever to partner him.
Sunday, sans Jayasuriya, Gunawardena and Jayantha were thrown
in. Neither weren't exactly Jayasuriya-duplicates, but they
showed you don't have to have a tear-away opener to get the team
away to a prosperous start. There was more method _ and less of
the adventure that Jayasuriya is accustomed to provide at the
pair stayed together till the 14th over, compiling 68, which
proved good enough insurance for accumulating during the middle-overs,
then a late raid _ and a match-winning total, as was done
against India. All of which now must make it difficult to ignore
the Gunawardena-Jayantha combination.
What this means is that future combinations will not be
Jayasuriya and who _ rather, a battle among three (former
skipper, Gunawardena and Jayantha), for two slots, at least for
the on-going tournament. The list of candidates can well be
longer for the coming months' engagements.
course, it is inconceivable that Jayasuriya won't be back any
time soon. And by now he might have made the sort of
contribution that would restore his indispensability. My wish is
he would've done just that and regained his permanent status.
His monumental contributions to the country's cricket apart, the
man, for all his likeable rural modesty, deserves the privilege
to choose himself the date of his leaving the game _ than the
indignity of being pushed out the door by the selectors.
detractors, however, are likely to dismiss all this as
sentimental froth _ and not without some good reason. His recent
run has been unexceptional: 59 in four Test innings in
Australia. Whether this persistent failure is due to form's
desertion or submission to Australian intimidation only
Jayasuriya can tell. What clearly was visible though, was a
hesitant approach to the job. The capricious Darwin's pitch had
understandably compelled him into a defensive mode _ without
success. He rushed to the other extreme given the Cairns
featherbed: three screaming fours in-a-row off McGrath _ and out
the next over. He was back in defensive mode for his second turn
at Cairns _ survived almost 70 minutes for 22, his highest in
four outings, but remote from what's expected of him. And then
Saturday, he took just 21 from UAE. Clearly, he is tangled in a
web of his own making, and as in life, indecision only deepens
of Jayasuriya, however, wouldn't think of his disposal. His
strained side is genuine, borne by the fact that he was spared
of bowling duties against UAE. The team management also claimed
that the soreness caused discomfiture to his batting, especially
in the execution of his signature square-cut. In favour of
Jayasuriya is the uniqueness of his style, nay his nature. There
are few in the game that are so consumed by the intent to
brutalize the opposition bowlers as he. And batsmen with that
sort of attitude hare to be given a reasonable allowance for
long is reasonable? The wait has been five innings as at
Saturday. There will be more time given him in the Asia Cup for
sure. It is the future beyond that is of concern. This much is
certain: his old cloak of permanence is getting threadbare. He
probably would've made a blazing comeback Wednesday night
against Pakistan or against Bangladesh two nights ago. Even if
he did, it will take a lot more to make certain his presence in
the 2007 World Cup, the preferred event at which players would
like to let the curtain fall on their ageing careers. And
selectors work to World Cup targets, the four years between
events dedicated to assembling the most effective combination
for the game's richest prize.
target of Sri Lanka's selectors is no different. The recent
successes of fresh faces (read as the two Ms, Malinga &
Mahroof) can only encourage them from continuing with
rebuilding, 2007 in mind. The Ms aren't the only examples. Upul
Chandana, away from the shadows of Muralidaran in Australia,
proved he's been a long neglected gem. And Avishka Gunawardena,
included for two successive matches (after heaven knows how
long) made a half-century and nearly another, batting in both
instances with the assurance that he couldn't quite do during
his in-out days. And Saman Jayantha is blossoming too. The pace
bowlers cupboard is packed to overflowing. It wouldn't be wrong
to say that there's an abundance of talent to re-build, as India
did only some two years ago _ and now strong enough to hold
their own against the World champions.
selectors will do wisely to take a leaf off the Indian selectors
_ and resist the temptation to rush back the old stars at the
first sign of failure by freshers. Re-building, after all, does
have painful passages. The futile recall of Kaluvitharne for the
recent Australian series, on memories of 1995, shows the present
selectors, too, tend to fall back on old deeds. One hopes that
de Mel and fellows will resist the temptation to do so again,
but rather re-blood with fresh talent.
Jayasuriya fits in to this apparently changing landscape is an
interesting question. Jayasuriya will continue to be judged by
the high standards he has set. As age quietly takes its toll, it
might be unfair to expect Jayasuirya to do the things he did
during his younger days. But such demands are life's harsh facts
_ facts that great athletes escape via retirement's door than be
humiliated out. This is not to infer that Jayasuriya should be
contemplating retirement. But, if Jayasuriya's success/failure
ratio is going to tilt to the latter, then, it is not
impertinent to ask how long is Jayasuriya going to remain in the
calculations for the 2007 World Cup, when he would be 38 years.
is the right sort of age, and event, to face his final curtain
call. To make it up to that point is something he'll have to do
himself. But he won't be short of supporters to encourage him
on. Including me _ for all those moments he's made me feel proud
to be Sri Lankan. Nothing can be nicer than the sight of
Jayasuriya giving life to those wonderful old memories.
remembers an old legend: His dad, Pin
last the good folks down at the golf club remembered a legend.
Pin Fernando, of course, disappeared over the boundary wall of
the RCGC, in Borella, to his final resting place years ago, when
only 58. And last weekend, in his memory, they played two rounds
of golf, paid the customary tributes to the legend and then
moved on to a long evening of mostly light banter and laughter
solemnity on this Sunday of remembrance? ''Absolutely not, there
was no solemnity _ only a spirit of happy fellowship," says
Priath Fernando, the legend's only son. ''Dad would not have
wanted it any other way - just jokes and drinks after a day's
golf. That's the way it was for him, too."
the mid-1940s till 1979, when he developed the first signs of
cancer, Pin Fernando's life had been golf. ''He obviously gave
most of his time to golf, but then his commitment to anything he
undertook was always total _ when not to golf, then it was to
his business and his enjoyment," said Priath. ''His other
trait was this obsession to win, in golf, in business, in
bridge, on the horses, whatever."
line about the legend's resolve in golf is superfluous. The
slabs of timber that hang long on the walls of the RCGC speak
out his name and deeds all the time. His debut in the 1946
National Championships might have been unmemorable. He lost, 3
and 2, in the first round to M. Sathasivam, who was to gain
legendary status himself, as a cricketer. In the very next
Nationals, though, Pin Fernando was determined to show he wasn't
going to be mistaken for a wealthy hang-about golfer, of which
there might have been many remembering those were colonial days
and membership of the RCGC was a status symbol _and gateway to
importance and influence.
legend strode on to the Nuwara Eliya course and spread-eagled
the 19-man field before qualifying to take-on the defending
champion, J B McLachlan, in the final _ if it can be called
that. After all, a full final round of 18 holes wasn't required;
it was over and done with at the 15th green. And Pin Fernando,
then 23, had become only the third, and youngest, Ceylonese to
win the National Championship, inaugurated in 1891.
winning his first title in 1947, Pin Fernando repeated the feat
on nine other occasions, including four in a row (1955-'58) and
two successive wins twice (1947-'48 and 1961-'62). As well, he
was runner-up ten times, the last in 1978 _ a year before the
malignant illness got hold of him and forced him off the course
that had been second home. His name also adorns the honour
boards in golf clubs in India, where he twice won the All-India
title. This is truly stuff of legends. No wonder they called him
reason for his consistent success over more than three decades,
I think, was his resolve. He wasn't the sort of type who'd throw
it in when in difficult situations. He'll put out of his head
all those lost holes and just hang in, all his thoughts and
energies directed singly on. not the next hole, but his next
shot," recalled Priath. ''If you look up the records, even
on his off-days, his losses have been by narrow margins, mostly
coming back from hopeless situations." The 1971 Indo-Ceylon
National final between Bombay's Raj Kumar Pitamber and Pin
Fernando is proof. It wasn't one of Pin's better days _ even so
Pitamber was kept waiting till the final hole to eventually
clinch the title, 1 up. ''On his better days, dad can be
devastatingly unstoppable." Like in the 1957 final: Pin
took apart R M Ilankoon 13 & 12, meaning twelve of the 36
holes final were rendered redundant. One-day cricket's near
equivalent to this trouncing would probably be the morning
demolition of Zimbabwe by Sri Lanka at the SSC two years ago.
The 1961 and '62 finals, too, found him in supreme touch as he
finished off Mike Robinson and Mike Thornton, of accountancy
repute, respectively _ both at the identical 11th green.
resolve was ruthless, not out of intent to embarrass opponents,
but more, a desire to reach the high standards he set
himself," said Priath. ''I've had first-hand experience of
his uncompromising ways on the course." Experience no. 1
was in the first of only three father versus son competition
matches. ''I might have been 12 or 13 when I first played
against dad _ and it happened to be in a final. It's not that I
matched him stroke for stroke, but I was an 18-handicapper,
which meant I was on a 12-stroke advantage even before the tee
off. Which was why the match went as far as the final
hole," recalled Priath.
would fatherly love give away the decisive hole to the son?
''No way _ I was just another opponent. And no opponents
gets any concessions from him," recalled Priath. ''Dad
fired a monster 20-foot par for a birdie and brought home
more in his already overflowing trophy cupboard wouldn't make
any difference. But to the young boy it would've meant the
world, had he won. ''I am quite sure he would've been happier
had I won that final, but he wasn't going to gift it to me _
that wasn't in his book of principles," said Priath. ''Of
course, he was always a helpful father, but he believed that his
kids should learn to earn their keep, especially in golf."
second father v. son meeting: ''I was 18, and he treated me like
an adult _ he thrashed me 6 and 5, I think."
ending to the third and final meeting was different. ''I was in
my early 20s and we met in the final of (the 1974) Nuwara Eliya
Club championship. It went to the final hole again, but this
time I shot the birdie and dad lost," said Priath. ''And he
rushed across the green and we hugged" _ father and son
united in family joy.
Fernando's contributions to golf aren't confined to only the
record books. He gave the game a family-full of talent. Wife Pam
Fernando, now restricted by the infirmities of age, was
four-times women's National champion; son Priath's best was
National runner up in 1979; youngest daughter, Druki, was a
of course, there's Thiru, the most illustrious of them all. Even
the old man himself might have acknowledged that his daughter
did better. Her roll of honour: four-time Sri Lanka champion
(1971-75), five-time All India Champion (1973-75, '79 and '80)
and Indonesian, Thailand and Hong Kong champion _ all in 1980.
''To turn professional golf was the only logical extension to
her career," said Priath. She joined the European circuit
in 1980 and was once among the top 10. After 10 years in the pro
ranks, Thiru put aside her bag of clubs and turned to serve God
_ and still does.
that's another story, which we ought to chat about on another
day. - T.M.K.S.
wins Pin Fernando Trophy
in overcast and blustery winds Ajmal Uwise staked his claim as
the new winner of the prestigious Pin Fernando Golf Trophy of
the 125 years old Royal Colombo Golf Club.
tournament which is now 25 years old having being inaugurated in
1979 to honour Pin Fernando who is considered a legend in Golf
in Sri Lanka with 52 major titles to his name is now sponsored
by the family firm United Tractor & Equipment Ltd, together
with their major principal, caterpillar, Dexion and BT.
were 148 golfers who battled it out on Saturday in order to
qualify for the final round on Sunday, 18 July, for which only
the best 32 scores were taken.
Wijenaike looked set to carry the trophy playing excellent golf
through the green but is now kicking his heels for having lost
his cool on the greens, where he missed 4 short putts including
a 'tap-in' which refused to fall in.
attractive prizes were carried away by the participants based on
the qualifying round and even invitees had some fun on the day
of the prize giving
at a putting competition which generated much excitement due to
a 3 way play off resulting in a
student, Rukshan Fernando, picking up the winners prize
after Lal Wickrematunge from The Sunday Leader held on to second
Wins Mobil Oil Cup
Janaka (helm) and K.D.S Kumara (crew) of the Sri Lankan Navy
sailed to victory in the Mobil Oil Regatta held at the Ceylon
Motor Yacht Club, Bolgoda, last Sunday. Sailing a two-sail GP14
amid a fleet of mixed sailing-dinghy classes including Lasers
and Enterprises, the naval duo beat 19 other boats, crossing the
finish well ahead of runner up Joseph Kenny (helm), with
Pramukshi Kariyawasam as crew, followed by Jeremy Bolling
the Optimist Class (under 16 years of age), 15 boats competed,
with Devin Goonewardena (Stafford International) winning in a
very close finish, followed by Oshan Weerasinghe (Royal College)
and Akshan Jirasinha (S. Thomas' Prep).