It was with profound grief I learnt of the sudden demise of Sabapathipillai
Illangaratnam after a heart attack. I venture to write this appreciation to pay
homage and tribute to a great cricketer and a thorough gentleman.
Illangaratnam was an amiable, unassuming and a unique person possessing an
exemplary character. He was a colleague of mine at the Bank of Ceylon. More than
as a banker I knew him as a cricketer, as I too was playing cricket at
inter-bank, inter-district, and inter-province tournaments organised by the
I became a freelance reporter after premature retirement and used to meet
Illange almost every weekend at Bloomfield. At the end of the day he helped me
immensely in reporting the scores to a Sunday English newspaper.
Illange as he was called by bankers, cricketers and friends, was born on
December 18, 1947, and was a native of Irupalai in Jaffna. He has had his
primary and secondary education at Hindu College, Ratmalana, where he excelled
in academic studies as well as in sports particularly in cricket. With his
all-round sports and academic background, he had no difficulty in finding
employment at the Bank of Ceylon. Initially he was appointed as a junior clerk
and was posted to the City Office, the largest branch of the bank at that time.
Illange loved sports and perhaps had sports in his blood. No sooner he joined
he wanted to take part in sports activities, and cricket was his favourite
sport. As a youth who had just turned 20 he found it difficult to secure a place
in the cricket team as there were many seniors who had already cemented their
places. But owing to his talent as a pace bowler and a good batsman, he managed
to find a place in the team. Some of his seniors and contemporaries were
Sumithra Fernando, Brindley Perera, Asoka Perera, Rex Silva, Baba Fonseka, A.P.C
de Silva, Sripal Silva, Paramanathan, Balasubramaniam, and Ranjit
The contribution made by Illange as an all rounder was enormous and on a
number of occasions, the Bank of Ceylon emerged champions in the A division
cricket tournaments conducted by the Nationalised Services’ Cricket Association.
When Illange was playing, he became a sought after cricketer, and in the
early ’70s he was grabbed by Moratuwa Sports Club to play Sara Trophy cricket,
which was a good opening for him. He was given the opportunity to share the new
ball with Sylvester Dias. The Moratuwa S.C. team was star studded with a number
of players having a good reputation. R.M.Fernando a former Thomian skipper,
Bandula de Silva, Bernard Perera, Daya Sirisena, Stanley Fonseka and Ransiri
Peiris were some of those who played alongside Illange.
However Illange found it difficult to travel all the way to Moratuwa for
practices, especially after work. In addition he had to neglect the home front
having two daughters to look after. It was at this time that he was absorbed
into the Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club, where his place was cemented as a
fast medium pacer and as a batsman. During this period Illange was in peak form,
perhaps one of the fastest in the national squad. He was selected to play in the
One Day International against Keith Fletcher’s English team, just after we had
got test status.
Illange was very fortunate to play alongside test players of the calibre of
Bandula Warnapura, Lalith Kaluperuma, Jayantha Seneviratne, Anura Ranasinghe,
Flavian Aponsu and Ajit de Silva. Illange was fortunate to have established a
permanent place at the Bloomfield Club. He was appointed skipper of the club’s
Division 2 team in the years 1993 and 1994. Through his personal contribution
and astute captaincy Bloomfield became the champions.
For a few more years he played Division 1 in the Premier league and performed
admirably. When he got to know that many youngsters were waiting for a place, he
started coaching youngsters and whenever one visited the Reid Avenue venue,
Illange was sure to be there. He was in the executive committee of the club for
a number of years, He was made the club coach for Division 2 and then appointed
the coach for the Premier Division side until his demise.
At Bank of Ceylon, Illange worked during the past three decades or so at the
most toughest department called the Ginthupitiya stores where all stationery
orders had to be placed and executed without delay. The smooth handling of the
gigantic exercise to the network of branches scattered islandwide had to be
astutely handled. Luckily for Illange he had a well-trained and trustworthy
staff that supported him wholeheartedly. To be honest there was no one to take
over his work as it was a tough assignment.
It was extremely unfortunate that Illange passed away just five months before
he reached his 60