The Thomian team of 1976 led by the right handed opening bat and 3rd year coloursman Sasi Ganeshan was unique in the sense that it consisted of six left hand batsmen and five right handers, four left arm bowlers and four right armers. The bowling armory included a left arm pacie Ishy (later represented Sri Lanka at Cricket and Hockey) and a right arm pacie Sali (went on to represent Sri Lanka at Cricket), two left arm leggies, a right arm offy, a right arm leggie, right arm medium pacie and a left arm dual purpose bowler Miky (who later represented Sri Lanka at Rugby).
To add to it all the wicket keeper of the side Guy went on to represent the Sri Lanka Cricket team. Four members of a schools cricket team going on to represent the National side in three different disciplines of sport must surely be a record!
S. Thomas’ First XI cricket team 1976 (Standing left to right) Ishak Sahabdeen, Michael Jayasekera, Saliya Ahangama, Surimal Wijesinghe, Guy de Alwis, Ajith Amarasekera, Pelham Juriansz, Lakmaal de Zoysa, Suraj Dandeniya, Arithha Wikremanayake. (Seated Left to Right) Dayalan Supramaniam, Lalith Ratnayake, Mr. Lassie Abeywardena, Sasi Ganeshan (Captain), S.J. Anandanayagam (Warden), Ajit Ganeshan, Dayal de Silva.
The strength of the side was such that the selectors had no alternative but to leave out a coloursman from the previous year in naming the final XI. The side consisted of Sasi Ganeshan (Sas), Ajith Ganeshan (Aji), Lalith Ratnayake (Raty), Dayal de Silva (Daiya), Dayalan Supramaniam (Supps), Saliya Ahangama (Sali), Lakmaal de Zoysa (Laki), Michael Jayasekera (Miky), Ishak Sahabdeen (Ishy), Guy de Alwis and Suraj Dandeniya (Dan) with Pelham Juriansz, Arittha Wikramanayake, Githanjal Rajapakse and Ajith Amarasekera being the reserves.
The first term commenced with an easy outright win against Thurstan followed by convincing wins against Nalanda, St. Sylvesters and Wesley. Incidentally, the following teams were shot out for less than 100 during the season:
St. Sebastians 83, Mahinda 86 (73 for 7 in the second inning), Zahira 26 and 57, Thurstan 57 and 94, Nalanda 81, St. Sylvesters 45, Wesley 91 & Trinity 82. Ranjan Madugalla saved the day for Royal after being forced to follow on. Having to get 130 to avert an innings defeat Royal were struggling at tea on the 2nd day of the 2 day encounter with the score board reading 74/6. A rare missed opportunity off Ranjan soon after tea allowed Royal to get off the hook and manage a draw.
The Mustangs Trophy limited over encounter against Royal was won with ease. Aji was selected as Man of the Match and Best Batsman and Ishy won the Best Bower and Best Fresher. We were unfortunate to lose to St. Joseph’s in the semi-final of the Exide Trophy limited over tournament that followed by a mere 13 runs. Highlight of this match was the hurricane knock of 87 by Miky, the aforementioned dual purpose bowler, who was also an outstanding left handed No 4 bat in addition to his skills in the field of rugby. Hundred or more during the season: Raty (100 n.o vs St. Benedict’s), Laki (100 vs St. Sylvester’s), Sasi (101 vs St. Peter’s).
(Five or more wickets per innings: Ishy (7 for 19 vs Wesley and 5 for 7 vs Zahira), Daiya (7 for 39 vs St. Benedict’s, 5 for 10 vs Trinity and 5 for 14 vs Mahinda), Sali (6 for 17 vs Zahira & 5 for 14 vs Trinity), Ajit (6 for 35 vs Mahinda)
In the “Observer” awards short listings Raty was among the top 10 selected to decide on the School Boy Cricketer of the year in addition to being selected among the best three fielders. Sali and Daiya were also selected among the best 9 bowlers whilst Sas was one of the best 16 batsmen selected, in recognition of their performances during the season.
None of the above would have been possible if not for the focus and commitment of the Master-in-Charge Mr. Lassie Abeywardena, who virtually carried out the function of a coach as well.
He encouraged every player to play his natural game with bat or ball and did not try to change batting techniques or bowling actions, which they were used to through proper guidance and coaching of coaches in the caliber of Mr. Orville Abeynaike and Mr. George Ponniah, at junior levels. Greats of yesteryear Mr. P. I. Peris, Mr. Neil Chanmugam and Mr. H.S.M. Peiris are others the team cannot forget for having spent valuable time with the team, to give the required guidance and encouragement.In fact Lassie, Pipa, Neil and Holmang as affectionately known to the team were involved with the Thomian teams from 1975-1977, during which three seasons STC had the proud distinction of winning outright against St. Sebastian’s (1976 & 1977), Moratu Vidyalaya (1977), (Zahira 1976), Thurstan (1975, 1976 and 1977), St. Benedict’s (1977), St. Sylvester’s (1976), Ananda (1975), Nalanda (1976), Wesley (1976 and 1977) and St. Peter’s (1977).
The only teams to escape outright defeats were Prince of Wales (play curtailed due to bad weather in all three years), Dharmapala (131 for 8 in their second essay needing 153 to avert an innings defeat in 1975), Trinity (managed a draw in 1976 after being all out for 82 in the 1st innings), St. Joseph’s (very lucky to escape certain defeat in 1975 due to a poor umpiring decision in the final over of the match when nine wickets down), Royal (the lucky escape in 1976) STC did not lose a single match outright during the said three seasons and led on the first innings in all matches other than a couple.
By Sasi Ganeshan.