Dhanasiri Weerasinghe - an outstanding strategist | Daily News

Dhanasiri Weerasinghe - an outstanding strategist

Around three decades before Sri Lanka obtained Test status in cricket two brilliant cricketers broke the shackles and represented All-Ceylon. The first to do so was the dashing batsman from Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club. He was none other than Dhanasiri Weerasinghe. The other was Anuruddha Polonowita, the canny left- arm leg-spinner.

I had the fortune of being coached by both of these legends. They were my childhood heroes as well.

I managed to interview Dhanasiri Weerasinghe who is domiciled in Australia, when I was in Melbourne a few months back.

He invited me to his plush residence in Tourak, Melbourne. By the way Tourak is like Cinnamon Gardens in Colombo. He looked well preserved smart and handsome. Apparently he is the oldest living cricket captain of Ananda College.

He started his cricket career at St John’s College Panadura as a 13-year-old leg-spinner playing for the first eleven.

At 14 years he was playing for the Panadura Eagles, in a national competition. Dhanasiri wanted to join S Thomas’ College Mt Lavinia but his father preferred him to join Ananda and he did so.

At that time hockey was in his blood and he was playing at Campbell Place, close to the matting wicket where the senior cricketers were practicing. Then suddenly the ball was cover driven towards Dhanasiri, who was running with his brand new hockey stick playing hockey. In a flash he swooped on the cricket ball and in one moment brought the stumps down.

The famous coach late P.W. Perera was a witness to this fascinating incident, and Dhanasiri was immediately invited to attend practices. Dhanasiri refused the offer since his father was against it. P.W. realizing the potential of the boy went all the way to Panadura to convince the father. P.W succeeded, and Dhanasiri was roped into the senior team to play as a leg-spinner. His batting talents were not unearthed at the time; as a result he was to be the last man. This was in 1951. The late Bonney Wijesinghe was his captain then. He went through the mill and in 1954, against St Anthony’s; Ananda was in dire straits at 45 for 4. Dhanasiri states that he got the shock of his life when he was asked to pad up to go to bat and stop the rot. Not only did he do so but he cracked 88 not out with magnificent strokes all round the ground lofted drives, taking pride of place. That innings was the turning point of Dhanasiri Weerasinghe’s glittering career.

In 1955 Dhanasiri was the captain at Ananda and hit a purple patch where he churned out 650 runs. He got 100 against S Thomas’, 96 against St Peter’s, 163 against Mahinda and 70 odd runs against Zahira. That year Ananda College was adjudged champions by “The Times of Ceylon” newspaper and Dhanasiri was chosen as the best All-rounder.

In spite of all those accolades under his belt, when the Combined Schools team was selected, he was not chosen. He categorically states that it was pure discrimination, which was rampant at the time. Ananda and Nalanda bore the brunt of it, admits Dhanasiri.

After his school career in 1957, the late F.C. de Saram invited Dhanasiri to play for SSC, but he opted to play for Panadura instead where he was given the pride of place, to showcase his talent.

Panadura were playing the ‘Suddhas’ and they were 4 down for 5 runs. Their pace bowlers were cutting the Panadura batting to ribbons. Then Dhanasiri walked in. Arenhold, the CCC pacie welcomed him with a bouncer which nearly decapitated him. Dhanasiri then nearly knelt down and prayed to “Lord Buddha” with that courage, which fortified his mind Dhanasiri plastered all the bowlers round the park to get to 96. At this juncture, Arenhold was brought back into the attack and he hooked him for six to bring up his hundred.

Bloomfield became his next club and he pitched camp there. In 1957, the under 25 team to tour Singapore and Malaysia was selected; the selectors F.C. de Saram, G.P. Schoorman, D.W.L. Lieversz were in the panel. Dhanasiri was cold shouldered again for no apparent reason. He categorically states that he never cowed down to the so called “White Sahibs” saying “Yes Sir, No Sir, Three Bags Full Sir”. Weerasinghe lamented at that time, because even when his bat did the talking, the speakers were turned off.

Dhanasiri recalls in spite of all the harassment he went through, he fought his way into the Ceylon team as follows:

1958- Played for the Board of Control for Ceylon, in the Gopalan Trophy.

1962-Represented Ceylon against Richie Benaud’s Australians.

1965-Toured India under Michael Tissera’s captaincy.

1968-The controversial tour to England was cancelled by the Minister of Sport. Dhanasiri lost his place in the team as a result.

1969-Played against England and Australia.

Captained the Ceylon team for the Gopalan Trophy and won. He made 94 runs (the year unable to locate).

1970-Met with a motor cycle accident and had to retire from cricket. When requested to name the best 15 cricketers our country has produced, he came out with the following names:

1.Marvan Atapattu, 2.Sanath Jayasuriya, 3.M. Sathasivam, 4.Kumar Sangakkara, 5.Stanley Jayasinghe, 6.Aravinda de Silva, 7.Mahela Jayawardene, 8. Michael Tissera, 9.C.I. Gunasekera, 10.M.Muralitharan, 11. Chaminda Vaas, 12. T.B.Kehelgamuwa, 13.Daya Sahabandu,

14. H.I.K.Fernando, 15. Lasith Malinga, 16.Abu Fuard, 17. Anuruddha Polonowita, 18. Fitzroy Crozier

On Sri Lanka Cricket, he said they were on the right track, comprising a pool of young and talented cricketers. Dhanasiri singled out Sunil Wettimuny as the most talented cricketer he has coached. Finally he pointed out that his

family has 3 internationals.

1 .Dhanasiri Weerasinghe

2. His son-in-law’s grand uncle, Carl Snyder who played with Sir Donald Bradman

3. His grand daughter Ashari Gill who represented Australia at rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 13 years.

It was a pleasure meeting my Guru, who coached me from 1963 to 1966 at Ananda College. 

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