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Ajith de Silva - one of Sri Lanka's greatest left-arm bowlers

Life and times in sports by Premasara Epasinghe

"I consider him as one of the best exponents of left arm spin bowling that I have seen".

This comment was made by one of the greatest cricket legends in the world circuit. Clive Lloyd who had the proud distinction of leading West Indies" in two World Cup victory in 1975 and 1979.

Art of left-arm spinning

Orthodox left-arm spinner grip the ball with the tips of the first and second fingers, using the thumb to cradle the ball, and spreading the two fingers as wide across the seam as possible. The length and the size of the fingers is important, because you can grip the ball better and thus create more spin.

Approach to the wicket is crucial. Most spinners vary in the number of paces they take. Ajith De Silva took seven to ten paces. He is balanced in his approach to the wicket. I have seen him from the commentary box, here and abroad, how he confuses the batsman by running in on a curve or a straight line. Beauty with Ajith De Silva was that he never lost his rhythm.

Accuracy and persistence are a finger spinner's best weapon. When a pitch is providing little or no help, these two essentials are a major part of the spinner's repertoire.

Ajith De Silva, being left handed, drifted the ball in the air into the right handed batsman and then turned it away. This valuable addition helped him to take wickets through a catch in the slip or getting the batsman to hit across the line or the flight. He is not a stereotyped or two mechanical bowler. He varies the balls in an over and deceives the batsman. He was always a thinking cricketer.

Ginigalgodage Ramba Ajith De Silva,

Was born on 12th December 1952. He hail from a highly respectable and a distinguished family from Ambalangoda. His father was an Educationist - Principal Mychel Tiddy De Silva and mother Sirinawathie, a leading light of the "Let Movement" in the Galle District. She served the masses of the Galle District for more than four decades. After the demise of his beloved mother, Ajith De Silva took to politics.

There are three brothers and four sisters to Ajith.

Southern Provincial Councillor

One of the great qualities of Ajith, he is always unassuming, remembered the past and respected his coaches and teachers. I consider him as one of the most lovable and pleasant characters that I have seen in my career as a Teacher, Journalist and Commentator. He is full of life, jovial well disciplined and always ready to help some one. Presently, he is a member of the Southern Provincial Council following the footsteps of his illustrious mother.'

Selected to the Indian Tour - 1969

Ajith De Silva is the best left arm bowler produced by Sri Lanka in the recent history. He is undoubtedly an ornament to cricket.

I pen these few lines with delight, as I was one of the selectors of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association in 1968/1969, who nominated Ajith De Silva for the under 20 Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Team in 1968/1969. At that time, he was representing Dharmasoka Ambalangoda. As the Prefect of Games and master-in-charge of cricket at Nalanda. I nominated three players Bandula Warnapura, Leslie Narangoda (Nalanda) and G.R.A. De Silva (Dharmasoka).

Joined Ananda

After the 1969 tour, late A.D. Karunananda master-in-charge of cricket at Ananda who was the Manager of this Tour, took G.R.A. De Silva to Ananda. He blossomed at Ananda as an outstanding bowler.

Ajith De Silva started his cricket career at the Ambalangoda Urban Council Grounds as a tiny tot,like his contemporary late Anura Ranasinghe, who commenced his career at the Municipality Ground, Kirillapone.

He was an active, bubbly child and excelled in many sports disciplines. He played football, badminton and was a good swimmer. But, his forte was cricket. His first cricket coach was R.M.M. De Silva.

After joining Dharmasoke, he was coached by M.W. Wimalasuriya, Principal of the school. He played in all junior grades and graduated to play in the college First XI in 1968/1969.

Played under Saliya and Subash

Ajith De Silva represented Ananda College, under Saliya Senanayake and H.D.K. Subash in 1971 and 1972 respectively. He was the leading schoolboy bowler at that time. At Ananda, he was coached by P.W. Perera and Anuruddha Polonnowita.

International Exposure

In 1972, an under 19 Australian Cricket Team toured Sri Lanka captained by R. Goldin. Sri Lanka Team was lead by that fine Cricketer Asitha Jayaweera of Royal College. Ajith De Silva represented the Sri Lanka under 19 team and excelled as fine left arm spinner.

After his brilliant performance, he was selected to play against India in the year 1974. Ajith De Silva and D.S. De Silva (right arm leg-spinner) excelled in this tour and this combination captured more than 20 wickets. Before Ajith De Silva, it was Daya Sahabandu, who occupied the centre stage as a left arm spinner. By early 1980's, Ajith De Silva shore like a bright star and he tormented many leading batsmen. Sri Lankan club cricketers feared to face Ajith De Silva in Sara Trophy Matches.

In the Pakistan tour, Ajith De Silva captured 5 wickets in the first innings in 1974.

Indian and Pakistan journalists ranked Ajith, as one of the best left arm spinners in the Asian Circuits, next to Bishen Singh Bedi of India, after this tour.

Represented 1st World Cup & First Test

Ajith De Silva represented Sri Lanka in the first World Cup in 1975 and the first official test in 1982. Further he was also a member of the 1979 2nd World Cup Sri Lanka Team.

Vishwanath - Ajith's Bunny

There were certain "Bunnies" for some bowlers. For example, Australian Arthur Morris, was a "Bunny" for Alec Bedser of England. In the same way, Indian player Gundappa Vishwanath was Ajith De Silva's Bunny. In eight innings, he captured Gundappa's wicket seven times and consecutive one six occasions.

Australian were ruined

Ajith De Silva's finest hour was against the mighty Australians in the year 1981 on the era of gaining Test status. In the first innings he returned the figures of 27-14-36-06 and in the second innings he captured 3 wickets for 64 runs in 40.1 overs, of which 17 were maidens. He had a match bag of 67.1 - 31 - 100 - 09.

10th wicket stand - 134

Ajith De Silva was no mean batsman. In 1977, against Tamil Nadu, with fast bowler Ranjan Gunatilleke, he was associated in a 134 runs partnership for the 10th wicket. Ajith De silva remained unbeaten with a polished 75 runs.

After leaving school he played for Nondescript Cricket Club (NCC) for a few years and later represented Bloomfield for many years with distinction.

He was earlier employed at Brown and Company.

His brilliant outstanding short cricket career ended in 1982, due to the South African Rebel Tour.

Ajith De Silva played in 04 Test Matches. In 7 innings he scored 41 runs and remained unbeaten twice. His highest score was 14. Average - 8.2.

In the bowling department, he bowled 100 overs, and out of which 41 were maidens. He captured 07 wickets for 385 runs.

He played in 06 One Day International and in 4 innings scored only 09 runs. He bowled 50.5 overs and captured 09 wickets for 292 runs.

Ajith De Silva is married to Damyanthi Chandrika Hettiarachchi. She is a tower of inspiration to him and the wind behind his wings.

They have two children. Daughter's name is Hirushi De Silva who is following a Management Degree and their son Jeshan De Silva is a student at Nalanda College.

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