Life and times in
Royal-Thomian record holder Sumithra Warnakulasuriya
Royal-Thomian is something very special. It is a very important date in
the sporting calendar in Sri Lanka.
This uninterrupted cricket encounter will be played on
10, 11 and 12th March 2005, of course, the usual glamour, funfare, will
not be witnessed this year and it will be played on a low key, as a mark
of respect for tsunami victims. This is the second oldest school game in
the world and the first in Sri Lanka.
Today, I feature Sumithra Dharmasiri Warnakulasuriya,
the highest individual scorer, in the Royal-Thomian encounter who broke
Duleep Mendi's (Two-Day match) record score of 184 scored in 1972, when
he complied 197 runs in the 2nd three-day match played at P.
Saravanamuttu Stadium on 6, 7 and 8th March 1980. Royal was led by
Sudath Pasqual and Umesh Idippily captained S. Thomas College.
Incidentally, his elder brother, the present General
Manager - Chief Executive of Seylan Bank, A. M. Pasqual captained Royal
in 1973, and the present coach of S. Thomas College, Sri Lankan
Cricketer cum commentator and journalist, Ranil Abenaike captained S.
In 1982, Royal was skippered by Sumithra Warnakulasuriya
and his team comprised of C. Amarasinghe, T. Marikkar, S. Nithyananda,
H. De Silva, S. Algama, M. Samarasinghe, R. Jayawardane, M. Hettige, G.
Malalasekera and S. Unamboowe. Sumithra scored a pleasing half a century
in the first innings and in the second innings scored 37 runs. Thomians
were led by Ken De Alwis.
Unassuming Sumithra paid a glowing tribute to his
teachers and coaches.
"My Vice Principal Christie Gunasekera was the first to
spot my talents. I never played junior cricket at under 12 and 14. I am
grateful to Christie Gunasekera, my beloved teacher in giving me a break
in playing cricket for under 16. Col. H. T. Gunasekera, Vijaya
Malalasekera, Gamini Salgado, and Mahes Rodrigo too helped me
tremendously in my cricketing career."
As schoolboy cricketer, he had 11 centuries in three
years from 1980-1982.
Champion batsman Sumithra Warnakulasuriya joined Royal
College in 1968 and left in 1982. He was the Head Prefect of College and
captain of the cricket team in 1982, a rare honour.
Chip of the old Block
He was born on 25th March 1962 in Colombo. His father
"Charlie Warnakulasuriya was a complete cricketer who played for the
Department of Education and Bloomfield. Soft spoken Charlie was a
thorough gentleman and a fine captain.
I was very fortunate to play under him, in 1968, when I
was a teacher attached to Nalanda College. I opened batting for the
Department of Education and I still remember how I deposited a ball at
Castle Street Maternity Hospital Roof off a CTB fiery pace-bowler with
sheer desperation. Luckily, I connected it, Burly-Charlie, walked upto
me and said, "Epa, nice shot. Be careful. Concentrate." thanks to
Charlie, I scored 57 runs in this match. Charlie and I put on 105 runs
for the 2nd wicket.
When I was commentating on Sumithra's innings over the
air waves of SLBC in 1982, it reminded me so much of the saying "like
father like son". Undoubtedly, he was the chip of the old block.
I personally feel that Sumithra Warnakulasuriya should
have been in the Sri Lanka Test side, but unfortunately, he did not get
this vital break. I remember, Sumithra touring Pakistan in 1985, when I
gave the first live commentaries to Sri Lanka from Pakistan.
He was a member of the Touring party. There were three
openers - Sidat, Amal and Sumithra.
Sumithra Warnakulasuriya was a self-made cricketer. His
coach was his beloved father Charlie, who coached Aravinda De Silva,
Hashan Tillekeratne at D. S. Senanayake College. He is one of the best
cricket coaches, who helped many up and coming cricketers. He was a
fatherly figure to his pupils, a gentleman of the highest calibre.
Warnakulasuriya first played in the under 16 as an
off-spinner. From 1979 he was in the first XI at captained in 1982.
Father and Son Shines
In 1977, he played for Bloomfield in the Division III,
with his father. Against Colts both father and son scored 34 unbeaten
runs respectively. Sumithra states that it was a great experience to
bats with his father, who was technically very correct batsman.
Charlie was a grafter of runs, and he always played a
very composed innings with lot of concentration.
As far as his cricket is concerned, his father Charlie
Warnakulasuriya was his guide, coach and philosopher till he started
playing for Royal College.
His mother Hema Warnakulasuriya - Suriya, a retired
Teacher was the one who helped him in his studies. His brother's name is
Anura - and two sisters are Deepika and Sushini.
Sumithra's son is studying at Royal and following his
fathers footsteps. Presently, he is a regular member of the 2nd XI. He
played in three first XI matches in this season. His name is Dhiran
Warnakulasuriya. Seventeen year old Dhiran is a left hand batsman. His
father, a right hander.
After leaving school, Sumithra played for CCC with
distinction. He played for Maharaja's, Bronws and Hebtuldaboys in the
Excelled in Australia
Then, he proceeded to Australia and played 2 years for a
Sydney Cricket Club. Sudath Munaweera, Upul Gunasena also played for the
Moore Bank Cricket Club, Sydney. Sumithra excelled as a batsman for MBCC.
Under 19 National Coach
Today, Sumithra Warnakulasuriya is imparting his
knowledge and experience to the budding cricketers. Presently, he is the
National Coach for the Sri Lanka Under 19 Cricket Team and he is
employed at the Sri Lanka Cricket. He was coaching the Bangladesh
cricketers for few years, before he took up this appointment at the Sri
To assist cricketers in improving their skills and
enhancing their personal performances is the role that he plays now. "I
feel that I have a great responsibility in coaching the Under 19
National Team. It is definitely a Challenge. I work hard with them, in
shaping the cricketers.
There is a fair amount of talent. So, I think, it is a
matter of getting them together and fine tuning them. The areas that I
am specially focusing on generally, apart from the technique, is mostly
the mental aspect of the game and the tactical aspect of the game, and
been more practical, adopting to the situation of the game.
Wardens who represented S. Thomas College
I presume, three wardens of S. Thomas College have
played in the Royal-Thomian series to date.
They are R. S. De Saram (1915-1917) C. H. Davidson
(1920-1921) and the present warden Dr. David Ponniah, who scored a
debuts 100 not out in the second innings. David Ponniah and Ajit
Jayasekera gave a blistering start for the Thomians and the first wicket
fell at 118, when Jayasekera was run out for a brilliant 75 runs.
After leaving school he joined Maharaja Organisation and
represented CCC in Divion one.