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Senarath Alwis - a rare sports genius



Senarath Alwis

Some exceptional individuals embody various skills in their personalities. Once in a while, a rare individual arises, who can accommodate a surprising range of activities, within once own self. Such people represent a wide variety of abilities. There are persons, who demonstrated an astonishing multiplicity of talents. But, the person I have in mind, is a combination of vast variety of talents in the field of sports.

He is Senarath Alwis, the present Physical Education Instructor of the University of Ceylon, Colombo.

Innovative inventive

What is really remarkable about him, in the fact, he was innovative and inventive. Games and sports are primarily physical achievement. But, he added various dimensions to his personality by going beyond sports. He was an able sports administrator, coach cum teacher, a man of sports literature and a commentator.

Versatile sportsman

Senarath Alwis is a rare character. There are sportsmen and sportswomen, who excelled in one or two disciplines. But, here is a man who goes beyond that. He participated and shone in cricket, rugby-football, soccer, hockey, athletics, badminton and basketball.

Today, he imparts his knowledge and experiences to the undergraduates. To achieve versatility in any field is a rare achievement.

Dharmaraja - great seat of learning

Born on 7th August 1951, to parents K. G. N. Alwis and Jeslin Alwis, as the only child, he studied at Dharmaraja College, the great Buddhist seat of learning in Kandy and one of the crest jewels of Buddhist education in Sri Lanka.

His first love was sports. He started playing in the under-14, 16 and 'A' teams, graduated to the first XI, and in 1971, he was elected as the vice captain. He was undoubtedly, a brilliant player - a dashing batsman, who tormented many bowlers.

Record breaking partnership

He wrote his name in the annals of school cricket history, by establishing a record 4th wicket partnership with Janaka Bandara Tennekoon, the present Minister of Local Government and Provincial Council - and the President of the Amateur Athlete Association. They scored 257 runs, for the fourth wicket in Kandy. His contribution was 174, and Janaka Bandara Tennekoon scored 78, against Dharmapala, Pannipitiya. This inter-school match was played at Kandy.

Alwis' swashbuckling record innings of 174, was broken after many years, by a Kingswoodian, Mangala Dharmaprema, when he scored a brilliant 218 against Vidyartha College Kandy. Soft-spoken, Mangala, is presently a reputed, respected sports journalist.

Pleasure to bat with Tennekoon

"I still remember the marathon 257 runs, record partnership, against Dharmapala in 1970. We were reeling at 23 for 3 wickets, in the second innings, when Janaka joined me. There was lot of pressure, as we were faced with an innings defeat. Janaka played one of his best innings. He told me, "I will hold on, you get the runs." It was a great pleasure, to bat with Janaka. He is a great team man. I consider this alliance, as the most memorable and unforgettable incident in my cricket career. The match ended in a draw," stated Alwis.

From 1972-1975, he played cricket in the inter-club tournaments. He represented Kandy Cricket Club, Catamarans CC and played in Sara trophy tournaments as a member of the Panadura Sports Club.

In 1974, Alwis joined the Ministry of Sports as a sports officer.

Golden era of sports dawned with KBR

The golden era of sports in Sri Lanka dawned, when the kind-hearted giant from North Central Province, Anuradhapura, late K. B. Ratnayake assumed the duties as the Minister of Sports in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government. The great minister, an outstanding sportsman who captained Hartley College Jaffna, in cricket, helped many sportsmen and sportswomen by employing them at the sports ministry as sports officers. His able secretary was Lionel Madugalle. At that time, they recruited some of the leading athletes like K. G. Badra and Sunil Gunawardene and cricketers like Senarath Alwis, to the Sports Ministry.

Took the message of cricket to rural areas

Alwis served as a sports officer at Pelmadulla, Mahiyangana and Kalawana AGA Divisions. He was one of the keen sportsmen, who was instrumental in starting cricket in Ratnapura district. He captained the Ratnapura district cricket team in 1978.

While in the Sports Ministry, he had the proud distinction of captaining the ministry cricket team in the State Services Cricket Division One Tournament. Further, he played for State Services team in the Robert Senanayake Cricket Tournament, under the captaincy of Thomian cricketer Dr. Sarath Seneviratne.

After leaving the Sports Ministry, Alwis joined the Mahaweli Economic Agency Thambuttegama as a sports officer.

Joined the University of Ceylon Colombo

Unassuming Alwis', life style and pattern changed after he joined the University of Ceylon, Colombo, as an Instructor in Physical Education in 1986. Not only as an outstanding sportsman, he shone as an able sports administrator.

Century in 52 balls

From 1986, he captained the University of Ceylon, Colombo Staff cricket team and he scored the fastest century in 52 balls against Customs Department.

The Combined Universities cricket tour to India re-commenced after 29 years, during Alwis' tenure of office as the Physical Training Instructor. For this tour, he was selected as the manager cum coach.

Some of his university products

Presently, he is coaching the University of Colombo cricket team. On invitation he coached the Royal College, Colombo, under 13, 15, 17 cricket teams from 1987 to 1997.

Some of the renowned outstanding school cricketers that Alwis coached at the University, were Kumar Sangakkara, Jehan Mubarak, S. K. Jayasinghe, Ashok Senadhira, Bhagya Epasinghe, Kusal de Silva, Champa Weeraratne and J. K. Nagasinghe, to name a few out of many.

He had the proud distinction of coaching the Bangladesh junior cricket team for two years from 2000.

Rugby player - coach - administrator

This dynamic character, showed his prowess in rugby football too. In 1971, when rugby football was introduced to Dharmaraja College, he was an outstanding member of the college first-ever rugby team.

From 1982-1984, Alwis played for Uva Club in the up-country league rugby football tournament.

In 1978, he introduced rugby football to Pelmadulla, Balangoda in the Ratnapura district.

"When I was studying at Dharmaraja College, I had an idea of entering a University. I could not achieve that goal. I am happy today, that I achieved it as a Physical Training Instructor. The staff and the University students always treat me well, and I am fortunate that I associate the academics and brilliant students daily", stated Alwis. He was the Manager of the University of Ceylon Rugby Football Team in 1992, which annexed the Gymkhana Centenary Cup 7's International Tournament.

In 1996, Alwis was the Manager of the Sri Lanka Under-19 Rugby Football Team for the second under-19 Rugby Asiad held in Hong Kong.

Further, he participated at the International Olympic Academy, 29th Session in Athens, Greece as a representative of Sri Lanka.

As a sports administrator, he was an executive member of Sri Lanka Cricket as well as, a council member of Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union from 1987-1997, which is a unique achievement for any sports administrator.

Alwis's main ambition was to take Rugby Football to grassroots level. Therefore, he translated the Rugby Football Rules into Sinhala.

A letter of appreciation from Denzil Kobbekaduwa

"I send the Sinhala" copy of Rugby Football Rules to that great Sri Lankan Rugby player and National Hero, late Denzil Kobbekaduwa. From the battle front, he sent me a letter of appreciation. I still cherish this letter. Denzil Kobbekaduwa's demise, was a great loss to Rugby Football, as well as to the country", stated Alwis.

He was a Sinhala Rugby Football Commentator too and formed a Rugby Players' Bank.

"My coaching stint at Bangladesh is something I always cherish. I was there for two years. I was based in Dacca. Carlton Bernads, Malcolm Perera and Sumithra Warnakulasuriya too were there as coaches. They were dedicated, committed coaches and did an extremely good job.

'It still remember that once I travelled to about 200 miles on a talent search" assignment. I spotted a boy from a urban town called Kulna, named Bin Morathusa, popularly, known as "Kaushik". He is a fiery paceman and now he is a National Player" stated Alwis.

There are many who helped him in his career. With gratitude he mentioned few names of L. B. Herath, Lakshman Perera too Arthur Alwis, O. E. de Silva, N. Ekanayake, Asoka Herath, Tilak Jayasinghe, Niel Perera and Director of Sports of the University K. L. F. Wijedasa.

A good family man

Alwis is happily married to Chitrika, who is attached to National Water Supply and Drainage Board. She is a tower of inspiration to him.

His son Chathur, is a student at S. Thomas Prep., Colpetty and he is following the footsteps of his father. He plays cricket and basketball.

They have two daughters Sankhagi and Jayami. They are studying at St. Paul's Milagiriya.

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