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Life and times in sport

Leslie Narangoda top sportsman

BRILLIANT allround cricketer and athlete Leslie Narangoda hails from a very respectable family from Nawala, Rajagiriya. His father's name was N. G. Somapala Narangoda. Mother's name - Ellen Perera.

In a family of six, he is the fourth. Eldest is Herbert. Second brother former University Cricketer Eastman Narangoda, is presently, the General Manager/Chief Executive of National Savings Bank. Other three brothers are Vernon, Jayantha and Tilak.

Like the famous Amendra Cricketing Brothers (Raja, Percy, Sisira, Stanley and Tissa etc.) of Mahinda College, Galle, Narangoda's created a unique record in the annals of Nalanda Cricket history.

Except Vernon, who studied at St. Johns, Nugegoda, all the other brothers had the proud distinction of representing Nalanda First XI. They equalled the record established by the Perera's of North Western Province, Lincoln (Captained 1948), Gamini Jayawickrema/Captained in 1960), Parakrama (1957-1960) and Asoka/Captained in 1963) played for Nalanda earlier from 1947-1963.

Out of these five Narangoda bothers, who donned pads for Nalanda. Leslie Narangoda represented Sri Lanka against India in 1969 and excelled as a fine allrounder too.

During my teaching career as a graduate teacher, at Nalanda College, Colombo, I served as the Prefect of Games and Master-in-charge of cricket from 1968-1970. Leslie, was an exemplary student. Unassuming Narangoda, was loved by both teachers and students alike. He used to respect his teachers even today.

"Sir, I am ever grateful to Gunapala Wickramaratne, Sugunadasa Atukorale, and Dharma Gunasinghe - Principals and the entire staff. Late Gerry Gooneratne and to you, guided and motivated us. I am really indebted to you all-stated Narangoda.

From his schooldays, I noticed Leslie, as an extra-ordinary student. He always went out of his way to help his friends. In cricket he always put the Team before self. He was never a selfish player. He is a fine team man. When chips are down he always gave his best.

Born on 13th November 1951, Leslie Narangoda entered Nalanda Vidyalaya, Colombo in 1960. He played Junior cricket and represented Nalanda First XI from 1968 - 1971. He was the vice-captain in 1971.

Narangoda was a fine medium pace bowler, and a middle order batsman and was one of the finest fielders in Sri Lanka. He was a specialist cover fielder like David Heyn. He was always a utility player. He excelled as a fine athlete too and established the public schools Javelin Record.

I was one of the selectors of the Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association in 1968/1969. The Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association consisted of late P. M. Jayatilleke (President - Principal - Thurstan College), Late A. D. Karunananda (Secretary - Ananda College) Late Orville Abeynaike (S. Thomas College Mount Lavinia) John De Saram (Royal College). Angelo Rayer (St. Josephs) Edmund Dissanayake (Wesley College) and Premasara Epasinghe (Nalanda College).

These dedicated, committed teachers met at P. M. Jayatilake's residence at Ratmalana, and selected the school team to India in 1969, for the historic tour. They selected the best available. They were very honourable teachers and no parents ever approached them for any favour.

I personally feel, Leslie Narangoda is a "Man of Missed opportunities" due to no fault of his. During 1974/1975, Narangoda was one of the Best-Allrounders in the club circuit. Still, he was ignored from the world cup pool of 1975.

Narangoda shone as a bright star in the fifty six (56) days 1969-Indian Tour. Sir Lanka team played 10 matches and won 06 of them and Mitra Vettimuny (Ananda) remained unbeaten throughout the tour and Asitha Jayaweera (Royal) were the captain and vice-captain respectively.

Other than nominating Warnapura and Narangoda from Nalanda, as a selector I still remember, I proposed the name of G. R. A. De Silva (Dharmasoka-Ambalangoda) who later represented Sri Lanka as Ajith de Silva, and proposed Asitha Jayaweera name as Deputy skipper.

Narangoda was the most outstanding fielder in the Indian tour. In the match played against Amrister XI Narangoda, patrolling the covers had two Indian batsmen stranded run out.

"On both occasions, I hit the bulls-eye. I saw only one wicket. I aimed at it correctly. In the whole tour, I had about 12-15 run outs. I must thank Ananda Jayathilake, our dynamic wicket-keeper, who did a grand job," stated Narangoda.

Narangoda was selected as the Best-fielder of the Tournament by a panel of Judges of India.

"An incident that etched in my mind was the one that took place at Amritsar. We were playing Amritsar XI. When I walked in, the scoreboard read 40 for 03 wickets. I thought "Attack is the best form of Defence." I deposited five balls out of the massive stadium.

At the end of the day, after winning the match, the organisers presented me a sum of Rs. 50 (fifty only) for my five towering sixes. I scored a swashbuckling 49 runs" stated Narangoda.

From his schooldays, Narangoda was one of the best fielders. Very agile. He possessed a hawk-eye.

"I will never forget that marvellous one handed catch Leslie took to dismiss Anandian opener Sunil Wettimuny when he was 96 in the big match, against Ananda.

If Narangoda missed the catch at the boundary line opposite the giant scoreboard at Sara Stadium, Wettimuny's score would have read 102. After leaving school, he served at Wellawatta Spinning and Weaving Mills for a short period. Then, he joined Baksons.

"I am ever grateful to Chandru Bakshani and Bhagavan Bakshani Chairman and Managing Directors of Baksons. They helped me and gave all assistance to play cricket while working at Backsons. I started a Team to play Mercantile cricket at Backsons," stated Narangoda.

After retiring from Big Time Cricket, he took up to coaching and became a qualified coach. He coached Nalanda for few years. Mahela Jayawardene, Shantha Kalavitigoda and number of reputed Nalanda cricketers were coached by him.

Tracing the history of Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club Leslie Narangoda's association with them goes back to the year 1968 to 1982. In 1978/1979, he captained the club and become unbeaten runners-up."

In a Maharaja Trophy semi-final against Ceylon Tobacco XI, Narangoda scored a 102. Tobacco was captained by Anura Tennekoon, Anura Ranasinghe, Ranjan Madugalle late D. L. S. De Silva played for Tobacco when Leslie walked in Bloomfield were tottering at 34 for 3. Narangoda and Ruwan Perera (76) saved the day for Bloomfield. The partnership was 189 runs.

He played cricket at the highest club level.

"I am always a Gutty Fighter. Even when coaching, I always adopted a positive approach and sometime, I took risks. I taught my students to fight hard and play positive cricket with the true spirit of the game. It is rather unfortunate for see that some of the school cricket coaches present day adopt negative tactics and ruin the game as well as the players," lamented Narangoda.

Presently while conducting a private coaching clinic at Shalika grounds, Narahenpita, Narangoda is helping the Nalanda Junior cricket academy.

Through jealousy, they dislike someone coming up. Due to this season, Narangoda had to undergo lot of difficulties. But, this great cricketer took up the challenge. He had a golden heart. He is a thorough gentleman, and faced all odds, faught his way back.

Today, he is one of the best coaches in the island. It is rather strange, the so-called custodians of cricket in Sri Lanka, the Interim Committee does not invite such a talented cricket coach like Narangoda to handle a National Junior Team.

During the period I was coaching Nalanda Under 15 Team, I came across a fine cricketer by the name of Tarun Ranasinghe. He is the son of that great Sri Lankan cricketer, Anura Ranasinghe, who ruined his cricket career, joining the "South African Rebel Tour" in late 1982.

This talented young boy, Tarun Ranasinghe was the chip of the old block." Like father he too was a right-hand bat and a left-arm bowler. Unfortunately this talented player Tarun Ranasinghe did not get a place the senior team and I understand that he gave up cricket," stated Narangoda.

"I must thank all old boys, POG, Principal, Master-in-Charge for giving me an opportunity to coach the Junior Cricket Academy at Nalanda", said Narangoda.

Narangoda tied the nuptial knot in 1978, with Anoma Kumudini Hewavitarana. They are happily married and blessed with two sons. Eldest Nethupul Kasun Narangoda is an Honours Graduate in Mathematics from the University of Ceylon, Colombo. Other son Supun is studying at Nalanda.

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