It is perhaps justifiable and apt to remember what Mahes Rodrigo prophesied 50 years ago with 'acute Cricket brains' in this country" - when he remarked "We should stick to One-Day-Cricket - we can beat the World!!"
Forthright, humorous and famous as he has been and still is, Mahes at 20 years of age represented Sri Lanka in Cricket in 1949, blasting 135 runs not out, as an opening batsman against 'fiery' fast bowlers of a first class West Indian Test Cricket Team.
It was considered the 'gutiest' innings played by any batsman on the 'Sara' Stadium Grounds and described as 'the fastest, grassiest and bounciest' ever seen. In his first International outing, a 'one-dayer' against the world famous Australian Test team Captained by Don Bradman, Mahes performed with great distinction scoring a confident 26 runs and taking a 'superfine' catch to dismiss Loxton in the outfield.
Playing under the brilliant and crafty Cricket Captain, F. C. de Saram he received his 'baptism' into big-time Cricket in the company of classy players like, B. R. Heyn, Sargo Jayawickreme, C. I. Gunesekera, R. L. de Kretser, S. Nagendera, V. G. Prins, M. Sathasivam, Bertie Wijesinha, S. Coomarasamy, Ben Navaratne, Malcolm Spittel, Lucien de Zoysa and C. V. Abeysekera, to name a few.
In the same year, Mahes scored a glorious century for S.S.C. against Pakistan, the second century made in quick succession against two International teams, West Indies and Pakistan, which was then considered a unique Sri Lanka record.
Mahes was described as a 'good thinker of the game' whether it be Cricket or Rugby, with the mind of a 'Tactician' and as a 'model Cricketer for the young to follow' - From the mid-forties he kept-wickets for Royal College, Colombo, displaying dazzling performances in batting, which entitled him to Captain Royal Cricket in 1946.
Mahes led Royal to a memorable victory against Trinity, with G. T. Kapukotuwa taking 6 wickets for 50 and Mahes as Wicket-keeper brilliantly stumping four batsmen behind the wickets, to win by one run! By the end of the season Mahes proved his mettle by leading the Royalists to a sensational win against the Thomians in the 'Battle of the Blues' by 84 runs.
Mahes top scored in both innings, creating a remarkable record in the series by scoring 48 not out and 35 not out, making a total of 83 runs without losing his wicket. In 1939, Bertie Wijesinha the Thomian Captain, scored 63 and 70 runs but he was 'out' in both innings.
In Cricket, he was considered the best 'stumper' in the schools, a sound right-hand bat with powerful stroke-play, which continued throughout his Cricketing career for Clubs and for Sri Lanka. As he said "I never had any pretensions of being a top stroke-maker, but as an opener I played the bowling essentially on its merits-the runs came later. I specially favoured the 'hook' and the 'cut' in batting."
Born on 30th June 1928 to a wealthy family, Mahes studied at Royal College Colombo, from 1939 to 1946, where he had a glittering school career. Shortly after leaving college, he commenced employment at Walkers Ltd. and worked for ten years at Wakers Ltd., along with his good friend and record-breaking 'Cricket-Partner' C. I. Gunasekera. During this time between 1948 to 1954, Mahes was in the limelight, as a "Superstar" shining bright in Sri Lanka Cricket and Rugby!
In the midst of all the 'glamour', he played his best 'late-cut' and 'got caught-out', to a beautiful young Yoga Sellamuttu, (daughter of Adigar Arumugam Sellamuttu, whose wealth and regality was evident on "Sellamuttu Avenue," in Kollupitiya) and married Yoga in 1954.
With one son Maitra (53 yrs), who is presently in England and married to Dale (daughter of Raine Wright, elder brother of former Sri Lanka Rugby Captain Malcolm Wright), they brought forth a 'bundle of joy' a daughter Tharini (42 yrs).
She is currently working for the "Dubai World Cup" office in Dubai, - the biggest Horse Racing event in the world! Tharini married Mike Wasper, a former Welsh Rugby Forward who was working for the British High Commission in Colombo.
Mahes's father Cyril Rodrigo, was the sole Proprietor of Rodrigo Restaurants (Green Cabin and Pagoda) until 1966, before it was made a Limited Liability Company. He was married to Mallika, sister of Sri Lanka's former Cricket Captain S. S. 'Sargo' Jayawickrema.
His parents coincidentally died at the same age of 76 years! As Vohara de Silva, the longest serving Manager in the company, a nephew of Cyril Rodrigo, agreed that his uncle Cyril Rodrigo and the family, have all been generous, kind, compassionate and acted with concern. Mahes's younger brother Devaka Rodrigo, now 72 years of age, also played top-class Rugby for CR & FC and for Sri Lanka in the 50's, along with him.
Recently, Mahes was honoured by the CR & FC and made a "Life Member" for all the great performances and splendid service he has done for the club.
In 1959, Mahes Rodrigo (then 47 years younger!) commenced work, as a Freight Broker for Somervilles Ltd (a British Brokering Company handing tea, rubber and coconut products) to service Export Companies and canvass valuable export cargoes from Sri Lanka to the UK, USA, Far East, European Continent and other countries around the world. After about 10 years, he worked with Mackinnon Mackenzie Ltd in Shipping. By 1979, Mahes assumed a Director's role in the administration of the Rodrigo Restaurants.
Simultaneous to his prowess in Cricket from 1943, mahes also proved his exceptional class as a superb Scrum-Half, and was appointed Royal Rugby Captain in 1946.
It stands out in his mind, that Trinity were so impressive in their smart attire on the Rugby-field, with their dazzling red, yellow and blue rugby jerseys - that it gave them the 'jitters' and 'butterflies' in their stomaches each time the Trinity team ran onto the field!!
In 1952, Mahes was the first Sri Lankan to be appointed as Captain of the Sri Lanka Rugby Team against the Australians and again in 1953 versus the New Zealand Colts.
He captained the CR & FC in 1955 and the Colombo Clubs playing as Scrum-half to pair-off with Ago Paiva, several other great players like, John Arenhold (a South African Trialist), Lionel Almeida, Kavan Rambukwelle, Ivan Diasz, Rajah Williams, Dr. Trevor Anghie, Devaka Rodrigo, Ashey Cader, Conrad and Desmond Ephraims, Summa Navaratnam, Neville Leefe Peter Sawdy, P. Mahendran, Maurice Perera, Malcolm Wright, Barry Cameron, Donald McRae, David Parker, Hugh Keith Anderson, Nick Dewing, Phil Sparks, A. K. Doray, Fred Kreltszheim, Geoff Weinman and Norman Gunewardena.
After the New Zealand tour of Sri Lanka, a Manager of the team J. Steward, had told a meeting of the New Zealand Rugby Union at a press conference - "Mahes Rodrigo, Captain of the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) team was well up to the best New Zealand Provincial standards."
On the 30th October 1999, the great "Royal Explosion" was staged as a Parade down the streets of Colombo and over 13,000 people turned out to honour their Alma Mater.
Mahes was one of the distinguished Old Boys who was among those who were honoured for their great contribution to the College. In addition to being the Head Prefect, Captain of Cricket and Rugby while at Royal, he also coached the boys for many years in Cricket and Rugby, till very recently.
As one senior old boys said Mahes Rodrigo instilled into the players at all times - "Let it be a Sport, not a fracas - and play it in the correct spirit, with its true traditions!"
Rugby football is a game for gentlemen in All classes but never for a bad sportsman in any class" is a motto picked up from a Rugby club in New Zealand.