Daily News Online

DateLine Saturday, 20 October 2007

News Bar »

    News: Bond success signifies investor trust - President  ...            Business: Bond issue raises investor confidence  ...            Sports: Springboks look to clear English hurdle in final  ...






Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Mahinda Athulathmudali brilliant off-spinner of the 1950’s

If someone poses a question to me, “You have been a custodian behind the stumps for more than three decades, 1957-1987, school, university and club level. Whom do you consider as the most effective and best off-spinner, that you have kept wickets to?”

My answer is simple. It is Mahinda Athulathmudali - Nalanda and Saracens.

He is undoubtedly the most lovable and jovial player that I have played with Athu, keeps us going. There is never a dull moment with him. He is full of life. He keeps you on your toes. I enjoyed every bit that I played with him.

Bowling is a delightful art

Mahinda represented Nalanda College with distinction from 1956-1958. He was one of the best off-spinners that Sri Lanka produced. Cricket was his life. He had a unique record, as a player.

Except for SSC, he represented all the leading Clubs - Saracens, Bloomfield, Colts, NCC and finally Adastrians, when he was attached to the Air Force.

Those were the days that we played cricket for the love of the game and not for any monetary gains. We fought hard in the field. Outside we were best of friends. We had lot of fun.

As players we respected each other and at the end of the day, we became life long friends, Mahinda Athulathmudali was crowned as the Best Bowler among school in the year 1958.

He captured more than 60 wickets in ten matches. I still remember a headline in Daily News sports page on the day of the Ananda-Nalanda Big Match 1958 - ‘Anandians beware of Athulathmudali - the freak bowler’.

Freak is defined in the dictionary, as a person considered abnormal, because of his behaviour or appearance. With all due respect to him, this fine unassuming gentleman, was not abnormal at all.

In the good old days, this pencil slim bowler was only an unorthodox bowler, who tormented many school and club cricketers in Ceylon. He deceived many star batsmen, with his wily spinners.

Athulathmudali was no freak. He was a cricketer of high calibre and an ornament to the game. He always put his team before self. If the side is failing in batting, Athu will lift the game with ‘Aspiyan Sixers’. He always comes to the rescue. He is a complete cricketer.

Born on 12th January 1939 in Colombo, he hailed from a highly respected family from Warakagoda - Matugama/Agalawatta. Aladdin Athulathmudali and Celina Padmaperuma were his parents.

Later like Aladdin and his magic lamp, Mahinda became a great magician with the red-cherry.

He played for many years for Saracens. The team was skippered by his ‘Guru’ Gerry Gooneratne, which included Abdul Lafir, Chandrasiri Weerasinghe, Sarath Silva, Nihal Amaradasa, James Perera and pace bowlers of the calibre of Roy Perera, Sonny Yatawara, Dooland Buultjens. The off-spinners were Mahinda Athulathmudali and Premaratne Mahawatte.

The main spin combination of that team was Mahinda Athulathmudali and Thomian Annesly de Silva.

“My guru - Gerry Gooneratne was the best captain that I have seen. He is like ‘Papa Saram’, a great tactician, who captained with distinction for many years. We learnt a lot from them. It was a pleasure to play under Gerry Gooneratne, who produced dozens of national cricketers from Nalanda,” stated Athulathmudali.

It reminds me of a saying of Sir Garfield Sobers who described who a good and successful captain is.

“Captain has to be half a dozen men, all rolled in one. He has to have a nerve of a gambler, the pose of a financier, the human understanding of a psychologist; ten years more cricket than he can possess and patience of a Saint.” Gerry Gooneratne possessed all these qualities.

Most memorable match was against Bens

I asked Athu, for his most memorable school and club match. He replied it was against St. Benedicts. They were a champion outfit, which included players like Neville Casiechetty and that brilliant right-arm leg-spinner, who captained St. Benedicts Elmo Rodrigopulle.

In 1960, Elmo was definitely a very intelligent bowler and he used to flight the ball well. It was difficult to get runs against his bowling. I captured 8 for 31 and a match-bag of 12 for 65 in 1958 against Bens.

“While in school I played division one club cricket from 1957. I captured 8 for 21 against Colts. In a Sara match, I returned the figures of 8 for 40 against Moratuwa. I still remember the late D. D. Jayasinghe, sarcastically making a remark, when he saw me at the Saracens pavilion questioning about my bowling ability.

“When he walked into bat, I told Lafir, who was captaining that match for Saracens that, I like to have a bowl at D. D. Jayasinghe to show my class as a bowler. Believe it or not I sent a straight ball and DDJ could not read it. He played for the spin. Result was that his middle stump was rooted. I taught him a good lesson.”

In 1960s SSC-Saracens encounter was like Greek meeting a Greek. This was played at Rifle Green the present Air Force ground in Colombo. My idol C. I. Gunasekera majestically walked into the crease. Gerry immediately summoned me.

“Athu, chap, I want you to bowl line and length. Fourth one put it slightly outside the line of off-stump. CI will try to hammer you out of sight. I was shivering in my boots, as I had to bowl to master blaster, C. I. Gunasekera, I just carried out my captain’s orders. Fourth ball he hammered to square leg boundary.

It scooped up, and Chandrasiri Weerasinghe took the catch. We were all on cloud nine. That wicket gave me tons of confidence in my career. I stunned SSC by capturing 7 wickets in the first innings.

Great F. C. de Saram approached me and said in his inimitable style, “Young man, join SSC and earn your Ceylon cap.” I smiled and replied, “Sir, I am sorry I can’t betray my beloved coach Gerry Gooneratne.”

Mahinda Athulathmudali paid a glowing tribute to his beloved teachers and coaches at Nalanda - Gerry Gooneratne and Stanley Jayasinghe, Prefect of Games T. Kandaswamy and Stanley Munasinghe.

“Another memorable incident that I can remember was the day that I bowled to Clive Lloyd, West Indies captain in mid-1960s at a practice session at the NCC grounds. It was Stanley who invited me to bowl to Clive Lloyd. He hammered me for three sixers in one over. One to the road, another one to the SSC car park. The other one took the aerial route to D. S. Senanayake grounds.

Lloyd hammered me for three sixes

Clive Lloyd after hammering me for three sixes said, “Son you are a fine bowler. Only thing the batsman happened to be Clive Lloyd.”

After playing for NCC in the 1967/1968 season, Athulathmudali migrated to Canada. He was in Hamilton Toronto and played for Toronto Cricket Club. He was the first Sri Lankan to play for the prestigious club and later for many years for Grace Church Cricket Club, with distinction with Malsiri Kurukulasooriya, a Trinitian.

They say that behind every man’s success, there is a woman. On 15th October 1965, he married Yolande Boyagoda, an old girl of Ava Maria Convent, Negombo. She played netball and was a fine athlete. Yolande was the wind behind his wings. She was a trained teacher at Maharagama English Training College.

In Canada she taught at St. Bridgets School in Hamilton. After retirement she is at present teaching at Good Shepherd School, Beverly Hills, California. They have three wonderful children. Rukshi, Milinda and Inoka, son-in-law Mike, and two grand daughters Nina and Monique.

Mahinda Athulathmudali did his post graduate studies at the University of McMaster in Hamilton, Yolande too did her post graduate studies in the same university.

A few months ago Athu came to Sri Lanka and established Waquis (Pvt) Ltd. He is presently the Managing Director of Waquis (Pvt) Limited a Back Office Processing Company (BOP), situated at Gothami Road, Borella. This company processes mortgages of American residents.

“My President, Mr. Joe O’Neil and his team of sales staff gets contracts from banks and we do the processing of loans. He is very fond of Sri Lanka. My objective was to generate employment for Sri Lankan youngsters. Therefore I formed this branch in Sri Lanka.

There is another branch in Bangalore. During the past six months I have provided employment to about 40 young educated kids. These youngsters work at night. Because there is a time difference between Sri Lanka and America.

We have to cater to their needs. I must tell you frankly these kids who work with me are wonderful. I have the pleasure of being the Leader and the Managing Director of Waquis for the Far East region.



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

| News | Editorial | Business | Features | Political | Security | Sport | World | Letters | Obituaries |

Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2006 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor