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Sargo Jayawickrema - one of the greatest of batsmen of Ceylon

I presume, in cricket, there is a difference between a good player and a great player. The great players, concentrate and improvise their shot selection. The good players rely on bad balls. The difference is, great player, takes good balls and turns them into bad balls. Sometimes, a great player "pick a peach of a ball" and despatches into the ropes. The great cricketer has the patience, perseverance, hunger and desire and a drive to score runs.

Today, I feature a great Sri Lankan cricketer, who was one of the gratest, a legend, that the present day cricketers and cricketing fraternity should know. I firmly believe, a nation that forgets history has no future. In our cricket history the names such as Dr. C.H. Gunasekera (Sn) Sargo Jayawickrema, M. Sathasivam, F.C. De Saram, C.I. Gunasekera, Bertie Wijesingha Vernon Prins paceman D.S. Jayasundera, Sonny Yatawara, wicket keepers Ben Navaratne, Ranjith Fernando, Dr. H.I.K. Fernando, Spinner Lucien De Zoysa, Daya Sahabandu Abu Fuard, Gery Gooneratne, Stanley Jayasinghe, Michael Tissera, Anura Thennekoon, etc who played for Ceylon Sri Lnaka, before 1982, live forever. In fact these cricketers were the ones that saddled the present day cricketers.

Sagaradattha Sudirikku Jayawickrama, the great Sri Lankan Cricketer was born on 10th January 1911, as the third son and the 11th in a family of 12. He was born at Amarasiri Walauwa, Galle. His father worked as an Interpreter Mudilyar at Galle Courts and when transferred to Kegalle, little "Sargo" he was popularly known started schooling at Kegalu convent and later when the family settled in Panadura, little Sargo, joined Royal College, Colombo 7.

He first played for Royal First XI in 1927 and in the Royal-Thomian, (48th encounter) Jayawickrema scored 3 and 32 respectively. In 1928, he scored 2 and 32. He took the wicket of Thomian opener D.W. Gunawardena caught and bowled for 19. In the second innings captured 5 for 24 which include a future Prime Minister of Ceylon - Thomian, Dudley Senanayake clean bowled for 06 runs.

In the jubilee Royal-Thomian (50th encounter) played on 14 and 15th March 1929, Jayawickrema scored 32, (run out), and in the second innings collected 17. In bowling, he had a match bag of 2 for 58. In this Jubilee Match Thomian Dudley Senanayake scored 32 and 14 runs respectively.

Playing in the 51 Royal-Thomian, - Royal scored 346 for 8 with D.B. Gunasekera scoring 148 and R. Jeganathan as a batsman No. 8 scored 92. Thomians scored 137 and 142. Jayawickrema scored nought (0). His wicket was captured by Robert (Dudley's brother).

He captained Royal. His team won by an innings and 67 runs. Further, Jayawickrema had a match bag of 5 for 55 runs. Royal was captained by S.S. Jayawickrame and Thomians by Robert Senanayake, Dudley's younger brother, who was later a fine cricket administrator.

After leaving school, Sargo joined Sinhalese Sports Club. He joined as an officer attached to the Rubber Control Department in 1931. In 1932, he won cricket colours representing Ceylon cricket team and against India, scored a brilliant 130. Against Bengal Cricket Association XI, Sargo scored 132. In ceylon club circuit, his highest score was 238, against Bloomfield.

Un assuming soft spoken, kind-hearted gentleman S.S. Jayawickreama, played with the best of best cricketers in the 1940s. His close friend and associate, Col. F.C. De Saram, considered "Sargo" as a Role model' to all cricketers.

Col. F.C. De Saram, playing for a county in England in 1930s, thrashed the mighty Australian Test Team to the tune of 148. BBC interviewed F.C. De Saram, who hailed from an unknown country to Englishmen and Australian when he scored a brilliant power-packed 148.

In the interview, Col. F.C. De Saram mentioned "In Ceylon, we have brilliant batting artists. There is a right hand batsman, a complete cricketer, by the name of Sargo Jeyewickrema. If he played against this Australian side, they would have learned some finer points in the art of batting.

I am just an ordinary batsman comparing to my club mate Sargo Jayawickrema. This was the biggest compliment paid for this great cricketer. I came from no lesser person than Col. F.C. De Saram, another cricketing genius. Sargo Jayawickrama in his career scored fifty six (56) centuries. He possessed a charming, majestic personality. In late 1930s, he had the proud distinction of captaining Ceylon.

Sargo Jayawickrama was a fine human being. He used to wear a "Khaki Thoppiya", which a thin strap while batting. There were no helmets those days.

My cricket coach at Nalanda, Gerry Gooneratne, a contemporary of Sargo Jayawickrema, once told me an interesting strory about Sargo. "Epasinghe, once Sargo was hit by Indian fast bowler Mohammad Nizar, in India in the first ball he faced. He fell. He got up. He hammered Nizar for a towering six and four hits to the ropes in turn over. He was one of the finest and brilliant fearless batsmen that I have seen. To bat with Sargo was an education," stated Gerry Gooneratne.

This legendary cricketer Sargo Jayawickrema, captained SSC and Ceylon. He played against MCC, Australia, India and Pakistan.

For the great services he rendered to cricket, Sargo Jayawickrema was awarded MBE member of the British Empire, a rare honour for a Sri Lankan. Although, he played against a future Prime Minister, he remained a simple, unassuming man. He moved with the highest in the land as well as ordinary people alike. This great gentleman par excellence Sargo Jayawickema, was a dutiful husband and a loving father. They had two lovable daughters. Three of his nephews played cricket. He passed away on 15th February 1953.


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