To write about Sri Lanka is always a pleasurable excersise. My Association dates back to 1954-55, when Mr V Pattabhiraman Bar at Law, and an itenerant Manager TNCA landed us in Colombo, after a train journey and boat trip at Pamban. It was then a colony under the British. Mr P Saravana Muthu President of CCA and Adminisytator Tamil Union, was the Chief Architect in forcing people to sit up and exclaim” Who is this Sathasiwam? And who is the bowler Sathi Coomarasami, who is quicker than our own Jayawickrame.
M Sathasiwam was their most Prolific batsman in the Walter Hammond Mould. He had quite a few tons against International sides. Sathi was a genuine quickie, comparable to our Amar Singh and had outstanding success against the visiting teams.
Sara oval was very famous for his lightening quick wickets!! Ironically it was nurtured by two women from Tamilnadu, Gowramma from Tuticorin and Salakka from Cape Comorin. The grass was akin to Australian Turf and thickly distributed. Since I made quite a few trips to Ceylon, I was well acquatined with the Curators, who used to part with the conditionof the wicket.
Salakka used to chide me saying “Ayya Neenga Andha Vellaiyana aada mattenga?The Veliyan she meant was John Arenhold, who played for S Africa and now a planter in Nuwarelia.
Prior to the Australian team in South Ampton, they docked at Colombo, for a match against all Ceylon XI. It was here in 1948, Sir Donald Bradman refused to disembark and stayed put in the ship S S NAUTILUS.
It was here once Jim Haker exclaimed “Holy Christ !! I can bowl like Fred Trueman Mostly the wickets were green tops with bounce and speed. It contributed to the islands” production of fast bowlers like Jayawickrame, Asanthademel, Chaminda Vaas Malinga and others. They had batsman of international class in Sathasivam, Stanley Jayasinghe, Tennekoon, Sangakara, Jayasuriya and Arvind Desilva, besides others.
They had similar wickets in their up countries, Peradenia, Radella and Talawakale. Murali who was born in Kandy, and a tamil was their record holder for maximum number of test wickets. The limited population consisted of Sinhalese, Muslims, Burgers and Tamils. Ivees Gunasekara, Vernonprins, Mike Tissera and Marvan Atapattu were burgers. While Tamils were few, Sinhalese were good in numbers in representative cricket.
The Ceylonese were free stroking batsmen, and had few short comings. Their bowling was nothing extraordinary till they found Vaas, Malinga, Muralidharan and Gamini Gunasena.
They were a very friendly nation with plenty of imported items like Cars, Perfumes, Textiles and Sports goods at affordable prices. Indian currency Rs 100/- was valued at Rs 160/- Ceylon currency during the early 50s.This was because of the stability and convertability of Indian rupee which almost all the Shops exchanged apart from the Money Changers.
Their main revenue was from Tea Plantation, Rubber, Gems and Tourisim. Tourism had plenty to offer. Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Galle, Kandy, Peradenia were world renowned Heritage Centres and Buddhist relics. Gautama the Buddhas Tooth was enshrined in Kandy and was known as the “Temple of Tooth”
As long as Gopalan Trophy existed Tamilnadu (Madras Then) and Ceylon were on excellent terms both by way of trade practises and as model neighbours. Credit goes to Mr V Pattabiraman and Mr P Saravanamuthufor giving an alliance towards prosperity and comercial growth. Sarees, Coffee powder, Cricket Goods from india weere hot buys in Ceylon. We used to carry them as gifts to our various close friends.
Despite the upheavels Sri Lanka nee Ceylon still remains the worlds favourite haunt.