“If you are not convinced of this man’s guilt, still more, if you are convinced of his innocence, the verdict is ‘not guilty’. In which event it will be your duty, and I am sure your pleasure to bring back a verdict, which will set this man free after so long a period of incarceration. [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Satha – A Cricket Legend


“If you are not convinced of this man’s guilt, still more, if you are convinced of his innocence, the verdict is ‘not guilty’. In which event it will be your duty, and I am sure your pleasure to bring back a verdict, which will set this man free after so long a period of incarceration. Let us hope that at any rate if your verdict is in his favour that his long lonely hours have helped him to realize that the folly of his ways has led to so much unhappiness to so many others, and let him remember his obligation to the dead and to the children who for twenty months have had neither a father nor a mother. But if he is guilty that is the end of the case. Will you please retire and consider your verdict?” concluded Justice E.F.N. Gratiaen in his address to the Jury in the Sathasivam murder case on 26th June 1953.

Garfield Sobers presents the miniature bat to Sathasivam in Colombo

The Jury deliberated for 64 minutes and brought a unanimous verdict that Mahadeva Sathasivam was not guilty.

Addressing Mr. Sathasivam, Justice Gratiaen said, “On the verdict brought by the jury you have been found not guilty. You are now free”

Mr. Mahadeva Sathasivam then walked out of the dock a free man, ending the agony of spending twenty months in remand prison, for a crime he did not commit.

Mr. Sathasivam and his counsel Dr. Colvin R. de Silva were mobbed by the large crowd which burst into applause as they entered the car to drive to No.7, St, Alban’s Place, the residence of Mr. Sathasivam where his mother and four children awaited him. This was the house he left at 10.30 a.m., 20 months ago, when his wife was still alive!

Interviewed by a media reporter at his residence, Sathasivam said that he would be the happiest man to see the murderer of his wife brought to justice. “My immediate concern is to see to the welfare and education of my children. I would once again turn my attention to cricket,” said Sathasivam.

Mahadeva Sathasivam was such a popular cricketer, Keith Miller, a former Australian test cricketer, visited him in the remand prison on 30th March 1953. It was rumoured that Frank Worrell, a former West Indian cricket captain, later Sir Frank Worrell, has sent a cable to Mr. Sathasivam to hire the best lawyers for his case and he will pay.

Sathasivam first played cricket for Wesley College at the age of 15 years. He produced several sizzling innings for the school. His last season for Wesley in 1936 was by far his best and most magnificent, when he terminated the season with a classic 145 against St. Thomas’ at Mt. Lavinia. Rarely have schoolboy batsmen had the privilege of notching a century in the windswept grounds of Mt. Lavinia.

He was a stylish right handed batsmen and a maestro of the willow. He cut, drove, and pulled with extreme power and his best shot was the late cut with the flashing blade. Sathasivam was also a right arm bowler of no mean ability. When the better known bowlers could not get a batsman out, they always called upon Sathasivam to get rid of him – and he did. After leaving school, he represented and captained the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club.

Sathasivam first played for Ceylon in 1945 scoring a glorious 111 runs against India. Sathasivam holds the ground record at Chepauk, the home ground of the Madras Cricket Club, where several Test matches have also been played. Playing against an Indian XI, which comprised M.J. Gopalan, Ram Singh and fast bowler Rangachari, all of whom were Test cricketers at the time, he made a brilliant 215 surpassing West Indian Jeff Stollmeyer’s 211 to set the record which still stands.

In 1948 he captained Sri Lanka against Don Bradman’s Australia.

His best and last century in the island was in 1955 for the Rest against Government Services in the CCA quadrangular tournament at the NCC grounds.

Sathasivam migrated to Malaysia in 1958. In 1959, the legendary ‘Satha’, as he was affectionately known, had the unique distinction of captaining two countries in cricket. He captained Malaysia, when an All Malaysian team played against legendary Don Bradman’s Australians in Singapore. This was the first and perhaps the only occasion that any cricketer has led two countries at cricket. Even in Malaysia, playing for Selangor, Sathasivam scored 106 runs.

Sathasivam scored 44 centuries and 4 double centuries and also had 12 scores of over 150. He was made an Honorary Member of the Marleybourne Cricket Club (M.C.C.) for unstinted services and devotion to cricket.

Worrell considered Sathasivam “the best batsman he had ever seen.” When another West Indian captain and batting record holder Garfield Sobers was on his way to Australia to play Sheffield Shield competition cricket for South Australia in mid sixties, Worrell had written to Sathasivam requesting him to look after Sobers when he touched down at Colombo for the day. Sathasivam met him in the cabin of his ship.

Sobers said, “I have a present from you from skipper Frank Worrell” and delved to his bag and took a miniature bat autographed by the victorious West Indian team, who created history against England the previous summer. Tears poured down from Sathasivam’s eyes. He said, “Gary this is the greatest tribute paid to me by any cricketer and I will treasure this miniature as one of my best souvenirs.”
Mahadeva Sathasivam, one of the finest cricketers ever produced by Ceylon, passed away on 9th July 1977 after suffering a heart attack, at the age of 61 years.

(Excerpts from the books “A Murder in Ceylon – the Sathasivam Case” and “Sathasivam of Ceylon – the Batting

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