always went out of his way to help others
By Bernie Wijesekera
Sri Lanka cricket loses another of its finest gentlman cricketers,
from our midst with the passing away of former All Ceylon cricketer
Gerry Gooneratne. Gooneratne, one of the finest products to hail
from St. Joseph's College, Darley Road was a complete cricketer
on and off the field and thrilled the fans at home and abroad.
It was only
recently that Sri Lanka lost a Prince among cricketers - old Thomian
and former Sri Lanka and NCC captain Vernon Prins. Close on his
heels was mild-mannered Gerry, the elegant left-handed batsman,
a wily left-arm spinner and a billiant close-in fielder. He played
for the SSC and later for Saracens and did much for the Rifle Green
Club's uplift. He even got some of his talented pupils from Nalanda
to play for Saracens.
I came to know
Gerry when he took over coaching Nalanda in 1947 and moulded the
players to be a complete outfit. There were some vociferous cricketers
who came under his tutelege (with natural talent) apparently some
of them not knowing that "first a gentleman and then a cricketer".
With his charming ways soft-spoken Gerry nattily dressed, taught
the skills by example. No harsh words. He treated them all alike.
He played with the likes of F.C. de Saram, C.I. Gunasekera, Hector
Perera, Bertie Wijesinghe and Ben Navaratne etc., for the SSC and
later for the country was itself an achievement.
The likes of
Stanley Jayasinghe, the Obeysekera twins, Ashley de Silva, Amarasiri
Gunasena, Nihal Ameradasa, Chandrasiri Weerasinghe, Lincoln Perera
etc., went places and climbed the cricketing ladder. But no will
deny that his best product was left-hander Sarath Silva, whom he
groomed at the age of 14 to play for Nalanda.
St. Joseph's , but taking over Nalanda coaching from 1947-82 - for
35 years and serving in a Buddhist institution - itself an achievement.
He possessed loving kindness and compassion. Mr. Gooneratne was
too well for his human qualities. He always went out of his way
to help others in their hour of need - which included job opportunities.
As a coach
he never went hell bent for material gains, but served the game
for the right reasons. He was there at Premasara Epasinghe's launching
of the book on Bradman (in Sinhala). Minister for Irrigation Jayawickrema
Perera, one of his pupils paid a glowing tribute to late Gooneratne
who moulded him like his father on and off the field..
Today if he
is something Jaya said, thanks to cricket and Gerry's training.
He firmly believed that via sport one could bring about reconciliation.
It was during his era that Nalanda even went to the extent of playing
cricket in Jaffna. Amiable Gerry believed in this saying, "God's
gift to you is life. What you do with it is your gift to God".
Malice to none. Lived a life of simplicity until his last breath,
for his two sons to emulate.
took place yesterday (last morning) at the Borella General Cemetery
before a large gathering to give a fitting farewell to a gentleman
cricketer. A two-minute silence was observed on Thursday (September
25) before the Old Nalandians Past Cricketers Association media
contab as a mark of respect to a legendary coach, who even handled
the national team. May he attain Nibbana.