Ironically my first association with Shan was not as a team mate but as an opponent in 1983. Called in by Kandy Sports Club at the end of the school season to take on newly crowned ‘A’ Division champions CH&FC in the knockout tournament at Nittawela, where as a naïve schoolboy I was told my [...]


Shan: Legend to most, dear brother to me


Chandrishan Perera

Ironically my first association with Shan was not as a team mate but as an opponent in 1983.

Called in by Kandy Sports Club at the end of the school season to take on newly crowned ‘A’ Division champions CH&FC in the knockout tournament at Nittawela, where as a naïve schoolboy I was told my task was partly to ‘take care’ of Shan Perera head on, in order to not provide him any space, not realising there weren’t many takers at Kandy who wanted that job. I can’t remember how many times I ‘took him on’ that wet muddy evening but Kandy ended CHs campaign that evening for the double.

Not too long after that, I found myself playing in between Simon Hunter and Shan Perera at CH; a baptism into the big league that young rookie players could only dream of. The opportunity although not fully appreciated at the time because it was ‘normalised’ and not seen as me playing with legends, without a doubt, accelerated my progress as a player and shaped me into the player I went on to be.

Shan from thereon was an integral part of my life as a fellow team mate, mentor and big brother; a friendship that went into its fourth decade at the time of his passing. The last few years of his life were hard on Shan; and to us his band of brothers, it was difficult to watch this colossus of a man reduced to the condition his illness had taken him; but Shan fought it without complaint, with his usual inimitable nonchalant style which reflects on the man he was.

But his final years are not what I will remember of Shan. It will only ever be over a decade of watching his prowess on the field at Maitland Crescent, the years playing for our country, and  the simple human being he was, irrespective of his super star status. I saw all of this from the best seat in the house literally right next to him on the field.

It might not be known that Shan originally never picked CH as the default team to play for on his return from the UK in the very late 70s. When looking for a club to play for he was directed to Havelocks, and by a simple twist of fate the cab driver on being asked to take him to the Park Club, mistakenly dropped him off at the steps of the Crescent Club. And as they say the rest is history.

Shan went onto become a legend of the game but his talent was not limited to his abilities with the oval shaped ball. Shan opened the bowling in first class cricket for a few seasons as well in Sri Lanka and without a day’s proper athletic training turned up for the nationals and came second in the 100 metres losing only to the national sprint record holder at the time.

Shan was never ambitious for himself, be it anything he did in his life. If he was, I am certain he could well have been a triple international for Sri Lanka with the uncanny talent he possessed.

Shan was also not conventional. His legendary ‘nikan inna bari exercises’; NIBX which he aptly went onto call them were an integral part of the psyche of the CH team during the golden years at the club.

How can one forget that in the huddle before the team ran out to battle, he would call for a thumb bending exercise drill or call a highly charged testosterone tongue exercise drill which brought out the best ‘imaginary fantasies’ of the youthful boys in the team. To most, they were fun and games but Shan had the ability to relax and bring together the boys and focus us as one with these unconventional Shan centric mind games. I never failed a wry smile many moons later when I saw him working as a professional trainer when I passed the club and saw him take many through their paces in the scotching hot sun.

Shan was also a gentle giant. I don’t think I have ever seen Shan lose his temper or get excessively agitated on the field let alone off it. If a team mate irritated him or took the mickey out of him, his most irate response would be ‘umbe amma kalu da’. An irony not lost by the fact, that to the boys at CH he was our ‘kalu sudda’. Not many understood him in the team and that I would more often than not have to interpret what he said to some of the boys especially to the front five ones. How many times would I have heard him say ‘Abee’, which he called me all through our association ‘tell those idiot props’ what I said.

A gentle giant story I learned the hard way was when we took on Havelocks in a President’s Trophy game. After an altercation I had with Salu Salu, he chased me around the park to knock my head in. Shan being the strongest and best physical specimen in the team, I ran next to him with the assurance he would protect me; but Shan in his laid back way whistled and said ‘Abee, just keep running’……it did not end well for me.

There are many stories about Shan. They are countless and go far beyond the legend he was to all who loved and supported him for the player he was. To us at the club, he was a big brother and to me he was literally that, not withstanding that, to many who did not know better, thought we were brothers, as they saw an uncanny resemblance in our appearance.

Shan will live forever among his band of brothers at CH. He is one of the greatest who ever walked the hallowed rugby fields of Sri Lanka, but to us he is far more than that. He is one of the nicest and most simple guys you would ever meet and know. He was a good friend. He was a brother.

To plagiarise Pepper Potts words to Tony Stark in Marvels End Game.

“Shan; you can rest now”.

Rohan Abeykoon


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