Date Month 1997

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Darrel, a distinguished double international

By M.H.M. Manasique

Only a few sportsmen can claim simulta- neous reputation in two sports. A sports- man of such a double distinction was Darrel Wimalaratne who as a cricketer and ruggerite was a dominant figure in the local sporting arena during mid sixties.

A fine all-rounder and a sturdy centre three-quarter, he formed the nucleus of the teams he played for and went on to captain or deputised cricket and rugby teams at both college and club levels.

A mundane personality, in the early fifties he looks fit as ever possessing all the fine qualities a good sportsman should bear. Smart, gentle and moderate in height, he seems to be in great shape - the secret being a daily dose of physical fitness. A product of St. Peter's College Bambalapitiya, he took up to sports and ended-up as a star player during his time. However, a knee injury in the 1972 Clifford Cup Final between Army and CH&FC brought an abrupt end to his sporting career. He underwent a three and a half hour operation to shape his shifted knee cap. Since then little has been heard of him.

Recently, however, he has been called upon to coach the Tamil Union cricket team. This assignment came after he passed the senior Level-II Coaching Examination in Australia. It was an examination for professional coaching and to qualify a test of skill and stamina are scrutinised. Darrel was the only expatriate to get through this exam which was conducted by the Australian Cricket Board. With only two months into the new job, he is now the head coach for the Tamil Union.

The administrators are so convinced of his dedication that they are even contemplating of setting up a Junior Coaching school. The path to cricket coaching began during school in 1989. He believes in cutting the coat according to the clothes that he has. He has followed an identical policy in real life situations too.

He has derived immense satisfaction in guiding budding cricketers at Bambalapitiya who have been winning the limited over games for five consecutive years against their big match rivals St. Joseph's thus giving the Peterites the much needed morale to remain unbeaten for four continuous years. Blaming the deteriorating standard at club level to the switching of key players from one club to another in search of greener pastures by means of employment and other fringe benefits, he emphasizes the urgent need to redress the imbalance.

Here he suggests offering incentives by way of gifts and rewards to individual achievements by the club administrators so as to maintain a competing standard amongst clubs as in foreign countries. In his opinion in order to sustain the current status at international level needs a highly concentrated plan. With the popularity of the game hitting the peak it is time the authorities developed a back-up system, which will enable to harness the talent of young cricketers with a view of feeding the national pool under competent coach who has had some foreign exposure. He rates only Duleep Mendis and Arjuna Ranatunga of possessing such credentials.

He emphasises foreign exposure is based on the extensive international exposure acquired in his job where as the Materials Manager at Eveready Batteries Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., he had attended many seminars and workshops during his 23 years of service. With a firm belief that one should put extra work to achieve one's ambition he might switch to full time coaching where the prospects in cricket is brighter than ever in Sri Lanka. He assured that he will guide and teach everything he knows to any youngster who seeks his assistance. Born with an elder brother his parents led an ordinary life with encouragement coming only from the mother.

Pretty Glanis was attracted to Darrel after being introduced by a friend. They married after five years of courtship. Extending the all needed co-operation they are leading a peaceful life. Blessed with two daughters Shihara and Denise both tried their hands in sports at school level excelling in swimming and athletics. The former is employed at George Steuarts Travels. Darrel's enthusiasm to sports began at the age of 12 years. His popularity rose high in rugby than in cricket though he regrets his inability to have allocated the time accordingly. Having won the St. Peter's Sportsman of the Year award in 1966 for having captained both senior rugby and cricket teams in consecutive years, he was invited by European patrons at the Maitland Cresent Club in a bid to boost up their stakes for the local plum. His presence in the Club was full of colour as he was able to outshine the cream of European presence.

Starting off with cricket under the expertise of Dr. H.I.K Fernando, he played in all age groups until he was given the rein to lead the team in 1966 as a fourth year coloursman. The most memorable moment, he recalls in school cricket, was helping his team win their big match in 1964 against St. Joseph's.

Set a victory target of 98 runs in 40 minutes where mandatory overs were not in the rule book those days, he gave a flying start hitting a six in the very first ball of the innings. Scoring a quick 38 he was more than glad to see his team coast to an eight wickets victory at a time when cricket was played for only one and half days.

His fielding too contributed for the victory. A specialist cover fielder he was also a regular contender for the Best Fielder's award in schools competitions. He represented the Ceylon Schools in their match against the Indian Schoolboys and later, played for Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) for five successive years where he was deputy skipper of the side.

Some of the cricketers he has played with were Tony Opatha, Abu Fuard, Brian Obeyesekera, Kanthi Johnpulle and Don Piachaud to name a few. Possessing challenging qualities, rugby became a more favourite game for him. Learning the basics from Archibald Pereira, he swung into the game at 2nd XV level as a fly half. After captaining the side in 1965 as a third year coloursman, he was an obvious choice for Colombo Schools, Combined Schools and Ceylon Schools teams. Engraving his name further, he was soon in action as centre three-quarter for CH&FC, thus becoming only the third Sri Lanka and the first Peterite to represent the elite club. He was also Low Country player for the Capper Cup.

A daring runner, able to sludge amongst the forwards, he was a fearless tackler bringing down some famous personalities in rugby but he had also been a regular try scorer for his club which has always been memorable for him.

He has also pitted his great skills against teams like England, Japan, Paris University, Zambia and London Welsh when playing for the Ceylon Rugby Football Union. Speaking of current standards, he said it is in the curve of improving, especially with foreign participation. Although the standard was very high those days, which he attributed to spectator participation, which was very high he claimed, though the drop may be due to the high gate fee charged, he commented. Add to the woes now plus the travelling inconvenience which is deterring spectator interest.

He further explained, as players they never waited to practice with a group or a team together but did their own individual work-outs, so that they were able to be in top form. Darrel's competence coupled with sportsmanship, courage and management strategies can weigh in lot of influence in an area of sports administration or technical expertise which is badly lacking in the country.

Talented cricketers in Batticaloa

By Bhahi Sampanthan

The annual Pepsi Cup'97 cricket tournament, organised by the Leo Club of Batticaloa, was recently concluded successfully. The eight over contest saw the participation of several Inter-Government and N.G.O firms, consisting of nine players in every team.

Batticaloa, a city in the Eastern coast, is usually not associated with a major sporting event of this magnitude. With the regular threat of terrorism, sporting authorities are compelled to keep a low profile. The initiative of this 'youth' body will go a long way in triggering the cricket interest in the war-torn city.

In a telephone interview with the Sunday Times, Mr. S. Vijayapala elaborated on some pertinent matters. He said that the club is working very hard to serve the needy in Batticaloa, with the help of some committed youths. " We came into existence to provide service to the people. This means, regular visits to places to donate goods to the needy and to provide the broken-hearted with some consolation.

Mr. Vijayapala commended Pepsi Ltd for giving them Rs.12, 000 for organising this event, with free drinks for all. He said that such a gesture helps in bettering the sports and social network in Batticaloa.

When asked to comment on the threat of terrorism in the East, he said, " The threat of terrorism is not really a problem here, compared to the North. Both the warring sides control the city, but currently it is under the military authorities. However, when it comes to cricket, everyone is happy. Most of them forget their communal identities".

Mr. Vijayapala said that the Batticaloa district has a lot of talented sportsmen and women, but because of the war, they are unable to pursue it. " It is a fact that some of our school cricketers are stronger than their Colombo counterparts, but for them to clash regularly is not possible, due to the transport problems".

In his final message, Mr. Vijayapala urged the warring sides to compromise to end the conflict, which is inflicting a lot of despair among the people of the Eastern province.

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