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10th October 1999

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Cup final, a sell-out

Continued from last week

The Cup Final was a sell-out and the tickets were sold out days ahead of the Cup Finals and ticket hunters were scrambling for tickets at the Rugby Union Office. Even C.P. de Silva who was then a Minister in the Dudley Senanayake Government sent word to me through his nephew and Security Officer R.S. de Silva who later died in an accident while he was S.S.P. in-charge of Nuwara-Eliya for tickets and with the greatest difficulty I was able to get him two tickets. Some of the Police players too were hunting for extra tickets for their relations and friends and even on the day of the match they were seen loitering at Longdon Place till late in the afternoon trying to get tickets which our coach Summa Navaratnam attributed to the outcome of the match among other reasons.

The Police team was invited by the l.G.P. Aleric Abeygoonawardena to his office at Police Headquarters and congratulated on their entering the Cup Finals wished and advised them to play the game well with no fouling around which the Police players adhered to. A Police well-wisher wrote the following poem to the police captain with copies to the coach and the players.

If you can play though odds are 'against you
And fight your hardest - tooth and nail,
Though your opponents' reputation
Does make your hearts to wilt and quail:
If you will play with grim tenacity
And never tire or ever flinch,
You'll neutralise the Havies' strategy,
And Clifford Cup you then can clinch:
If you remember Herbert Dowbiggin,
A Pukha Sahib though he was,
Who made the Force all "spit and polish"
And feared by law defying thugs:
If you determine Rugby foot-ball
Is won by those who play it hard,
And not relax one single moment,
Then Champs you'll be, I'll bet - by Gad:
If you let down your sympathisers
By letting go a chance in hand,
Then get the team of ruddy perishers
To march away to Police Band:
But you must win - for rugby's future:
The Cup should pass from team to team,
And so ensure this special feature -
All players will be our Rugger Cream:
A well-wisher
"Never Flinch, Never Weary, Never Despair"
Sir Winston Churchill.

On the day of the Cup Final, Longden Place was overspilling with humanity and there was a tense atmosphere as everyone was apprehensive of what was in store and who was going to win. Minutes before the match started we had the good news that 'Pathol' Chandradasa who had been doing yeoman service to the Police rugger team as a lineout specialist has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant by the I.G.P. in appreciation of his services even though he was not playing in the Cup Finals.

The Cup Finals began with Police taking the field on a confident note with their power house rugby and fierce tackling against an orthodox Havelocks. The Police started off with a flourish and surprised everyone when they earned a penalty within the first five minutes of the game. Police full back Sourjah placed the ball 45 metres out and when about to kick the ball rolled over due to the windy conditions on the field. He replaced the ball and when about to kick the ball again rolled over due to the wind. When he went to place the ball again which in all would have been a few seconds the referee Bertie Dias 'confiscated' the kick by looking at his watch and awarding a scrum to the surprise of everyone which had a demoralising effect on the Police team and their supporters. For this act a wag in the crowd shouted to the referee "Dirty Bias". The Police felt that they were unduly deprived of an early lead by the action of the referee. But still continued to play gamely taking everything in their stride even though a chance went abegging for the Police without even trying.

The Havelocks after experiencing the early shock and ferocious opposition from the Police were determined not to make any more mistakes in their own half and managed to keep the ball mainly in the opponent's territory. Just before half time Havelock's winger Gorgi Tillekeratne scored a try off, a move that originated from a maul and full back Cholomondely Henricus converted this to take Havelocks to a 5-0 lead at half time.

During the second half Havelocks made several raids in the Police territory and the rockhard Police defence was able to stop their advances on their goal line. During the last ten minutes of the game the Police came into its own off a loose maul in the Havelock's territory and stormed into attack with the ball being passed from hand to hand of flanker Thirumani, scrum half Samath, fly half Buddhadasa, centre Majeed, and No:8 Benedict for centre Samaraweera giving in great support and collecting the ball to dive over for an excellent try. Full back Sourjah who was still suffering from shock due to his earlier kick being disallowed missed the conversion. But the Police had reduced the Havelocks lead to 5-3 and it was still anybody's game. During the dying stages of the game the Havelock's new find mop-haired fly half Glen Vanlangenberg fresh from Trinity College used his long pair of legs to outsmart the Police defence and score an unconverted try to take the Park boys to an 8-3 lead. Then Jayer Rodriguez, the Havies prop put the issue beyond doubt with a penalty for Havelocks to win the Clifford Cup with a 11-3 win and dashed the hopes of the Police from winning the Clifford Cup. The Police this season played 19 matches and only lost this last match.

Whilst I was in the dressing room with the team, in walked Major Eardly McHeyzer, the Secretary of the Rugby Union who said that Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, to whom I was providing security during this period had suddenly arrived and witnessed the match and wished to see me. I, still in my playing kit with a towelling robe over it went and met Premier Dudley Senanayake, the Prince Charming of Ceylon politics who was seated in the centre of the ground with the Mounted Police providing security, along with G.V.P. Samarasinghe, Permanent Secretary of Defence and Foreign Affairs, who too was a rugby hooker for Royal College and was affectionately called "Puttus". during his College days, Aleric Abeygoonawardena, the Inspector General Police, Dr. Willie Ratnavale, the President of the Ceylon Rugby Football Union, Rudra Rajasingham, the Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of Colombo, who was in charge of Police Rugger and the Rugby Union Commitee members and also some members of the Diplomatic community. The Premier congratulated me for the great showing and sportsmanship of the Police team and bade me to sit next to him. A.K.Doray, a member of the Union Committee wanted to know from the Prime Minister what he would like for a drink and the Prime Minister in his husky voice said that he would like a long passiona. Doray asked me what I would like and I too requested a long passiona as the Prime minister was seated by me or else it would have been a beer shandy or something stronger.

Later in the evening the Inspector General of Police, Aleric Abeygoonawardena broke away from tradition of the Senior Gazzetted Officers' Mess and invited the Police Rugger Team to drinks and dinner, as the Senior Officers' Mess which was the preserve of the ASPs and above and the Police team comprised of Sub Inspectors and constables. He also got the Senior Gazzetted Officers and their wives to line the drive from the gate to the Mess on both sides and welcome the Police team and thereafter we celebrated our epic season and our promotion to the 'A' Division. During the party Dr. Larry Foenander, the Havelocks' coach too joined us along with the referee of the match. Berty Dias, who too was well received and entertained despite his confiscation of the Police penalty at the match. All's well that ends well and the Police became one of the strongest Rugby sides in the country thereafter.

Top draw for Laffir billiards contest

By Annesley Ferreira

The Seventh M.J.M. Laffir Billiard and Snooker championships conducted by the Moors Islamic Cultural Home will be held from Wednesday October 20 to Saturday October 30, at its tables at Pasha Villa, Dematagoda Road, Colombo 9.

This tournament is held to commemorate the deeds of the world champion, the king of the Green Baize, the late Mohammed Junaid Laffir who won 32 titles in 20 years, which is regarded as one of the best performances by an Asian.

Laffir grew up at the MICH and blossomed to be Sri Lanka's only world champion in an individual event.

This tournament will coincide with the 55th year celebration of the MICH and is conducted by the Social and Recreation Committee of the MICH headed by Ansar Samsudeen, Azad Faiz, Zunair Hassan, Nilam Mansoor, Munauvir Mohideen, M.J.M. Azwer, Fareen Ghouse, with A.H. Sheikrul Jiffrey as Chief Referee.

The championships was inagurated in 1982 and also held in 1985, 88, 1990, 92, 94. Former Sri Lankan champion M.H. Raibin won the snooker title twice and Azad Faiz in 1985 and Raibin regained the title in 1988.

On all these three occasions the two who met in the finals were from MICH.

Veteran W.A.J. Weerasinghe a former national champion in billiards has the best record winning the title in 1982, 85, and 1990 while Khobala Sirisoma won this title in 1988 with M.S.U. Mohideen runner-up in 1990 from the MICH.

Adding glamour to this championships was the participation of foreign stars in M.Yoosuf of Pakistan who defeated Henry Boteju in snooker in 1990, and S.A. Saleem of India winning the title twice in 1992 and 1994 defeating M.S.M. Nauffer of the MICH, and B.V.S. Moorthy of India.

Subash Agarawal another renowned player from India won the billiard title twice in 1992 and 94 defeating K.H. Sirisoma on both occasions. Snooker will be played for the best of three frames.

Awards will be made for the snooker winner, the M.J.M. Laffir Trophy, and a cash prize of Rs. 15,000/- donated by M.J.M. Azwer while the runner-up will be presented a trophy and Rs. 7,500/- in cash presented by Shafeek Rajabdeen while the losing semi-finalists will be awarded Rs. 2,500/- in cash presented by Hussein Madani and the player with the highest break a cash award of Rs.2,500/- by M.M.M. Rizmy.

The billiards winner will be presented the M.J.M. Laffir Trophy and a cash award of Rs. 15,000/- presented by Shafeek Rajabdeen with the runners-up presented with a trophy and a cash award of Rs. 7,500/- by Rizan Faiz.

The losing semi-finalist will be given a cash award of Rs. 2,500/- presented by Hussein Madani and the player with the highest break Rs. 2,500/- by M.M.M. Rizmy.

SSC Ground, one of the best

By Bernie Wijesekera

Kevin Dale, first Chairman of the UK Indoor Cricket Foundation is now a tour organiser.

Dale is now Managing Director of National Network Travels of Australia. His speciality is organising cricket tours worldwide for those who like to witness the sport. Dale was in Sri Lanka with a group of 20 cricket fans from Australia to watch the matches between Sri Lanka and Australia, where Sri Lanka had the better of the series both on the Triangular and the Tests.

Today Dale is one of the cogs in the wheel when it comes to promoting cricket and tourism in Australia.

Dale was interviewed by The Sunday Times on the fourth day of the rain ruined Third Test at the SSC ground.

Q. You have travelled worldwide watching cricket with your tour party on many occasions and enjoying tourist attractions. Any comments about this picturesque ground?

A. This ground could be compared to any traditional ground in England. I don't think there is a better ground anywhere for getting the water away and being playable so soon after a storm. The ground staff, headed by Ranil Abeynaike, should be commended for their skills and being on the ball to make play possible in double quick time. Ironically the weather interferred to baulk their aspirations.

The crowd was very disappointing for a Test match. This was Dale's candid opinion. He has been organising cricket tours for the past 10 years, visiting 9 international Test series with the Australian team. His tour members have travelled to England, W. Indies, S. Africa regularly.

This being the second visit to Sri Lanka and the facilities afforded to them at the SSC is fantastic. The new bar undoubtedly is one of the best I've seen, he added. The dressing rooms, too are really good. Even journalist Peter Roebuk, too endorsed his views.

The Cricket Board's hospitality was very good and they afforded us with all the facilities. A 'Big Thank you' to them.

Q. What made you say that it was most disappointing with the crowd?

A. Imagine one of the best teams in the world in action.

Unlike one dayers, Test cricket is a contest of skill, tactics and patience - staying in one place for a week. This, too allows the tour members to get to know the local people and enjoy the sightseeing.

True, the games were marred by rain. But the tour members had the opportunity to meet the Test players and a greater appreciation of the players' skills when they know their personalities. This also helps bring about much understanding, Dale added.

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