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Old 19-02-12, 08:01 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Appreciation - Nalendra Abeysuriya – A tribute to an outstanding sportsman

Appreciation - Nalendra Abeysuriya –
A tribute to an outstanding sportsman

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:50

Nalendra hailed from the deep south where his father was a successful and respected General Practitioner in Galle. He started schooling in St Thomas’ Preparatory School in Kollupitiya with the hope of attending S. Thomas Mt Lavinia like his two elder brothers. His brothers distinguished themselves as academics one becoming a Crown Counsel and the other an eminent Neurosurgeon. Nalendra preferred sports to academia. By a quirk of fate he joined Wesley College and started as a boarder in 1953.

His talent for sport, in particular football and cricket, soon became apparent and the school encouraged him. He was the finest all round sportsman at Wesley in the 1950’s since Louis Adhihetty. With his fine competitive spirit and superlative hand eye coordination very soon he was selected to play cricket, soccer, rugby, tennis and hockey. Nalendra went on to represent Wesley College and win his school colours in all five sports.

During those years Nalendra had a high profile and where ever he went he was recognised to the point of adulation. It was a token of the respect and affection all Wesleyites had for him. Despite his immense popularity he was soft spoken and kind and his modesty shone through. In those glorious years his charisma and his sporting prowess captured the hearts of all Wesleyites, young and old.

Nalendra was ambidextrous, a great asset for any cricketer. He bowled and threw the ball with his right arm and batted as a left hander. The peak of his achievement was captaining the school 1st XI cricket in 1958 and 59. He was a valuable and adaptable batsman with strong forearms and hit the ball with great power. Being an instinctive cricketer his record as a all rounder was impressive. Primarily an attacking batsman Nalendra was undaunted by the state of the match or the quality of the attack. There were times he lacked the determination to bat on to a big score and seemed to lose his wicket in his 50's. He was a fine medium pace bowler with enough swing and turn to surprise even the best of batsmen. His best figures were in 1958: 6 for 53 Vs Ananda, 5 for 43 VS Prince of WaIes , in 1959: 5 for 39 Vs Richmond and 5 for 65 Vs St. Thomas’. He could field in any position. Nalendra was a fine fielder with a good throwing arm and never gave up the chase to the boundary.

He remained an inspirational captain and was largely responsible for the success the school enjoyed when he was the leader. Nalendra's cricket epitomised the best traditions of the school game. Not simply the breathtaking power and technical excellence of his batsmanship, but also the way he conducted himself, both as a cricketer and as captain of Wesley.

Nalendra was a part of the immensely successful soccer team coached by Neville D. Abeygunawardene in the 1950s. He was a skilful, athletic and versatile winger. His fast and furious runs along the sidelines and accurate crosses gave the forwards many scoring opportunities. He was elegant and confident in possession. As an exceptional header of the ball he had a healthy knack for scoring goals. Neville Abeygunawardene paid a glowing tribute to his match winning teams of 1958 and 59: " Let me add a few words of appreciation to every member of the senior and the junior teams, of that period who excelled in the sport and brought honour to their Alma Mater. Lou Adhihetty, Gunasekera, Wimal Goonetilleke, Upali Samararatne, who skippered the "Double Blues" then, were excellent in leadership, apart from their individual performance. I may hasten to say the O.K. Hemachandra, now Deputy Inspector General of Police, Michael Fernando, Upali Samararatne, Nalendra Abeysooriya, Terrence Goonawardene, Rajah Athukorale. Samidon, Razark, and Lou Adhihetty could have donned National jersey, if only if they had pursued with the sport. In Hemachandra there was a very crafty player whose mid-field manoeuvres were.' the base of the team's success. Upali Samararatna's dare and dash and Terrence Gunawardene'.s safe hands were no mean contribution to the glory of Wesley Soccer. The sheer speed and control of Abeysooriya in the wings, and the deft and droit foot work of Michael Fernando, Samidon, Rajah Authukorale, to name a few were a delight to watch. These were then the days when the "Double Blues" bloomed and blossomed at Soccer!" There can be no greater tribute to this fine team.

He was trusted by his teachers to uphold the rules and laws of the school. He was made a Prefect for his services to sports at Wesley College. Nalendra carried out its onerous tasks without fear or favour and with great sensitivity and earned the respect of fellow sudents.

As a student he was one of us and joined in the mischief, fun and laughter which was ever present in school and also in the boarding. What struck me most about Nalendra was his tremendous enthusiasm for life as a student. He was wonderful company, indefatigable, modest and touchingly brave. He left school after the GCE O' Levels to become a professional upcountry planter after which our paths never crossed. His move to Dickoya removed his chance of playing for a high profile cricket club in Colombo and perhaps also to play for his country. He remained a successful planter and a popular figure in the profession for several years. His lifestyle took its toll and his health suffered irreparably. I was deeply saddened to hear Nalendra passed away at the young age of 44 years in October 1983. His sudden and unexpected departure was a great shock to his many friends and a grievous blow to his young family.

Nalendra was happy in his marriage to a beautiful and gifted lady. To him, the family was a source of the greatest happiness and pride. His son and daughter and their welfare meant much to him. He was wonderful company, a marvelous friend and a magnificent person. Polite, courteous and well mannered he had none of those negative aspects we sometimes associate with sportsmen. He was a great sportsman in the true sense of the word.

He made many friends in his short but eventful life and created an unprecedented impact on those who came into contact with him. Nalendra was a genuine and honest person with a terrific sense of loyalty. We will miss his mischievous pranks, cheeky grin, kind ways and warm friendly smile. He will continue to live in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.

As we say for cricketers - May the turf lay lightly on him.

-Dr. Nihal D Amerasekera
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