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Old 06-10-13, 10:43 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Anura Tennekoon - the most prolific scorer in pre-Test era

Anura Tennekoon - the most prolific scorer in pre-Test era

by A.C. de Silva

Former Sri Lanka skipper Anura Tennekoon was full of praise for the Sunday Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show which is eagerly looked forward to by schoolboys and supporters alike.

Anura Tennekoon won the coveted award in 1964 at a time there were no sponsors for shows. The competition then was conducted by the Ceylon Daily News and Tennekoon won the award for his fine batting displays and he was very close to gaining recorgnition in playing for the Sri Lanka team.

He represented S. Thomas' from 1962 to 1966. While still at school, Tennekoon was selected to represent Sri Lanka against England under M.J.K. Smith when the English team was on their way to Australia.

Sri Lanka on that occasion was led by Michael Tissera and the match took place at the Saravanamuttu Stadium, earlier known as the Colombo Oval.

That year - 1964, Tennekoon was picked as the Ceylon Daily News Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year All-Island while Sumithra Fernando of St. Sebastian's won the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award.

Anura Tennekoon was easily the most prolific scorer for Sri Lanka in the pre-Test era. He was able to do that because of his sound technique and long powers of concentration which enabled him to bat for long periods and compile a heap of runs for his country. He was the ideal No. 3 batsman for any country to have in a Test side. Unfortunately, for Tennekoon and Sri Lanka his talents were confined to playing only unofficial Tests. By the time the country got Test status, Tennekoon had retired from the game.

The secret of Tennekoon's success as a top-order batsman was his excellent footwork which enabled him to convert good length balls into half-volleys or full tosses.

In an early interview, Tennekoon said: "To a great extent the footwork I was taught made me a successful batsman. What I feel is that if a batsman has good footwork sometimes one can convert good length deliveries into half volleys and at the same time if you move back enough, convert a good ball into a hittable balloon the back foot. Footwork to me played a major role in my batting", Tennekoon said.

Tennekoon was still a schoolboy when he was picked to represent his country against Mike Smith's MCC team in the one-day match in 1965. He batted at number 7 and remained 4 not out.

By the time Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) toured Pakistan in 1966/67 Tennekoon had moved up the batting order to become the permanent number three for his country, replacing Lasantha Rodrigo in that position. Tennekoon represented his country for 14 years and was captain for five of them. The captaincy passed on to him from Michael Tissera when Tissera was unavailable for the tour to Pakistan in 1974 due to work commitments.

The selectors retained Tennekoon as captain although Tissera was available and he went on to lead the country in the first two cricket World Cups in England in 1975 and 1979 when Sri Lanka became the first non-Test playing nation to defeat a full member country India in World Cup match and they also went on to become ICC Trophy Champions.

Tennekoon said that even in the 1975 World Cup Sri Lanka had a good game against Australia at the Oval.

Sri Lanka chased 328 runs and got up to about 276 for 4 wickets in 60 overs. Sri Lanka were going well until Sunil Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis were knocked off by Jeff Thomson. Sri Lanka came close to beat Australia, but Australia had the capability to restrict Sri Lanka.

Before coming on to club cricket and international cricket, Tennekoon was a star member of the S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia cricket team and played for five years, captaining in his final year in 1966.
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Old 17-01-17, 05:06 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Anura Tennekoon

Anura Tennekoon a luminary of cricket

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 01:00

Anura Tennekoon

I had the privilege of meeting Anura Tennekoon at the local Mecca of cricket at the Sinhalese Sports Club, recently. He was my captain when Ceylon Schools played against the All India Schools, in Colombo in the mid sixties. Anura went on to captain Sri Lanka with distinction where as I went to UK looking for greener pastures. It is interesting to note that the Indian Schools team included players in the caliber of Eknath Solkar and Surinder Amarnath who went on to represent India. Dyan Pathiravithane (a fellow scribe at present) of Ananda College also participated in that match.

Anura captained S Thomas’ Mount Lavinia in 1966 and I was the captain of Ananda the same year. I can vividly recall how the last man and I saved the day for our College. Tennekoon and Sriyantha Rajapakse, both top class spinners in school cricket those days were hell bent on breaking our partnership, but we survived in spite of the mildest form of sledging confined to words to the effect of “Oh Hell.” In that year I scored only one fifty and that too against Dharmapala Pannipitiya. In this instance against the Thomians I set my stall and it was difficult for Sriyantha and Anura to dislodge me.

This match was played at Vihara Maha Devi Park on a matting wicket in Colombo 7. The Thomians rattled us for 81 in the first innings, in reply they scored 228 for 7 wickets, Anandians scored 198 for 9, Subhash Sumanasuriya still a close friend of mine scored an elegant 51. (These scores came to me through the kind courtesy of Dr Harendra Kularatne who participated in the 1963 Ananda College cricket team.)

After saving the game for Ananda, my partner the last man and I sauntered into the pavilion, dog tired. It was a hot day and we were itching to quench our thirst with water, but to our surprise we were confronted with a couple of crates of beer which was smuggled into the dressing room by some enthusiastic old boys. Our glee was short lived because our coach at that time All Ceylon cricketer, dashing Dhanasiri Weerasinghe made a quickstep to the proceedings and one of our reserves who was clean as a whistle, was given the task of emptying them one by one to a gutter next to the pavilion. The enthusiastic members of our team who were used to the brown coloured frothy liquid even at that tender age were naturally crestfallen. Three cheers were raised by the two teams after the match, with the aroma of beer emanating from the gutter nearby which everybody in the dressing room could whiff but no action could be taken. The aftermath of the proceedings was to leave Anura and Co gnashing their teeth with frustration causing their Thomian grit to end up in dust.

As a schoolboy in 1965 Anura was selected to play for Ceylon against Mike Smith’s Englishmen in a whistle stop game in Colombo. His latent talent was spotted by none other than the late D.D. Jayasinghe. From then on he went on to adorn Sri Lanka cricket, not only as a brilliant batsman, whose on driving to me was on par with Peter May, but also as the manager of the Sri Lanka Test team till recently. If Anura Tennekoon was born a few decades earlier we would have had the equivalent of Sunil Gavaskar in our Test team. His technique was water tight. He mentioned to me that he preferred to play more on the onside, thereby cutting the risk of opening the face of the bat and being vulnerable in edging towards the slips. Budding young batsmen who are up against it in South Africa at present should make a note of this

Anura had the good fortune of facing the ”crème de la crème” of the Indian spinners of his era, the likes of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan. In comparison Anura stated that Bedi was the best out of the lot, his action was fluid, to watch him approach the wicket and roll that arm over was a sublime experience stated Anura. He recalled that Prasanna gets the mantle of being the craftiest off spinner he had faced, due to his subtle variation of flight and spin. I can recall that Prasanna could let the ball hang in the air due to the top spin he imparts to it so that the ball dips and drops about a foot shorter than the batsman expect it. Anura recalls that Venkat used his height to get bounce and was also a prodigious spinner of the ball. As regards Chandrasekhar, Tennekoon was of the opinion that he was freakish and temperamental.

If we had a batsman of the caliber of Anura Tennekoon and of course Kumar Sangakkara, it would have been a different ball game in South Africa where we were whitewashed in the Test series. This harrowing experience will serve us as a good learning curve for the talented young batsmen from whom much is expected in the future. As for the pace bowlers they have been toe to toe with their South African counterparts, which is commendable.

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