An encyclopaediac history on SL cricket with warts and all

A review of Winds Behind The Willows printed in The Island on May 14th 2017

 

Foenander, watching from the Elysian fields up yonder with the likes of Neville Cardus, E. W. Swanton, C. L. R. James, Raymond Robertson-Glasgow, A. A. Thompson, Christopher Martin-Jenkins et al adorning the chimerical cricket journalists’ ‘Hall of Fame’ must be very proud of the work of Sri Lankan Ranjan Mellawa.

Almost a century ago, S. P. Foenander, referred internationally as the ‘Wisden of the East’, authored his 268-page classic tome ‘Sixty Years of Ceylon Cricket’ (Ceylon Advertising & General Publicity – 1924). That was the first book which authoritatively enlightened the cricket world about cricket and cricketers between the years 1863 to 1923, in the then fair isle of Ceylon. One must also remember that Foenander, who even rubbed shoulders with the legendary Bradman – see photo above – must have experienced the difficulties at that time in collecting/collating information and statistics and so on in compiling his book. After all, the print media at that time was not developed; TV nor Internet was not even thought of. In short sophisticated communication systems were not even in its infancy. So, the accolade of being the pioneer of cricket journalism in Ceylon falls squarely on the shoulders of the late S. P. Foenander.

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Winds Behind The Willows by Ranjan Mellawa – Must Read Cricket Book

A review of Winds Behind The Willows printed in the Ceylon Times on May 30th, 2017

The book is a must read for any cricket fan as it has broken away from the traditional story of describing a person or game and has shown us a completely different picture in cricket.

The book is a must read for any cricket fan as it has broken away from the traditional story of describing a person or game and has shown us a completely different picture in cricket. My association with Ranjan Mellawa dates back to the late 90’s when I met him as a Senior Executive of a leading bank. Even then Ranjan’s first love was cricket and he would spend countless hours discussing the subject.

However, I never knew that well his craze for the game until he joined Ragama CC and eventually became the Secretary. His passion, the craze and desire to follow and love the game of cricket is amply demonstrated in his book Winds Behind The Willows. I was fascinated to read his experience as a fan watching six World Cups and sharing the glory of Sri Lanka and its achievements in the field of cricket.

The book is a must read for any cricket fan as it has broken away from the traditional story... Click To Tweet

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Winds Behind The Willows – The Full Monty to Cricket

A review of Winds Behind The Willows printed in the Sunday Times on April 30, 2017.

A fabulous book for any cricket lover, be s/he the veteran or the greenhorn, maybe the Lord sipping lager at Lord’s or the tuk tuk driver from Chittagong. Undoubtedly, they will all enjoy this magnum opus that comes to us from a cricket lover of a rare distinction.

One has to know something about cricket to enjoy this magnificent book. Suited me ideally as I do not know much about cricket matters but like almost all Sri Lankans I too am connected umbilically to international cricket and especially when the home country is at the crease. Let me try and express my views on author Ranjan Mellawa writing a book. I can categorically state that if not the bull’s eye, he certainly has hit pretty close to it as a new author in his maiden venture on cricket journalism.

The man has managed to vagabond his way to be present at six World Cup finals. That alone gives him credentials to be somewhat an expert on the international scene from a spectator’s point of view. Ranjan has been an ardent cricket fan. He’s played too, starting with a plastic bat as a kid to rustic cricket in neighborhood tennis-ball matches. From there he graduated to club level domestic league. Hence, his story begins at grass-root level and then blossoms and spreads wild and wide taking him to the world of international cricket as a die-hard knowledgeable fan.

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A Cricket Book for the Cricket Fan

A review of Winds Behind The Willows printed in the Sunday Observer

Mellawa’s book in that sense is unique because he does not delve on cricket usually as others do. His book is all about a cricket book written for the fans by a fan.

In an age where computer technology is fast reducing the print industry to near extinction and newspapers are finding it extremely difficult to keep pace with internet and what have you, bringing out a book in print is certainly a challenging task.

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Mas Piganak Arapan (මස් පිඟානක් ඇරපන්)

Mas Piganak Arapan

Granville de Silva double-capped for Sri Lanka over a quarter century ago, basketball and cricket, concurrently.

That is the line “Barman, send him a beef plate;” it sure triggered me to punch on a think-pad an extraordinary tale connected to cricket and basketball at the National level. Here I am in Melbourne, cruising conversations of old times with old friends and out comes the repetition of a fairy tale I knew so well. Yes, as in most things in life the gems gather soot in the back-burners while irrelevant mediocrity bash in the limelight. Let me change the scoreboard.

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Wandering and Wondering in Dunedin

Endangered and elusive: Beautiful, quirky yellow-eyed penguins found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand

Endangered and elusive: Beautiful, quirky yellow-eyed penguins found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand

In the first thriller of the 2015 cricket World Cup, Afghanistan were so near to creating history but still so far, due to three missed run-outs. My cricket travel partner, Jagath and I were lucky to be there at the University Oval, Dunedin to enjoy a pulsating game of cricket, amidst unprecedented hospitality of the host city. Where else would you get sweets and drinking water delivered to your seat for free?

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Corridor to International Cricket

Best of Corridor Cricket at St Joseph’s College, Colombo in the early 1970s (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Best of Corridor Cricket at St Joseph’s College, Colombo in the early 1970s (© Ranjan Mellawa)

Defying the playing ban, many played “Corridor Cricket” in small groups. Hitting a paper ball or a cotton-filled chalk duster with two palms pressed together in a corridor was quite popular.

A countrywide change in school hours took effect in the early 1970s. Accordingly, St Joseph’s College, Colombo, where I gathered my virtue and knowledge, advanced its closing time from 3.15 to 1.30 in the afternoon. The revised school hours reduced the one-hour break for lunch to half an hour. Students were not expected to run around and play any sport during the break, but “Book Cricket” was our innovative option. Two people played it, flipping pages of a textbook at random, and based on the last digit of the right-hand-side (even-numbered) page. Last digits of 2, 4, and 6, counted as runs scored; 0 would be a wicket, and 8, a no-ball. For the toss, both the players opened a page and the one whose last digit was greater won.

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Sri Lanka in The Ashes?

Seen this before? The scoreboard operator is ready for action at the R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy final between India and Sri Lanka on 29 September 2002. (© ESPNcricinfo Ltd)

Seen this before? The scoreboard operator is ready for action at the R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy final between India and Sri Lanka on 29 September 2002. (© ESPNcricinfo Ltd)

Soon after Sri Lanka’s infamous ODI win against Australia in Melbourne, November 2010, we were at the nearby rail station to get back to our hotel. There were posters in the station announcing the forthcoming “The Ashes” series. On seeing those, a young Sri Lankan cricket fan lamented, “Why aren’t we (Sri Lanka) invited to take part in The Ashes!”

This wonderful game has had its share of complications. I am no expert but have tried to clarify a few cricketing terms that fans regularly come across, but often not properly understood by them.

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A Memorable Moment

Jonathan Trott congratulating Rahul Dravid after the latter’s final ODI innings on 16 September 2011

Jonathan Trott congratulating Rahul Dravid after the latter’s final ODI innings on 16 September 2011

In sport, there are winners and losers. But for a genuine fan, what matters most is how you play the game. Click To Tweet

In sport, there are winners and losers. But for a genuine fan, what matters most is how you play the game. Sport can be elevated to higher levels when the participants start to measure their success against the respect they get from their teammates as well as the opponents. Cricket is supposedly a Gentleman’s Game. Is it now? Despite various initiatives by the custodians to uphold the spirit of the game, acts in line with that theme are few and far between around the world.

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