The cricket world mourns at the demise of Bandula Warnapura , the first Test Captain of Sri Lanka. The first Test match in which the Sri Lankan team led by Bandula Warnapura was with England at the P. Sara Stadium Colombo. It was telecasted on live by the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. Veteran communicator Palitha Perera was lucky to secure the opportunity to be the commentator on this historic occasion.
This is how Palitha Perera reminisced about a noble man named Bandula Warnapura who completed his innings in 68 years.
England’s vice captain Bob Wiley’s first ball of Sri Lanka’s first Test came from the edge of the scoreboard at the P.Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo and was directed to Sri Lanka’s first Test cricket team captain Bandula Warnapura, who then controlled the ball with his left foot.”
” Although his legs were strong enough to stand against all challenges in the ground , Bandula’s right leg was amputated by doctors recently. Warnapura was suffering from a severe form of diabetes. With this illness, Bandula ended his life innings. ”
Palitha was speaking with great sympathy. At that moment, the tone of his familiar voice, which had delighted us since childhood, had faded for a moment.
Our inaugural Test cricket match marked a turning point in the lives of Palitha Perera and Bandula Warnapura. But Palitha is fully aware of him long before this historic occasion. He revived his school memories and took me back to the past of Nalanda College, Colombo.
“I studied from kindergarten to university entrance at Nalanda College, Colombo. Principal MW Karunananda told me and Ananda Dharmapriya to come to school and teach in classes until the results of the university entrance examination came. Bandula was the best batsman in Nalanda at that time and I was the commentator on the Ananda-Nalanda Big match ”
How Bandula changed Ananda – NalandaCricket history?
“That was in In 1972 I went to watch the final practice match the day before the Ananda Nalanda Big Match in March. I talked to the players in both schools and wrote down in my notebook what I needed to comment on. Finally I went to Bandula Warnapura. P.M. Jayatilleke had set a record of 111 runs in the 1928 Ananda-Nalanda war. I approached Bandula and asked, ‘What do you mean, knock on the record?’ As asked, Bandula scored an unbeaten 118 that day. ”
A lesson taught to Gavaskar
“I remember an one day match against Australia. That was before test status. It was in 1981. Kim Hughes’ was the Aussie Captain. There were three ODIs. In one match Bandula scored a century and the game won.
In the same year, Bandula Warnapura captained a Test team at the Chepauk Stadium in India. Sunil Gavaskar captained the Indian team. At that time the Sri Lankan team could have easily lost. But Bandula Warnapura gave an excellent leadership to the Sri Lankan team.
At the end of the day the match was tied. I went to meet Captain Sunil Gavaskar to ask what happened. At that time he said that we have a lot to learn from these little boys in Sri Lanka’
Trapped by Bandula
Palitha described what Bandula did during a visit to Pakistan:
“There was a cricket match in Muntan, Pakistan, and we were prepared give the commentary from an attic on the top floor of a three-story building under construction. No stairs to enter in to the place. There was only a aluminium ladder. I was reluctant to climb as I was frightened. Vajira Wijewardena and Bandula Warnapura helped me to climb the ladder safely. However at the end pof the match I realized there were no one to help me to come down.”
“Being helpless I looked around . Then I realized not only Bandula and Vaijra the entire spectators arpound 15,000 were looking at me. They were entertaining how I get back from the attic with that ladder. I have nothing to do. I crawled down the ladder amidst the hooting of 2,000 sports fans. Bandula works like that.
“At one point, when I was trying to come to Sri Lanka from the airport in Madras, Bandula’s cricket bat was in my bag. I took some ties from there and put them in my bag. I was told to look at my bag at the Madras airport and officials tried to tax it. Bandula told me in Sinhala from a distance, ‘Then it would be okay to put one or two ties on the floor. I dropped two of my favorite ties and said ‘this is for you’. I was released without taxes. These wonderful things too
Controversial South African tour
After that Bandula joined another group and secretly joined a cricket tour of South Africa which was a forbidden land at that time. Bandula and his team were banned from playing cricket for 25 years.
The brightest cricket team in the country in those days was the Bloomfield Sports Club. While at Bloomfield Sports Club, Bandula won the Sarah Trophy twice. Half of the Bloomfield Sports Club was made up of members of the Sri Lankan cricket team. That is because of Bandula.
At that time I had an opportunity to write an article on this incident. That was Published as the Cover Story of Kalpana Magazine.
While it was still hot, I had to review the details of the Sri Lanka – New Zealand cricket match at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy under the captaincy of Duleep Mendis. Unfortunately, at that time the Sri Lankan team was utterly defeated. Huge stone bottles were hurled to fill the pitch by the huge crowd that came to watch the match. ”
Palitha who wrote about Bandula to the fourth floor
“This defeat, the article I wrote for Kalpana magazine and Bandula and his group’s trip to South Africa were summed up. I was taken to CID and interrogated for four hours. “
“The next day too I was taken for further questioning and interrogated for two hours. There was no opportunity at that time to publicize Bandula Warnapura through the media. So my writing became problematic. They took money from Bandula and questioned me that I had upset sports fans. It was later revealed that this was not the case. But I became the first journalist to be taken to the fourth floor (CID). ”
How Bandula joined the cricket commentary
Palitha also spoke about how Bandula joined the cricket commentary before concluding the conversation.
“I joined to comment on the details of the lovers’ cricket match between Mahinda and Richmond Colleges in Galle. At that time I told Bandula to go with me to hav an expert comment for the match.
“I started the expert commentary system and joined Bandula to review the details of the Mahinda Richmand match. At that time Hemamali Arambewela was in Galle. Bandula goes to see Hemamali in the evening after the review. After a while, Bandula’s cricket commentary life and marriage life with Hemamali went well. Bandula was very proficient in both English and Sinhala and critiqued cricket. The memory of him is eternal in my heart. “Palitha concluded.