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Lionel Fernando: A once in a lifetime cricketer
Lionel Fernando: A once in a lifetime cricketer

By Maxie Kariyawasam
Perhaps once and only once in a lifetime, do we lesser Mortals get the opportunity to savour and relish the awesome deeds of someone who has excelled in the cricketing fields here and abroad.

A name that readily comes to mind is that of Lionel Fernando that talented all rounder of Yesteryear who kick-started his fabulous career at Benedicts College in 1956 doing yeoman service to his Alma Mater, representing the college 1st eleven and captaining the side in his final year 1959.

Right from his debut Lionel was to send a very strident message that he was exceptionally talented as he made a gigantic 185 (run out) against St. Anthony's Kandy and also a match winning 98 against Royal College along with several useful scores during the season of 1956 thus contributing meaningfully to St. Benedict’s becoming unofficial Schools Champions in that year under the leadership of L.P. Rayen. Among his team-mates during his school cricketing career were the Late Cecil Waidyarathne, Cyril Ernest Neville Cassichetty, Elmo Rodrigopulle, Allen Gunasekera, Neville Wickremasinghe, Lasantha Fernando and Ranjith Jayawardena to name a few and the coach who moulded St. Benedict’s into a formidable and much feared outfit was the late Edward Kellart.

Form they say is temporary but class is permanent and Lionel was to prove his inherent class in 1959 when captaining St. Benedict’s against St. Anne’s Kurunegala, Lionel went on to establish a world record that remains unbroken to this date and in all probability, may never be broken ever.

St. Anne’s taking first lease of the wicket were skittled out for 50 runs with Lionel accounting for all 10 wickets for 24 runs, including a hat-trick and narrowly missing one earlier on when he took 3 wickets in an over. Not to be satisfied with this stupendous performance, Lionel went on to blast the hapless Annite bowlers to the tune of 204 not out including 33 fours, 1 six and a five, in a score of 342 for 6 declared. St. Anne’s in their 2nd essay fared better getting 160 runs but still lost the match by an innings and 132 runs. Incidentally Lionel also took 2 wickets for 29 runs in that innings. Spectators at that match played at Kotahena went home mesmerized and with a sense of unbelief that they were witnesses to an epoch making performance by a schoolboy cricketer.

1961 saw Lionel joining the Colombo Municipality and turning out for Nomads C.C. in the P. Sara Trophy tournament under the astute D.H. de Silva and he went on to prove that his earlier performances were no 'flash in the pan' when he headed the side's batting averages each season till 1966.

His fantastic deeds and sheer class compelled the national selectors to take stock of his capabilities and Lionel was drafted into the All Ceylon team in 1965 which locked horns against the visiting English side led by Mike Smith and which included Collin Cowdrey, Bob Barber, Ted Dexter, Ken Barrington, Peter Parfitt, Jim Laker, Geoff Boycott and Fred Titmus among others. In the first match, Lionel who is someone never swayed by reputations of the opposition went on to top score with 40 runs. A graceful innings which drew praise even from his opponents.

In 1967, playing against the West Indies led by Gary Sobers, Lionel dished out two more delightful innings scoring 48 and 72 not out in a match where he had to cope with the thunderbolts of Wesley Hall, arguably the fastest bowler at that time. Lionel rates Gary Sobers and Rohan Khanai as the best batsmen of his era. Lionel also represented the country in the Gopalan Trophy encounters against India on 10 occasions. The solidarity and dependability of Lionel can be gauged by the fact that he scored 38 not out against a star studded State Bank of India side who skittled out the locals for a score below 70 runs. Touring Pakistan in 1967 Lionel gave further indications of his enormous talents with a dazzling knock of 79 runs.

1979 saw Sylvester Dias, a former all Ceylon stalwart recommend Lionel to the South Lancashire league where his outstanding displays won him the best batsmen's prize playing for Field House CC. In 1980 he switched over to Walsden C.C. and represented them in the Central Lancashire league. Incidentally this club also had the famous Everton Weeks and Trevor Chappel doing service for them in an earlier era. 1981 saw Lionel turn out for the Y.M.C.A in this league where again his consistent good scores won him the best batsman’s prize. 1985 was to see Lionel function as Capt/Coach of North Atlanta and in 1986 in the same capacity for Airport West. He rounded this off by leading and coaching Jacana C.C Australia in 1987.

At present Lionel is domiciled in Australia and takes great pleasure to impart the finer points of the game to his grandsons 10 year old Kevin Mendis and 12 year old Hashan Fernando who have both already shown their desire to emulate their illustrious grandfather. Lionel is happily married to Stella and they are the proud parents of two boys Tyrone and Dilshan Fernando and their only daughter Marina Mendis who are all well established. Tyrone who played for combined Universities Australia, has his own school of electrical, electronic and computer Engineering while Dilshan is the C.E.O. of the Australian Education Academy and also has an office in Sri Lanka which helps students to secure places in Australian Educational Institutes, while daughter Marina is a Software Engineer.

Lionel profusely thanks his parents and wife Stella for their deep understanding and encouragement which has contributed a great deal towards making him the complete sportsman. In conclusion it is the writer's view that had Lionel been born in a later era Sri Lanka’s test team would have certainly been richer by leaps and bounds.

 Posted by webmaster on January 18 2009 21:51:22 · 0 Comments · 2109 Reads Print
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