Oh Bailas, Verses, and Boundary Line Heroes
Oh! Bailas, verses and boundary line heroes
From the boundary we always cheered our heroes. (Pic by Saman Kariyawasam)
Apart from the cricket at the centre, one couldn’t help being moved by the regular rejoicing on the boundary-line ,mostly with innovative ‘Bailas’ (each season churning out a new one ) sung by the many Royalists, senior and junior, who thronged the boundary , push bikes, flags and all, to hail their cricketing heroes, with the juniors proudly joining in chorus (quite unlike the dull mortuary lull one experiences at Reid Avenue these days- hardly a bike, a flag or any cheering –only vacant spaces policed by College prefects in tie!)
“Lakmavage ekama putha,
“Oh, what will you give me….if I show…you the….?”
or the more serious one ,
“How are you Baldsing dear, how are you…….?”
or the unmistakable assertion,
“We are boys of Royal College, Kollupitiya South,………..
followed by an important and rhyming bit of information,
“Abeyratne kivvama than kauda nodanne,
Visheshayen ilandari soyala balanne…..”
Pata…gatha( for Patang gaththa)
Bahila selema( for baila sellama!)”
or “kusi hama Sehera (for you know what!)
Such perennial favourites as ‘Thanakola Peththo’, with the intriguing prologue,
“…..Pasyale cadju kalaa,
Beire wewe wathura beela,
We had our own share of innovations as well, such as, “….Aney ‘Navva’ mehata warenko, Mage langing waadi weyanko…” sung to the tune of a famous Hindi favourite of the day ‘Le Mama le Manamali’, ‘Navva’ being a tender reference to a dear class-mate of ours.
Watching from the boundary line it was a real treat to listen to Sarath regaling us with a ball by ball ‘Test’ commentary, very much in the manner of a Rex Alston and then giving us a resume of the day’s play with the crisp likeness of a Johnny Moyes. One had only to close ones eyes to be immediately transported to the ‘Test’ atmosphere at Lords or the ‘MCG’. Sarath captained every Royal team at every age group and was well on his way……until that unfortunate injury which put paid to what would surely have been a rewarding career for him and for us. Geoffry Assauw, a brilliant batsman in the classical mould also would have adorned the Royal team if indiscretions had not got the better of him, which placed him at cross purposes with the establishment! Reliable information has it that later on he had been selected to play in a trial for Victoria and thence, perhaps, to achieve greater glory, but for his own carelessness. Geoff never turned up for that trial for Victoria for reasons best known to him!
At least as far as he was concerned he had not got his circuits crossed! Yet , it was from the Royal boundary line that we derived so much joy and pleasure-the type of pleasure only a series of scintillating centuries and a 99 in the ’56 season from the enchanting willow of wicket-keeper batsman Selvi Perimpanayagam could provide; or the sheer joy only the crafty fingers of an artiste like ‘Mynah’ Wijesinghe could offer. Who could forget that memorable effort, when the artiste grabbed four wickets in four balls, (in rapid succession, of course!) in the Royal-Ananda game of 1957 at Campbell Place, thereby earning for himself a warm niche in our hearts, (which has not lost its warmth to this day) and a cricketing memento from that great scribe S.P. Foenander- a gift of a set of books on cricket presented by Foenander himself at the College General Assembly amidst resounding cheers. Who knows the donor may have intended the young recipient to join his tribe in time to come! Who could forget the instance, also at Campbell Place, in 1959, against Nalanda, when Daya Sahabandu, sent in as the night-watchman ducked, on sweet advice proffered by skipper Sarath Samarasinghe, batting at the other end, that the next ball was going to be a bouncer, only to be hit on his neck and thereabouts by a pretty ordinary delivery, nearly getting himself declared neck b.w! Who could forget ‘Kota’ Jayaratne being carried away, horizontal, with his private parts in total disarray, after being hit by a snorter from Brian Perumal at Reid Avenue in the 1961 Josephian game. This was reminiscent of the Wesley game at Campbell Park in 1954, when A. Rabindran had to be carried off after getting his nose cracked trying to hook a bouncer off Adihetty. Who could forget the many refreshing innings played by Jagath Fernando (the one at Campbell Park in 1969, being particularly so,) culminating in that devastatingly delightful century in the 1971 Royal-Thomian, which broke Ronnie Reid’s series record for the highest score or the polished elegance of Sumithra Warnakulasuriya, who, after many a hundred for Royal, lived up to his promise in the Royal-Thomian of 1980 by scoring the highest in the series -197 runs so immaculately compiled. Decisions based on personal acrimony rather than merit prevented a promising star from representing his country with distinction.
More recently in the 1992 Royal-Thomian, Gamini Perera made an indelible mark with a remarkably brilliant, match saving hundred. Given the circumstances, it was sweeter and far more rewarding than winning any match. By that innings, not only did Gamini bring honour upon his school, his team and himself, he also prevented an unique bit of history from being made. For, had the Thomians under Suresh Gunasekera, won that year, (which they most surely would have, if not for that century, Harin Samarasekera’s breath-taking half-century and Nalliah Rajan’s dogged innings), it would have been the first time (perhaps the only time ever) in the series, when a father and son would have led either side to victory, Suresh’s father the late Premalal having led the Thomian’s to victory in 1964. The wonder of Gamini’s memorable innings was that the night before, when it was all panic in the Royal Camp, he had promised his coach that he would get a century!
What of Jothilingam’s hundred in the 1956 Royal-Thomian under high-fever conditions or Royal skipper Michael Wille’s identical score of 121 in 1957.What of Skipper Nirmalalingam’s scintillating sixty-nine runs in the 1954 Royal -Thomian, who, but for an unfortunate run out, would surely have got a brilliant hundred. What of the whirlwind partnership of 106 in 40 minutes by tail-enders Vidda (Vidanage) and Harsha (Samarajeewa), better known for their bowling prowess (the latter affectionately identified by a similar sounding nomme de plume then) in the Peterite game of 1960 at Reid Avenue, mostly against the attack of the firey Anton Perera and the wily Le Mercier; or Darrell Lieversz’s and R.C. de Silva’s glorious effort in routing the Peterites, comprising, inter alia, the famous Heyn brothers, Richard and David, at Reid Avenue in 1962.The two panthers, Darrell and ‘CD’, the one breathing fire and the other smoke, shared between them the twenty wickets,12 and 8 respectively, running through the Peterites by early , thereby enabling us to make it to the matinee show quite comfortably; or Ajit Devasurendra’s patient hundred against the Peterites also at Reid Avenue in 1980,in a valiant, yet futile , bid to save the game for Royal; or Ranjith De Silva’s mighty six in 1954 over covers at Campbell Park onto the ‘Mara’ tree, which was on a higher elevation on the main road, a truly ‘Mara’ six ,so to speak; or Sarath Samarasinghe, irrepressibly and dangerously slashing outside the off-stump to send the ball sizzling to the boundary; or his acrobatic wicket-keeping accompanied by that resounding ‘howzaaat!’ with or without the ball in hand; or young Chandana Jayakody’s back to the wall innings (thank Heaven that his back was to the wall!!!) with eleven hungry Thomians literally breathing down his neck and legs, to save Royal from certain defeat in the Royal-Thomian of 1984; or Thotuwilage’s two delightful innings (95 and 108) at the Royal-Thomian of 2001, where he missed creating a record of scoring twin hundreds – these were only a part of the salacious menu dished out over the years for us on the boundary line.