Vernon Prins Prince of Sri Lanka Cricket

All-round sportsmen are a rare breed. To this category belongs this affable, mild and gentle- mannered sportsman. He had the proud distinction of representing Ceylon in cricket and hockey. He is a double international. Moulded in the best Thomian tradition, he led St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia in 1943, Nondescript Cricket Club (NCC) and All Ceylon in cricket, the last he loved most.

His name is Vernon George Prins - the prime person of Sri Lanka cricket. He is a legend among the cricketing fraternity. He was one of the most senior Sri Lankan cricketers, barring, D. D. Jayasinghe, Col. F. C. de Saram, M. Sathasivam, S. S. Jayawickrema, Bertie Wijesinha, C. I. Gunasekera, Fairlie Dalpathadu, Makin Salih, Tita Nethanials, to name ten during the 1940 - 1960 era.

Seven Thomians have captained Sri Lanka in cricket. They are, A. C. Ahamath, D. L. de Saram, V. G. Prins, M. H. Tissera, Dr. B. G. Ried, A. P. B. Tennekoon, and L. R. D. Mendis. Among the galaxy of Thomian cricket captains, Vernon Prins was a gentleman par excellence. To him the spirit of the game was more important than the final outcome. He had a trail- blazing stint with the Maitland Place Club,NCC, and went on to captain the teams from 1952 - 1959. Under his astute leadership NCC won the "Plum of Sri Lanka Cricket", the Sara Trophy many times.

Prins was the Genius Absolute. To any batsman, to bat with him was an education and a revelation. He never lost his balance. The higher and higher he ascended in cricket, he became simple and humble. Vernon, C. I., Satha, were the "Darlings of the Spectators" during that era, 1940s - 1960s. Prins had a wonderful brain and eye for cricket.

The footwork is the key to being able to play spin. Cover drive is a bread and butter shot for many batsmen. Vernon Prins was the best in the business. He does not get caught in two minds. That helps his shot selection. He was a batting artist.

His driving was a treat to watch. I feel his success has been a case of having a plan and concentrating on every delivery, trying to stay confident and building up the innings. He always maintained his cool. He had a fine temperament. Vernon was a fine captain. He always led his side from the front. He was a thorough gentleman and an outstanding team-man.

Vernon Prins started his schooling at the Training College, Colombo, which was Royal Prep those days. As a child, he played cricket with his schoolmates. After three years, his parents decided to send him to St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. He joined the school by the sea, in 1934.

In 1940, under the captaincy of G. F. D. Abeysekera, Prins played his first Royal - Thomian. On 20th and 21st 1941, next year, he played for St. Thomas’ under R. Proctor. In this match A. F. Molamure scored 113, Proctor 45, Vernon Prins 42. In his third Royal - Thomian, Prins scored 41 and 83. He captained in 1943. This year the Big-Match was played at the Colombo Oval. His rival captain was R. Wickrematilleke. Royal in their first essay scored 158, and in their second innings collected 75 runs. St. Thomas’scored 200 in the first innings. For the last wicket K. L. M. Perera (98 n.o) and S. Ellapata (44) were associated in a 114 runs partnership. In this match, Thomian H. S. Coomaraswamy returned the remarkable figures. Under the shrewd captaincy of Vernon Prins, Thomians won by 10 wickets.

While representing Ceylon, Vernon Prins scored 31 n.o. against Freddie Brown’s XI in 1950, 46 versus Lindsay Hasset’s Australian side in 1953. These were the best innings considering the fact that he faced the best in the world circuit at that time. Trevor Bailey, Ritchie Benaud, Ray Lindwall, Kieth Miller, Bill Johnston, Sonny Ramadhin, to name a few.

He was one of the best all-rounders that Sri Lanka produced. He made more than 8000 runs in about eight Sara seasons. In 1950-51, he scored 5611 runs at an average of 45.25. This included 14 centuries. He held 92 catches in his distinguished cricket career. Vernon devoted his entire life to cricket. He was married to cricket, and remained a bachelor.

Vernon Prins was an ornament to the game of cricket.

I will never forget the NCC versus Saracens Sara Trophy match played at the NCC grounds. This was my baptism in division one cricket. I was included to play against the NCC at Maitland Place.

Winning the toss Saracens skipper, my coach Gerry Gooneratne, elected to bat on a grassy wicket. Openers were out for five runs. Old Joe Keerthi Caldera, a fine wicket keeper and a reliable stylish batsman and I were in pads. When the first wicket fell, against the pace bowling of Malcolm Spittle, Keerthi, walked into bat. Before, he left he told me, "Premasara, that bloke should have played forward. He went back. Now see we have to pay for his sins." Keerthi, is a player who never gave the due credit to a bowler. He will find out some mistake of the batsman dismissed. Keerthi took guard. Malcolm spittle, another Old Joe, was bowling great guns to another "Old Joe". The first ball he faced Keerthi’s middle stump went cart wheeling.

Gerry said, "Epa, concentrate, put your head down and bat". What a challenge? I had to face Malcolm spittle. He was on a hat-trick. I took my guard from umpire Dodwel de Zoysa. Spittle came racing and it was outside the off-stump and I managed to survive and Spittle misses the hat-trick.

From the SSC grounds end, the other opening bowler operating was Ceylon skipper, burly Vernon Prins. I drove him through the covers for a four. Prins quipped, "Nice shot Boy." I was thrilled and in cloud nine. This was the biggest compliment I got. It came from no less a person than the Ceylon skipper. I scored 27 runs and spooned a catch to point, where Rienzie Perera held it off the bowling of Malcolm Spittle. This innings I will never forget as I got my opportunity to play against some of the best cricketers in the country. It was a real experience and education.

Vernon Prins’ father was J. L. A. Prins, a veterinary surgeon. He was coached by George Ponniah at St. Thomas’ College.

In the year 1943, the 64th Big Match, Royal openers were H. N. Jilla and Ernie Peiris. Number four was George Rajapakse, vice captain of Royal. George Rajapakse, later became a highly respected Politician and minister. George Rajapakse captained Royal in 1944 and his rival Thomian skipper was Renga Selvaratnam.

Vernon Prins joined NCC in 1941. It was Edgar Hubert and Mano Jilla who took Vernon to Nondescript Cricket Club. He captained NCC from 1952 - 1959. Some of his outstanding contemporaries were Malcolm Spittle, Dr. H. I. K. Fernando, Stanley Jayasinghe, Malcolm Franke, T. Shanmuganathen, Roy Abeysekera, to name a few.

Vernon Prins, after leaving STC, MTL, joined the Police and served for 12 years. Later he worked at Bosanquet- Skrine and Whittal Boustead Limited. After serving these two reputed firms, he joined Consolidated Exports, from where he retired.

He was a double international. He played the Andriesz Shield League Tournament for NCC and later won his Ceylon Colours. He was one of the nicest gentleman I met.

Vernon was an ornament to cricket, a role - model to all cricketers.

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