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To Sir with Love

(T. Candaswamy, Master-in-Charge of Cricket and PoG, Nalanda Vidyalaya)

The year was 1956. I was in the university entrance HSC class at Nalanda Vidyalaya. Ridgeway Tillekaratne, our Sinhala teacher was explaining a lesson — ‘Vannupatha Jatakaya’ - from the Sinhala text book. A junior student entered our classroom and gave a note to our teacher.

"Epasingha, our Cricket Master, Mr. T. Candaswamy, wants you to meet him at the end of this period. He is in the SSC Form A Class."

As I had never played junior cricket or for that matter, any cricket up to that day, I was not closely associated with him. I respected him as a teacher and all other teachers in the upper school, which included W. D. E. Perera, Capt. V. I. Perera, Col. C. F. Abeykoon, Stanley Munasinghe, P. T. De Silva, D. F. Wijesinghe, V. C. Gunatilake Sugathamuni Ganasiri, English teacher Sivapalan, Victor De Silva, K. M. P. Rajaratne, former MP for Welimada and Shelton Kodikara, who later became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya.

T. Candaswamy - great scholar, Mathematician, English, Latin and Civics teacher, Prefect of Games and Master-in-Charge of Cricket, shone like a bright star at Nalanda.

After the Sinhala class, I met Candaswamy. He held my ear and turned it anti-clock wise. In a commanding voice, he uttered these words which remain etched in my mind even today.

"You dirty swine. Do you know child (‘Lamaya’), that you are hiding your treasure, wealth under a bush. I witnessed your innings yesterday. I am happy that you taught a lesson to some of our First XI cricketers. Son, turn up for practices, First XI, from tomorrow."

This incident signalled the beginning of my cricket career.

In October 1956, I played in an Inter-House match and scored an unbeaten half century as an opener. I represented Chandra House. Our opponents, Surya House was a star-studded side with six First XI players. We had only Nalanda opener Yasapala Dissanayake. As I had never played junior cricket at Nalanda, I was a total stranger to everyone.

I attended practices the following day. T. Candaswamy and Gerry Gooneratne, our cricket coach, were there.

After some time, Candaswamy, in his commanding voice stated; "Epasinghe, pad-up. Jayawickrama, Weerasinghe, take the new ball. Present Member of Parliament, former Minister of Irrigation and Water Management, Jayawickrama Perera was really fast. He bowled his left arm deliveries accurately. His left arm out-swingers sailed passed me to wicket keeper Mitra Siriwardana. After my batting turn, I kept wickets.

In 1957, I opened batting with Sarath Silva, that brilliant, outstanding left-hander. If not for my beloved teacher, I would never have played cricket. I opened the innings and kept wickets.

Candaswamy was my mentor, guide, teacher, and philosopher. Not only me, all those Nalandians who came under his tutelage from 1947-1957, we are grateful. He not only taught us cricket, he disciplined us and moulded our character. He was a strict disciplinarian, a tough task master, a dedicated and committed teacher, who possessed a golden heart. We were scared of him, but held him in high esteem. He, along with Gerry Gooneratne (coach), ushered in the ‘Golden Era’ of Nalanda cricket.

Mr. and Mrs. Candasway did not have children. To them, all Nalanda cricketers were their children. He was the guiding light for all of us. We were taught about fair-play and justice. We were taught to love our mother country.

Tracing the history Buddhist education, it should be mentioned with gratitude, the role played by the great educationist, P. De S. Kularatne. After Henry Steel Olcott, the great man, with patriots like Anagarika Dharmapala, Sir D. B. Jayatilake and Dr. Gunapala Malalasekera improved Buddhist education in Sri Lanka. As the Principal of Ananda, the great educationist Kularatne (1920-1930s) recruited the best teachers. He recruited Tamil teachers like C. Suntheralingam, a great Mathematician and later Professor of Maths at the University College and later a Minister in the D. S. Senanayake Cabinet. T. B. Jayah was also a teacher at Ananda. Without any racial discrimination, Tamil teachers were teaching in Buddhist institutions.

Nalanda was an off-shoot of Ananda. Dr. Gunapala Malalasekera, G. K. W. Perera (1927-1928), J. N. Jinendradasa (1928-1947), Principals of Nalanda, recruited qualified Tamil training teachers.

Candaswamy joined Nalanda during the K. N. Jinendradasa era. Mr. D. C. Lawris (1947-1952) as Principal appointed Candaswamy Master-in-Charge of Cricket and Prefect of Games. He served Nalanda Vidyalaya for more than three decades with distinction.

In the late 1950s, Mr. T. Sivapalan joined the Nalanda staff. He was our beloved English teacher, who taught us the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘Plate of Gold’.

The Cricket Master’s/Prefect of Games’ and coaches aim is mainly to maintain discipline and create improvement, so that batsmen scores more runs, a bowler takes more wickets and fielders takes more catches, saves runs and seize opportunities to create run outs.

Out beloved teacher Kandaswamy possessed a wide knowledge of all aspects of the game of cricket, plus the ability to communicate effectively with the cricketers - plus enthusiasm; plus a love and passion for the game.

At the beginning in 1949-1950, two Nalanda cricketers, Stanley Jayasinghe and Carl Obeysekera represented Ceylon in 1949-1950.

The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. To achieve this, sports plays a vital role. It teaches you character. It teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose.

They say the dream begins with a teacher, who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau.

The Duke of Wellington’s sentiments ascribed that the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ was on the playing field of Eton and Harrow. All in all, the successful teacher-coach combination always elevates a school to produce fine results.

I wish to quote a poem.

Who is a Teacher?

Where ignorance is darkness

Teacher is the LIGHT

Where journey is THROUGH

TEACHER is the GUIDE

Where the vision is HAZY

TEACHER is the SIGHT

Candaswamy was a brilliant Mathematics, English, Latin and Civics teacher. He was more than a teacher. To all Nalandians who played cricket for Nalanda from 1930 to 1956, he was a philosopher and guide.

We also still remember how that gracious, kind-hearted ‘Mother’ Mrs. Kandaswamy used to feed all of us with bread, bananas, butter, marmite and milk at their residence. She was the wind behind our ‘Great Teacher’. Sometimes, Mr. Kandaswamy used to take cricketers in his Hillman Minx car EY 2134.

This great teacher used to give equal opportunities to all First XI cricketers in the pool.

An incident about his discipline, character and majestic personality was once depicted when Nalanda proceeded to play Mahinda in Galle. Nalanda was captained by Amarasiri Gunasena and the vice-captain was Nihal Withana. Amarasiri was the best bat in the side and a prolific scorer. At the team meeting held around 9.30 am on match day, Candaswamy announced the team, without A. Gunasena. He appointed Nihal Withana to lead the side. The entire team was not happy about this decision. We discussed this matter and decided to appoint Richard Lewis as the spokesman of the team. We took a decision - If Amarasiri was not playing we decided not to play. Around 10.30, Richard met Candaswamy and informed him about our decision.

At 10.35 am Kandaswamy met the team.

"I understand that you are going to take ‘trade union action’ against my decision. My decision stands. I want to give a chance to a boy who has not played this season and I must see how Nihal Withana performs as captain. If you are not willing to play, tell me in 15 minutes time, whether you have decided to play or not. If you don’t agree to play, there is a train at 12.45 to Fort and we return to Colombo. I will discuss this matter with the principal and will take disciplinary action against the entire team," stated Kandaswamy.

He was very straightforward. He called a spade, a spade.

We played against Mahinda under Withane’s captaincy and won comfortably.

Candaswamy was instrumental in improving the infrastructure of Nalanda cricket. In the early 1950s Nalanda had a cadjan shed as a pavilion near the Taxila building. Our groundboy was a Tamil named Joseph. With the cooperation and assistance of our beloved Principals - D. C. Lawris and M. J. De S. Jayaratne, our Master-in-Charge and Prefect of Games, Candaswamy, with the assistance and help from a leading businessman, Jason Fernando, he was instrumental in building a new pavilion. Jason Fernando’s son, Jahindra Fernando was a student at Nalanda at that time. This is the short history of the Nalanda pavilion.

Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, MP

When I contacted my teammate, who played along with me in 1957, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, MP NWP, he paid a glowing tribute to Candaswamy.

"Premasara, my elder brother Lincoln, younger brother Asoka and I captained Nalanda in 1948, 1963 and 1960, respectively. Candaswamy was our guiding light. He was a great teacher and fine humanbeing. We will be always grateful to the fine gentleman. He was more than a teacher to us. He moulded our character."

Chandrasiri Weerasinghe

Chandrasiri Weerasinghe, who captained Nalanda made this comment about Candaswamy.

"He earned the plaudits of the students who came under his tutelage for having had the vision to mould them for public life based on absolute discipline."

Stanley Jayasinghe

The greatest cricketer produced by Nalanda, who represented Ceylon and Leicestershire, Stanley Jayasinghe expressed his sentiments about his beloved teacher. He captained Nalanda in 1950-1951.

"Candaswamy was mainly instrumental in converting and subduing the ‘Yakkho’ Nalandian cricketers into disciplined, law abiding citizens. Sir, we thank you."

The four of us, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, Chandrasiri Weerasinghe, Premasara Epasinghe and Stanley Jayasinghe are of the opinion that in appreciation of the tremendous service rendered by this gentleman as the Master-in-Charge of Cricket and PoG, who ushered in the ‘Golden Era’ of Nalanda cricket, which continues up to date, request the authorities concerned to name the Nalanda pavilion as the Candaswamy pavilion.

(’Apadana Sobhini Panna’

The writer, who was the wicket-keeper/opening bat in 1957, after obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree, joined the Nalanda staff in 1968. He was the Master-in-Charge of Cricket and PoG from 1968 to 1970 and produced a number of National cricketers).

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