Stanley Jayasinghe a complete cricketer

He parks his motor-cycle under the shady ‘mara’ trees near the Thaksala Building, walks across the ground to the center wicket, where we practice. His majestic personality, reputation and commanding voice sends a clear message to all of us. He is a strict disciplinarian, a tough task master and a perfectionist.

"Chandrasiri, did Sarath, Illuk, Mitra bat?"

"Yes, they batted." Chandrasiri replies.

"Epasinghe, your turn next. Give the pair of gloves to Mitra."

He collects a dozen cricket balls. From the middle of the pitch, at a distance of about 10-11 yards, he used to send me a barrage of balls, at high speed, varying the flight.

"Play straight man. Ah! What are you doing chap? Get in line with the ball. Are you scared chap? Play up. Play up. Don’t be scared. Punch the loose ball. Leave those going outside the off-stump."

This was the first drill he always gave me. It helped me to play fast bowlers with confidence. He helped me to be an opening bat. After about 10-15 minutes of this batting drill, he gives the new-ball to left arm paceman Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and Shirely Weerasinghe, to bowl to me.

Opening an innings is not much of a tonic for tingling nerves. No matter how experienced or calm he seems, there are a few butterflies fluttering in his stomach.

The coach who trained me to face the new ball with confidence was none other than the greatest cricketer produced by Nalanda, Sri Lanka and Leicestershire professional, Stanley Jayasinghe. This great cricketer played for Ceylon prior to the country being renamed Sri Lanka and before receiving either Test or ODI status. He retired from cricket in the late 1960s.

He was a missionary who took the message of Sri Lanka cricket to the international circuit in a big way. Stanley Jayasinghe was mainly responsible in inserting Ceylon, in the international cricketing map by representing Leicestershire in English County cricket.

Stanley Jayasinghe was one of the best exponents of the game produced by Sri Lanka. In addition to being a fine player, he was a fine coach and a specialist in preparing turf wickets. He was also a cricket manager and administrator. He stood tall, for he was a man of principle. I remember him foregoing his benefit, when returned to Sri Lanka to represent the country. This unassuming personality never sold his soul for dollars, pounds or for that matter for South African rands. For him, country came first, that was his priority, not rupees or cents. He loves this country.

Stanley Jayasinghe, a septuagenarian, was born on January 19, 1931 in Badulla, Sri Lanka. As a schoolboy, he came under the watchful eyes of his mentor, philosopher, guide and teacher, Mr. T. K. Candaswamy and his beloved coach, Gerry Gooneratne. While still a schoolboy at Nalanda, in 1950, Jayasinghe had the proud distinction of representing Ceylon, against the England team captained by Len Hutton. It was a rare achievement for a young school cricketer to play for his country at such a young age.

In the early 1980s, when Sri Lanka gained Test status, the thenPresident of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka, the late Gamini Dissanayake invited Sir Garfield Sobers to coach the Sri Lanka National cricket team.

The great Sobers asked a question from GD.

"Sir, why do you need my services, when you have an internationally reputed, renowned complete cricketer cum coach, motivator, disciplinarian like Stanley, the former Leicestershire pro. He knows your players better than me, wickets, conditions, culture and the patterns of your country."

The dawn of the ‘Golden Era’ of Nalanda cricket began with Stanley Jayasinghe. If you consider Nalanda as the ‘Taxila’ of cricket in Sri Lanka, the two ‘Disapamoks’ were T. Candaswamy, Master-in-Charge and PoG and Gerry Gooneratne, Coach, who served Nalanda for 35 years.

Stanley Jayasinghe played for Nalanda from 1948-1951 and captained the team in his final year. He missed the opportunity of leading Nalanda in 1950. It was under A. Dharmadasa, the best wicket keeper that Nalanda produced that Nalanda defeated Ananda. As a schoolboy, I remember the Nalanda versus Prince of Wales match played at Nalanda Grounds. PoW set us an impossible 127 runs to win in just 38 minutes. Jayasinghe went on the rampage and they fell short by five runs. His Nalanda outfit was the official school cricket champions in 1950. The team comprised Ashley De Silva, Carl and Valentine Obeysekera twins, Walter Amarasinghe, Sarath Hewagama, W. H. S. Samarasekera, W. J. Jayasuriya, W. Chandrapala, Terrence Rodrigo, W. Abeysinghe etc.

In the club circle, he played for SSC, NCC and Nomads. Some of his great contemporaries were M. Sathasivam, Col. F. C. De Saram, C. I. Gunasekera, Ben Navaratne, H. I. K. Fernando (Wicket keepers) Bertie Wijesingha, Malcolm Spittle, Abu Fuard and Lucien De Zoysa, to name a few.

In the world circuit, he played against Weekes, Worrell, Walcott (the three W’s) Hutton, Miller, Laker, Lock, Trueman, Statham, Wesley Hall, Lance Gibbs, Sobers and Hunte, who are among the greatest cricketers the world has seen.

There was no other Sri Lankan cricketer who played against such an array of world stars. What an experience!

Further, during his stint at Leicestershire as a professional, he performed the ‘Double’ most seasons - 1000 runs and 100 wickets.

He was one of the most respected professionals to play in England. He was a born cricketer. He was a natural player. Thousands flocked to see him batting. Sometimes, he provided the fireworks and lit up proceedings. He always believed that attack was the best form of defence. He believed that cricketers must give the paying public the best value possible for their money. He felt that everything must be done to keep the crowd coming through the gates.

Once Stanley told me that one of the best innings that he saw came off the bat of ‘Maestro’ Sathasivam. He was such a classic batsman. On a sticky wicket at the Colombo Oval, Satha scored a magnificent 96. Stanley Jayasinghe’s contribution was 17. To bat with Sathasivam was an experience, he added.

Jayasinghe was a fine coach. If a player gets dispirited, it will eat into his confidence. He always provided a boost to the player’s moral and uttered words of encouragement. Even during his playing days, he remained patient when necessary. For him, there was always a time to tear an attack to pieces, whether from the first ball or after he had reached a century and the opposition was demoralised. He was a fine team player.

Stanley Jayasinghe found his life long partner in 1958. Her name is Erica, a German. She is a tower of inspiration to him and the wind behind his success. Happily married to Erica, that sweet charming epitome of womanhood, they are blessed with a daughter, Yvonne.

He is a lover of nature and a very silent social worker. He helped the border villages in their hour of need. Stanley always prefers to be away from cricket politics and the hustle-bustle of city life. He owns a 16 acre farm in Tanamalwila. Farming is his hobby. The people of Tanamalwila love him. He helps the poor villages in a big way.

This great player is a rare gem. He is undoubtedly a fine role-model to all cricketers. Through sheer commitment, discipline, dedication, he came up the hard way to the top, but never lost the common touch.

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