Duleep Mendis -
A man of many "firsts" and an ornament to Cricket

Tracing the history of cricket in Sri Lanka the names of M. Sathasivam, F. C. de Saram, Sago Jayawickrama, C. I. Gunasekera, Stanley Jayasinghe, Gerry Gooneratne, Vernon Prins, Gamini Goonesena, Dr. H. I. K. Fernando, Abu Fuard, Ranjith Fernando and Test Cricketers Arjuna Ranatunga, Ranjan Madugalla, Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralidharan Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Chaminda Vaas are some of the outstanding players among many who will always live in the hearts of all Sri Lankans, here and abroad. In the Galaxy of these cricketing stars, Duleep Mendis shines like an "Evening Star", and his name will be written by historians in gold in chronicles of Cricket, for the services he rendered as a player and cricket administrator.

Unassuming, soft spoken Duleep Mendis is an ornament to cricket. I presume he is a "Kohinoor", the most precious diamond of cricket in Sri Lanka.

Duleep Mendis is a "Mendis Special". He was a batsman of high calibre, who pulverised many fearsome bowling attacks in the world. In cricket, they say, "Form is temporary, but class is permanent. Duleep was undoubtedly a classy batsman. He had all the shots; the skill and leadership. He is a class by himself.

What is leadership.

The ability to influence people, towards the attainment of an organization’s goals. In cricket, the captain has to be an exemplary leader. Half a dozen men all rolled into one. He has to have a nerve of a gambler, the poise of a financier, the human understanding of a psychologist and patience of a saint.

Duleep was one of the most hard-hitting batsmen that Sri Lanka produced. I bracket him with great C. I. Gunasekera and Sanath Jayasuriya. More than anything Duleep is a great team man.

What is team work?

It is the ability to work together, towards a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishment towards organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

In the field, Duleep was a fine captain, who put the country before self. He led the team in front. He achieved success, created a record that cannot be erased, by recording the first ten victories against India. Then, he created another "First" as the Manager of the first-ever Sri Lankan team, who won the world cup in 1996, at Lahore, Pakistan. It clearly showed his management skills. Dave Whatmore and Mendis were the men behind the scene in achieving the greatest sports achievement that Sri Lanka recorded upto date. There are many other "Firsts" for Duleep. He was the first Sri Lankan cricketer to score "Twin Centuries" 105 + 105 against India in Cheupek Chennai (Madras) in 1982. This was the first ever Test played by Sri Lanka against India, which I had the distinction of commenting from Chennai for Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. I must mention here with gratitude the first ever Chairman of S.L.R.C., late Mr. M. J. Perera, that brilliant civil servant, in nominating me to be a commentator in the Sri Lanka-India Test and ODI series in India in 1982. Probably this telecast will go down in the history of electronic Media as the first ever telecast from foreign soil on a sports event.

Duleep Mendis, hails from Moratuwa, a suburb close to the capital Colombo. He was born in a cricketing environment and in a cricket background. His father, brothers, cousins, the whole family were interested in cricket. He stated his schooling at St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, one of the leading schools in Sri Lanka. He played junior and senior cricket at St. Sebastians and captained the college team. After passing the GCE (O) Level, he joined S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia. Duleep Mendis played for S. Thomas for three years. He had the proud distinction of captaining the great educational institution S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia. Thus, he created another first captaining two leading schools as a school cricketer, earlier, he captained St. Sebastians College, Moratuwa.

In the 1971 and 1972 Royal-Thomian matches he scored centuries. In the 92nd Royal-Thomian played at the Colombo Oval on 9th and 10th March 1971. Duleep scored an unbeaten 103 and in the 93rd big match played at the Oval on 10th and 11th 1972, he was at his brilliant best scoring 184 and became the highest scorer in the series. In the 101st Royal-Thomian, this record for the series was erased by Royalist Sumithra Warnakulasuriya scoring 197. This match was played at Saravanamuttu Stadium (Oval) on 6th, 7th and 8th March 1980.

Before he played for S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, Duleep, while playing his last school season at St. Sebastians in 1968 passed the 1000 runs for the season.

During that time, I was attached to my Alma matter - Nalanda Vidyalaya, Colombo, I served as the Master-in-Charge of cricket and Prefect of Games from 1967-1970, I was a selector of the Schools Cricket Association. My President was late P. M. Jayatileke, Principal at Thurstan College, who was the founder principal of Ibbagamuwa Madhya Maha Vidyalaya, Ibbagamuwa at Kurunegala. I was one of the selectors, who nominated Duleep Mendis’ name for the selection of the Sri Lanka Schools team to tour India. Further, I nominated two of my students, cricketers from Nalanda - opener Bandula Warnapura and that brilliant all-rounder Leslie Narangoda. Further, I proposed the name of G. R. A. De Silva, who later played for Ananda and represented Sri Lanka. Ajith is one of the best left arm bowlers who dominated the Sri Lankan Cricket scene till the "Infamous South African" Tour in early 1983 led by Bandula Warnapura.

While at St Thoma’s College, as a schoolboy in 1972, he represented Sri Lanka against Pakistan. Sri Lanka was led by another cricketing legend, a gentleman cricketer of class Michael Tissera, a distinguished Thomian.

Duleep Mendis’ father and mother are Julian Mendis and Doreen Mendis respectively. His brother, Gerald Mendis held the batting record in the Prince of Wales, St. Sebestians big encounter.

I had the opportunity of playing against Duleep, in the late 1970s when I opened batting for Bank of Ceylon. He represented Maharajah Organisation at that time. The match was played at Colts grounds. I will never forget, the way, Duleep blasted us to the tune of 184 runs.

Duleep Mendis represented Sri Lanka as the champion batsman for 18 years. I will never forget heroics at Lords ž The "Epic centre of World Cricket". He enlivened Lords scoring 111 in the first innings and scoring 94 in the second innings. This was another power-packed innings of Duleep Mendis.

After retiring from cricket, he devoted his life to promote cricket. He coached the Sri Lanka team and later became a fine cricket administrator. Today, Duleep Mendis is the Chief Executive of Sri Lanka Cricket. I was fortunate to serve Sri Lanka Cricket as an interim committee member for nearly two years and during that time I noticed what a committed and dedicated cricket administrator Duleep Mendis was. He always stood for fair play and justice and looked after the welfare of all cricketers and staff coming under his purview. It was a real treat to serve under, the dynamic chairman of the Interim Committee of Sri Lanka cricket under that fine gentleman Jayantha Dharmadasa and Secretary Mr. Mathivanam and other interim committee members.

The bitter experience of Duleep Mendis was the incident that took place in the 1975 World Cup, when, Jeff Thompson felled Duleep and Sunil Wettimuny with vicious bowling. Sunil’s foot was injured. My good friend Sri Lankan Manager late K. M. T. Perera described it in this manner fell blood was oozing from Sunil’s foot and later Duleep Mendis was hit. He have unconscious and taken to hospital. If not for these two injuries we would have some time beaten the mighty Australians. We were 250 for 4, when Duleep was injured." The London newspaper reported it was a miracle that saved Duleep. The head injury could have been fatal.

Married to Dilhara, that sweet charming epitome of womanhood, they are blessed with two sons - Niru and Sanjeeva and a daughter Menaka. His wife Dilhara is the wind behind his sails.

Remember, if you want to reach, international level in cricket you must be committed, disciplined, dedicated to the cause. Unassuming Duleep Mendis is one of the greatest cricketers produced by Sri Lanka. Duleep Mendis is a role-model for our cricketers. He is a gentleman of the highest order. I consider it a privilege to have been a close associate of. I consider him as God’s gift to Sri Lanka cricket.

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