Oshada Fernando – the story of a soldier’s son


Rex Clementine in Port Elizabeth

Cricket fans at home have little knowledge about this amazing new talent Oshada Fernando, who made his Test debut in South Africa. When the 26-year-old played an exquisite cover drive off Kagiso Rabada for four in Port Elizabeth even the great Hasim Amla from first slip was applauding.

The magnificent Dale Steyn was the first to congratulate him when he scored the winning run. Even the umpires were impressed. After history had been created at St. George’s Park, Ian Gould uprooted a stump.

So we asked Gould whether he is a collector of cricket items. "I am not. That was for that young fellow who batted so well," Gould told The Island.

Oshada is from a middle class family. There aren’t gold chains around his neck or bracelets on his wrist. No expensive watches, no flashy sunglasses or tattoos; the stuff that modern day cricketers have a liking for. What you will instead find is a couple of ‘pirith nools’. The son of an Army soldier, he has been brought up in a deeply religious environment.

For Oshada, who was born at Koralawella in Moratuwa everything in life growing up was cricket; like the case for most Moratuwaites.  He played the game from the age of 11 at Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya, Panadura where he had little facilities. His first coach Rohan Soyza.

Young Oshada’s talent was identified by the legendary Frank Cooray, the committed Master-in-Charge of cricket at St. Sebastian’s. He took Oshada to Rev. Fr. Bonnie Fernandopulle, the priest who had committed his life serving poorest of the poor.

Fr. Bonnie, the Rector of St. Sebastian’s recruited him for Grade ten without any delay whatsoever. From there, Oshada’s career flourished. Fr. Bonnie, a cricket fanatic, is no more. He passed away last year (bless him). But even he wouldn’t have thought in his wildest of dreams that Oshada would achieve what the great Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, or Kumar Sangakkara couldn’t accomplish – score the winning runs to seal a series win in South Africa.

Yet, Oshada was little known in First Class cricket until this season.

However much we criticize Ashantha De Mel for messing up the game in the last two months, he needs to be given all the credit for picking someone who was not in the system.

Oshada had done the round at quite a few clubs. He started at Colts. Then went to Moors and SSC and for the last two seasons he has been with Chilaw Marians. He has not played for Sri Lanka Under-19 or Sri Lanka ‘A’. It is extremely rare that without going through one of these two entities that someone will go onto play for Sri Lanka. Of course there are exceptions with the great Kumar Sangakkara being one. Hopefully Oshada will go onto have successful career as well.

This season he was prolific. He was the first to the 1000 run mark having made a double hundred, five hundreds and four fifties. His stats were Bradmansque.

He was playing at Colts grounds against CCC when Brendon Kuruppu came in search of him. When Kuruppu informed him to get ready to go to South Africa, Oshada was over the moon.

He had never gone out of the country before. As there was little time, he had to get a visa quickly.  The extremely generous South African High Commission at Rosemead Place was kind enough to grant him a visa in double quick time. Perhaps, they may be regretting it now for Oshada has played a blinder against world’s best fast bowling attack.

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