Roy on how he got technically perfect


by Rex Clementine

Following Sidath Wettimuny’s counts of his experiences of playing in England, his former team-mate Roy Dias this week in Lords at Lord’s recalls his memories in England. In this first of the five part interview in our segment, Dias recounts his early days at St. Peter’s and those who influenced his life and cricket career.

The unassuming Dias here says that he wasn’t the star in school cricket. He also recalls how he was denied a lift after becoming the first St. Peter’s captain in many years to lose the Big Match to St. Joseph’s where his side was bowled out for 36 runs in 1971. He also reveals Graham Yallop’s Australian Schoolboys’ tour to Sri Lanka being the turning point of his career and dwells extensively on how he owned the near perfect batting technique and lots more.

Here are the excerpts.

Question: Before we dwell on your memories of playing in England, tell us about your early days at St. Peter’s?

Roy: St. Peter’s was very important because cricket was not my line. My father, my uncles, my brother and my cousins all played football. I studied at St. Anthony’s, Wattala for one year and then we moved to Mount Lavinia and as a result I joined St. Peter’s. At St. Peter’s there was no football. So I had to play some games and started playing cricket. I got lot of support from one of my dad’s friends who was working with him at Hong Kong Bank, his name is Carl Obeysekera. I remember when I was only 12; Laddie Outschoorn came and coached us. He just wanted the basics from us. Then I played under-12, under-14 and under-16 cricket and went onto captain St. Peter’s twice. I played five years in the school’s under-19 side, but wasn’t the greatest player around. There were stars like Duleep (Mendis), Bandula (Warnapura), Ajith (de Silva), Kalu (Lalith Kaluperuma), Mithra (Wettimuny) and all. I was okay. Then my break came during the Australian schoolboys side’s tour of Sri Lanka. That side was captained by Graham Yallop and Sri Lanka was captained by Asitha Jayaweera, who I thought, was one of the best all-rounders in the schools scene those days. I got the break to play and I did well. From thereon, I thought okay I have a chance of playing at the top level and straight after school I joined Colts. We were all amateurs.

We had our jobs and after work we used to go for training. Then I started captaining the club.

Question: Your memories of inter-school matches those days?

Roy: The most disappointing for me when I captained the schools was in my first year. We were all out for 36 in the Big Match. I thought that’s it, I don’t want to captain anymore. But in the next year we did well. I played a bit of rugby as well. For my bad luck I broke my collarbone. Then I had to stop rugby. From thereon it was all cricket.

Question: Which year did you get bowled out for 36?

Roy: It was in 1971. It was sad. We started off on a Friday and by Saturday lunch time the game was over. Most of the old boys had to work the morning on Saturday and they were coming to watch the match and here we were waiting outside having lost the game. We got scolded. They said if you can’t play cricket, don’t play cricket. It was a good one. I had some very close friends of mine along with me that day. One was Raj Obeysekera and the other was Nuwan Abeysekera. We were standing outside waiting to get a lift from someone and these guys were coming to watch the game.

Did you get a lift eventually?

Roy: Not really. We had to walk up to the Borella junction and take the bus. But that was fun. I enjoyed my school cricket. About 90 percent of the cricketers who played with me at school have migrated and they are in Australia.

Question: You spoke about rugby at school. Are you a big rugby fan?

Roy: Yes. I used to support Havelocks. I was working at Freudenberg & Company those days. The Chairman was Mr. Robert Senanayake. He was also the Cricket Board President at that point. My Manager was Arthur Ratnayake and he was the President at both Colts and Havelocks. We had six ruggerites and six cricketers. So all the ruggerites were from Havelocks and all the cricketers were from Colts. I used to support Havelocks a lot. In fact, even now, when we had the tri-nation I watched the matches.

Question: Do you frequent the Joe-Pete nowadays?

Roy: Well, last ten years I couldn’t make it because I was overseas. My son played little bit of cricket for St. Joseph’s, but he couldn’t play the Big Match. I went and played the old boys game and the Old Joes were telling me you played for St. Peter’s and now your son is going to play for us. I was very happy. But he couldn’t make it.

Question: You were a Peterite and how did your son end up at St. Joseph’s?

Roy: Well, St. Peter’s at that time didn’t have a nursery, but St. Joseph’s did. I thought I will send him to St. Joseph’s for nursery and then take him out. But then after a couple of years he got used to St. Joseph’s style and made friends too and I didn’t want to pull him out. In fact, Fr. Rector was Fr. Stanley Abeysekera. He was also the Rector of St. Peter’s earlier and he asked me why St. Joseph’s. Then I explained the reasons. I have lot of friends who are Joes as well.

Question: Any other interesting school memories?

Roy: We had Fr. Joe Wickremasinghe, Fr. Stanely Abeysekara, Fr. Arthur Fernando and Fr. Rufus Benedict those days. The funny part is that those days we had to wear whites to school. None of us had whites. We only wore whites for cricket. We used to wear dark trousers to school. Fr. Arthur Fernando to get me to wear whites to school made me a prefect. So that was good. I have lot of respect for them, even teachers at school those days. Some are living and some are not. They taught us what life is. Most importantly the discipline. I will never forget that and you will never get a school like that.

Question: Speaking on international cricket, you were part of Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad in 1979 in England. You scored a crucial half-century in the match against India which Sri Lanka won. Tell us about that game?

Roy: Yes I scored a fifty. Duleep and Sunil Wettimuny scored half-centuries too. We used to play league cricket in England and we had six Sri Lankans playing in Manchester. That game against India was also in Manchester. The six of us used to play for different clubs in Manchester and all club members turned up that day to support us. Once we won, they all turned up to the team hotel and we had a couple of beers with them and it was really nice. It was a good game as well. It was our first win in a World Cup and winning in Manchester was even great. Along with me, guys like Sidath, Duleep, Ajith de Silva, D.S. de Silva and Tony Opatha were playing league cricket in Manchester.

Question: Your technique is said to be your greatest strength and at one point you were considered as the technically perfect batsman in the country. What did you do to perfect your technique?

Roy: From the time I was 12 I was coached by Laddie Outschoorn. He had played cricket in England. He came and coached us at St. Peter’s. We didn’t have bats or gloves or anything. One day he came and wanted us to bring a broomstick because we didn’t have bats. Ultimately I got a broomstick, cut it into two pieces and took it. Then he wanted us to hold the broomstick on our top hand, that’s the left-hand and he wanted us to keep it moving up and down, like you know cuddling an infant. The left elbow had to be right up, then the inside of the other hand touching the stomach. We had to do that for one hour. It was painful. He continued to do that. That was the first lesson I got on technique. Even now, whenever I do something, at this age, always my left elbow is right up. I used to read a lot too. Carl Obeysekera used to get me the Cricketer Magazine from England every month. There was one column on coaching. There was a picture explaining how to play for example the drive. I used to read that and take the book to the garage, take my nephew’s plastic bat and plastic ball and look at the picture and play that shot. That’s the way I learned my technique. I used to wait for that magazine to come. They displayed all the shots; the drive, the back foot drive, cover drive. Those days there wasn’t much sweep shots or the cut shots. That’s the reason I think I started playing very straight. I thought that helped me a lot. There were paper cuttings as well of Ken Barrington and Ted Dexter. Actually, I used to collect Ted Dexter’s pictures. Those days as kids we used to collect these pictures and exchange. There was a friend of mine who was a great fan of Ken Barrington. I was a great fan of Ted Dexter. So we used to exchange. That’s the way I think I started playing and I was lucky.

Question: Was Ted Dexter your childhood hero?

Roy: When I was a schoolboy he was my hero. But later on it was Viv Richards. No doubt about that. I remember in 1983 Sir Gary was coaching us and we were playing a practice match. Suddenly everyone stopped because there was this small plane landing on the next field. During lunch break we went to the dressing room and we saw this gentleman standing at the window. We were tired and we were just taking our shoes off and Sir Gary said, ‘Excuse me boys, I want you all to meet a good friend of mine. Normally, he’s called Lord Ted Dexter, but I call him Teddy.’ I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had lunch with him. Duleep, Sir Gary, Ted Dexter and I. While having lunch, I told them that it was like a dream as I didn’t expect two greats to be seated with us for lunch. Then Ted Dexter said, we were heroes at that time, but now you guys are the heroes. You don’t expect something of that nature to happen. Sir Gary helped not only to develop our cricket, but he made us proud to be Sri Lankans as well.

(To be continued)

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