The death of Radley Classen in Adelaide Australia last month brought to an end the famous Classen family that dominated school cricket in the fifties playing for Wesley College. Radley was the last survivor of the quintet of brothers born to the Classen family who lived down Thimbirigasyaya at the time.
Mohamed Nakeem Samsudeen who terrorized batsmen with his deadly and deceptive left-arm swing bowling had the privilege of opening the bowling with Radley Classen when he captained Wesley College in 1952. On hearing of the death of Radley, Samsudeen who was very close to the
Classen family rolled back the years to throw light on the achievements of this famous triumvirate of brothers – Bryan, Radley and Herman who represented Wesley College with distinction. Two of the brothers Douggie and Herbert did not play cricket, but branched into other fields.
“The year Radley captained Wesley his brother Bryan was his vice-captain. Radley was the opening bowler and I shared the new ball with him,” recalled Samsudeen. “Radley was a right-arm fast bowler famous for his short-pitched bowling. He was a specialist of that delivery and in one match he broke the teeth of Peterite opener Vitachi.
“Radley played only in that year with me before moving to Colombo Colts CC where he played a little cricket before migrating to Australia. In the year he captained we played our first match against the powerful Josephian team that included Ken Serpanchy and Roy Perera and we beat them. That year we were unbeaten and the team comprised players like Patrick Shockman, Musafer the wicket-keeper, Bryan Classen, Ansar and Abu Fuard, Neil Gallagher, Chapman, Herman Classen, Lou Adihetty, Jurangpathy and myself.”
The following year (1953) when Bryan took over the captaincy, Samsudeen recalled Wesley became the best school’s team. “Radley opened batting and bowling for Wesley. He opened the batting with Abu Fuard and he became very popular because of his bowling. He had a long run up and was able to bounce the ball much to the discomfort of the batsmen. He was appointed a counselor for Sri Lanka in Australia and a Justice of the Peace. He had a very good reputation
in Australia,” said Samsudeen. “When he once came down on holiday, Rienzie Wijetilleke (the former Hatton National Bank chairman) hosted a dinner in Radley’s honour and all his team mates were invited for it. That was the first visit he made to Sri Lanka after he migrated he looked very fit. On a later date when he came down Radley was like his father very fat and old.”
The Classens looked to have a bright cricket future ahead of them when tragedy struck one of the brothers and with it the interest for the sport also died.
Recalling the incident Samsudeen related, “Bryan was working and with his first salary he brought a British made Velocette motorcycle and put his younger brother Herman behind him and they went to the Regal theatre to see a film. When they were returning a car came and knocked them down and Herman died from the accident.
“All were males in that family – Bryan, Radley, Douggie, Herbert and Herman. The mother’s pet was Herman the youngest fellow he was my classmate also. When he died the mother was terribly upset, she gave up coming to see her sons playing cricket. Before the accident she was a regular visitor to all the matches her sons played. They used to travel in their Bug Fiat which their father who was one of the directors at Collettes owned and, they also found some room for me as well. However with Herman’s tragic death the entire family gave up cricket and when the mother also died the father took the rest of his family to Australia.
“Herman was a real Bill Johnston (former Australian bowler) type of bowler. He was very tall and bowled left-arm. He was a fantastic bowler who could have gone very far but unfortunately his career was cut short. All three brothers were coached by that legendary coach at Wesley Alban V Fernando.
“Bryan was the famous of the three, a fine all-rounder - leg break and googly bowler and a top order bat. He was of short stature and could hook any short-pitched ball. He got into the All-Ceylon side for his batting. He was the best batsmen at the time in school cricket.”
Samsudeen who represented Colts and later the Navy is renowned for playing for two teams on the same day and also taking all ten wickets in an innings against a visiting team. In 1955 Samsudeen represented Wesley against Royal in two-day match. His fine bowling (3/26) enabled Wesley to beat Royal by lunch on the second day. He then rushed to represent Colts half an hour later in a Sara trophy match against Tamil Union and opening the bowling took 2 for 26. He also held four catches in the Tamil Union innings.
Five years later in 1960 when Pakistan Eaglets toured Sri Lanka, Samsudeen set up a new record by being the first Sri Lankan bowler to take all ten wickets in an innings against a visiting team playing for Combined Services at the CCC grounds. He had figures of 14.2-3-26-10 as the touring side was shot out for 40 in a matter of 85 minutes. At 79 he spends his life in retirement at Thalawatugoda.