Felix Perumal a legendary Police cricketer | Sunday Observer

Felix Perumal a legendary Police cricketer

Standing from lef: F.A. Fernando, A.T. Fonseka,V. Narendra, M. Guneratne, F. Burke, M. Siriwardene D. Rajaratnam (seated from left) H.C. Perera, N. Weerasinghe, F. Perumal, B.A. Jayasinghe (President GSCA) Minister of Health E.L. SenanayakeE. L. Abeygunewardene (IGP), T.B. Werapitiya, S. Kuruppu (Secretary GSCA), D. Weerasinghe, T.B. Kehelgamuwa
Standing from lef: F.A. Fernando, A.T. Fonseka,V. Narendra, M. Guneratne, F. Burke, M. Siriwardene D. Rajaratnam (seated from left) H.C. Perera, N. Weerasinghe, F. Perumal, B.A. Jayasinghe (President GSCA) Minister of Health E.L. SenanayakeE. L. Abeygunewardene (IGP), T.B. Werapitiya, S. Kuruppu (Secretary GSCA), D. Weerasinghe, T.B. Kehelgamuwa

We go back in time to 1968, 50 years ago, when the Police won the Govt. Services ‘A’ Division Cricket Tournament, a feat not achieved for eleven years before. Another aspect of interest was that until about 1970, a large number of renowned cricketers played for the Police, much lesser

known players formed the teams that took part in the ‘A’ Division tournaments thereafter, and in an environment where the quality of cricket had suffered irreparably in government institutions. The drift of talent away from the public service, beginning in mid 60’s, accounted for such

decline. Felix Perumal captained the formidable Police team in 1968. He wrested the coveted ‘A’ Division Trophy after a long lapse of time. There were times when the majority of national players were nurtured by government departments. Police had accomplished players in Perumal (Tamil Union), H.C. Perera (Royal and NCC), Neil Weerasinghe (St. Josephs and NCC), F. Burke (St. Anthony’s, Bloomfield and Colts), Dhanasiri Weerasinghe (Ananda, Bloomfield and Ceylon), Firmin Fernando (St. Sebastians and Catamarans), Thilak Fonseka (BRC), ‘Duke’ Rajaratnam (St. Benedicts), T.B. Kehelgamuwa (Dharmaraja and Ceylon), Mithra Siriwardane (Ananda), and V. Narendra (Zahira).

I represented the University and Colts. Municipality had D. H. de Silva, D. Bultjens, A. Polonowita, D. Sahabandu, Devaraj and D.S. de Silva. Health Dept had an extremely formidable team with L. Idroos, (S. Thomas’, University & Ceylon), Nihal Gurusinghe (S. Thomas, University and CCA), B. G. Reid (BRC, S. Thomas’ and Ceylon), Balakrishnan (Nomads and Ceylon), Sivanathan (University and Ceylon), Cyril Ernest (St. Benedicts, University and NCC),

Ranjith de Silva ( Royal, University), Carlyle Perera (St. Joseph’s, University, NCC), and Mohanlal Fernando (Ananda, University). Prisons boasted of Stanley de Alwis (SSC and Ceylon), Maurice Fernando (Schoolboy Cricketer from Kingswood), Daya Amarasinghe (Ananda), Ben Fernando (St. Sebastians, CCA). Railway had the famous Amendra brothers from Mahinda College, Galle amongst a number of good players. CTB had N. Frederick (Bloomfield and Ceylon), Anura Tennakoon (S. Thomas’, SSC and Ceylon), D.P. de Silva (Prince of Wales, Nomads and Ceylon), Nihal Soyza (St. Benedicts and Nomads), and Sylvester Dias (Moratuwa Sports Club and Ceylon).

It was an era when the best of talent in many sports from schools opted for the Police and Armed Services over other fields. The Police alone attracted exceptionally outstanding sportsmen. Apart from those constituting the cricket team of 1968, Sumith Liyanage, CP and HP Jayasooriya, Dharmasiri Weerakoon, Percy Wijesuriya in Boxing, Sathkunarajah, Nimal Fernando, Dareeju, Ivan Boteju, Lawney Silva, Lesley Jayabandu, C Navarathnam in Athletics, T.N. Hajreen and Judy Preena in Soccer, Sivendran, Rohan Gunaratne, Benedict, Rodney Aluvihare and Muni

Gomes in Rugger are only few of the many outstanding schoolboys who joined the Police. Such excellent performers invested the Police with a brand of public appeal, particularly to the young.

They made unique contribution towards fostering public relations, being the glamour boys of a golden era, now extinct. Legendary Sidney de Zoysa had said that many can excel in work, but only a few can shine in sports. It is a truism. It is arguable that the service in the 60s and 70s could have given them greater recognition than what they eventually enjoyed.

Though a digression, it may yet be in context to examine why schoolboys and undergraduates opted to enlist in the police in the 50’s and 60s in preference to the Mercantile sector. The callow minds were yet enamoured by the glory of a fiercely independent and proud service.

Outstanding talent that enlisted were deluded into thinking that they could be heirs to a proud heritage. This explains the surfeit of talent in the major sports in the Police at that time.

That dark, ominous clouds in the shape of encroachment were somewhat imperceptibly creeping into the Police was not a phenomenon visible to the raw and callow youth who when enlisting, were more dazzled by the past. They were caught up between two worlds in an age of transition where they understood the past, but not the future. This transformation was one of the reasons why the quality of cricket in the state sector including the police declined rapidly from about 1970, for the best of sportsmen from schools and universities began to choose sectors other than the police for employment, when interference became patently visible.

Reverting to the tournament in 1968, the standard of cricket was on par with the ‘Saravanamuttu’ trophy tournament, the premier one in the country, the reason being the opulence in talent, with virtually all participants being formidable players. The tournament itself was so well organized as to preserve quality and standards.

There were six teams in all: Police, Municipality, CTB, Prisons, Health and Railway. Each played the other twice, so that each side played 10 matches. The standard of cricket was infinitely professional and from the top drawer because the best of the best participated, a far cry from the ‘Sara’ tournaments of later times when ordinary teams were also participants, lowering the quality of cricket, and enabling mediocrities to amass runs and capture wickets at will, thereby asserting misleading claims for national ‘caps’.

The quality of leadership was also profoundly professional. D.H. de Silva led the Municipality, Ranjith Silva, Health, F. Perumal, Police, Percy Amendra, Railway, Bobby Wickramesinghe, Prisons, and Sylvester Dias, CTB.

The Police won all their matches and the coveted Trophy. Felix Perumal scored two 90’s against the Municipality and Health Dept. and 3 fifties, averaging over 45 runs in the tournament. Tilak Fonseka, a late addition to premier cricket whose talents were recognized by the BRC, scored a century and 3 fifties.

He was also a fine right arm leg spinner and a brilliant fielder. Other batsmen who chipped in with valuable contributions regularly were Dhanasiri Weerasinghe, H.C. Perera, Neil Weerasinghe, Kehelgamuwa, Franklyn Burke, Rajaratnam and Firmin Fernando.

Bowling was perhaps the forte of the Police. Kehelgamuwa and I opened bowling, ably supported by Franklyn Burke as first change. Felix Perumal and Firmin Fernando was a useful supporter with medium pace bowling. The team was rich in spin with Neil Weerasinghe bowling his off spin with craft and guile. He belonged to the classical breed of off spinners who deceived

batsmen with flight and variation, akin to the likes of Robert De Kretser, Abu Fuard, Priya Perera, Lalith Kaluperuma. Tilak Fonseka and Dhanasiri Weerasinghe were competent right arm leg spinners. I captured a haul of wickets, 7 for 7 against Railways being the best, followed by 5 each against the Health, CTB, and the Municipality. Kehelgamuwa and Burke followed behind.

Our match against Health was replete with tension and drama. Once we asserted our prowess over such a formidable team there was no stopping us marching towards the coveted trophy. Not scoring more than 150 runs in the first innings, we did rout a strong batting line up cheaply.

This was the victory that provided the momentum for the Police to thereafter make mincemeat of many teams. The Police steamrolled over Railway and Prisons in their last two matches to wrest the coveted trophy after a long lapse of time.

Felix Perumal was a batsman of the classical genre. Tall, with an upright stance, he strolled to the wicket at No. 3, and often faced the new ball. He was technically sound, and was also an aggressive player with a penchant for the drive. He treated medium pacers with disdain, frequently lofting them to long off and long on. He had the flair to score rapidly. Leaving the police service early, he played for Tamil Union in the premier tournament and scored runs consistently. He was as a batsman, the dominating type, an essential attribute for No. 3 or 4 slots in a team. He could also bowl slow, medium pace, and often break stubborn partnerships.

It is perhaps as the captain of the victorious team that wrested the trophy after a lapse of time that Felix Perumal carved a niche in the annals of police cricket.

He triumphed in a highly competitive tournament where strong teams for the first time met each other twice. His achievement was therefore no mere ‘fluke’. I have played with a number of captains, two of them national class.

Through my experience, I would estimate that Felix Perumal stands next to D.H. de Silva. The experience and knowledge of D.H. was so legendary to the point that his tactics were often instinctive.

A leader of such breed can often succeed in calculations through sheer instinct. Perumal may not have possessed the shrewdness of D.H. but he knew how to lead by personal achievement, and by infusing a kind of flair and verve when handling his team. He was an enormous source of inspiration as a leader.

He was equally at ease in his work as well, for he possessed a profound knowledge of police work.

Did the failure of the service to recognize his feats in cricket and work act as a spur for him to depart from the police prematurely? He left unwept and unsung. His departure was a drama full of pathos, for his ‘finest hour’ led to his ‘final hour’ in the police. Ironically, the loss of the police proved to be his fortune, for he

became a highly successful entrepreneur in the field of ‘private security’. It may not be wrong to presume that Felix Perumal and the other stalwarts, ACM Lafir and Vernon Prins, left the police in their prime out of a feeling of neglect.