Chandrishan: Rugby’s soulmate takes a bow | Sunday Observer

Chandrishan: Rugby’s soulmate takes a bow

The souvenir that will be given to fans that depicts Chandrishan’s deeds and achievements over an illustrious period from 1982 to ‘95 that includes victory at the Internationally famous Hong Kong Sevens. His team mates were CP Abeygunawardena, Hisham Abdeen, Saman Jayasinghe, Len de Silva, Chula Dharmadasa, Nalin de Silva, Rohantha Peiris and Hubert Ryan
The souvenir that will be given to fans that depicts Chandrishan’s deeds and achievements over an illustrious period from 1982 to ‘95 that includes victory at the Internationally famous Hong Kong Sevens. His team mates were CP Abeygunawardena, Hisham Abdeen, Saman Jayasinghe, Len de Silva, Chula Dharmadasa, Nalin de Silva, Rohantha Peiris and Hubert Ryan

Somewhere in the month of June in 1982, Havelocks, the people’s club were taking on the elite CH and FC rugby team and Chandrishan Perera was being screamed at by rival fans. Bull, fox, buffalo, hit-man and ‘black white man’ from England were some of the abuse that were thrown at him.

Chandrishan took the remarks in his stride like a true professional and the irony was that most of his detractors flocked or jostled to catch a glimpse of him or marvel at his beefy muscles after the match. An opposing Army player once laced him a thundering kick behind the referee and all Chandrishan did was reply with a ‘thank you”. Some branded him a sadist who worried if no one took him on verbally or physically.

But over the years Sri Lanka’s sports fraternity began to realize that Chandrishan was unlike any other and come Tuesday April 9 two teams called the Colombo Origins and the Outstation Origins will feature in a benefit match at Havelock Park to raise funds for the man who rode like a colossus and is now confined to a wheelchair.

The story of a sportsman is often told from the playing field, but in Chandrishan’s case it comes from the heart and not the handbook. He was a player who would break a rival’s bones or sacrifice his own for the sake of his country which always came first. At the internationally famous Hong Kong Sevens where only the best would run and hunt, Chandrishan once chased down Australia’s star winger David Campese and smashed him with a tackle by covering some sixty metres. When Campese turned around and asked Chandrishan “what the hell did you do?,” he simply replied: “I just tackled you.” He missed becoming the Player of the Tournament by just one vote while the award went to Campese.

Playing for Sri Lanka in many an international match, especially on the Sevens circuit, Chandrishan was not the kind of exponent who wanted to play second fiddle against his opponents. “They (international teams) saw us Sri Lankans as damn cheeky and the biggest embarrassment for them was when we crossed the line and scored,” Chandrishan recalled, his eyes still showing the commitment and passion he had for sport especially rugby.

But Chandrishan was also a man with not just the passion of rugby at heart, but a pioneer fitness fanatic, an erudite speaker and a lawyer who specialized in criminal psychology while growing up in England.

When the Asian tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004 Chandrishan was Sri Lanka Cricket’s media manager and was in the forefront of a humanitarian project called Cricket Aid. In Batticaloa he made a compassionate appeal which if done in London or Melbourne would have filled a hundred collection boxes and required a special plane to fly them to Colombo for such was his off-field charisma that few people knew about.

Down the ages he will not be able to hide the fact that he has moved out from a set-up that has been made too complicated by pompous people who pretend to be what they cannot be and hoodwink an unsuspecting generation.

“Sport and fitness are not rocket science as some people make it out to be and mislead followers. If you have the talent in you, it is just hard work and commitment that can take you places,” he emphasizes, his feet itching to get off his wheelchair.

He learnt his philosophy from a doting mother Mallika, a devout Christian who gave him a striking piece of advice in life. “Challenge your own self and not others,” she told him when sport was not on his mind as a 10-year-old lad.

The advice went a long way as Chandrishan found himself among 200 British kids, the only foreigner like a frightened boy in a completely alien place and it did not take long for him to adjust. When he ran against the other boys a clergyman Monsignor Thomas Gavin spotted the making of an international class rugby player who eventually became one of Sri Lanka’s most gifted sportsmen.

In 1992 when Sri Lanka’s cricketers had no mentor to monitor their fitness levels he volunteered and much to his surprise found two of them, Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva lagging behind. “Either you run now or you don’t run at all. Twenty million people are watching you,” he told the two and four years later they were on a World Cup podium.

Sri Lanka may never win a World Cup in rugby but one man found himself like the boy who stood on the burning deck. He changed the face of rugby in Sri Lanka and rugby created a new species.

 

Comments