Ajith Abeyratne: The silent warrior | Sunday Observer

Ajith Abeyratne: The silent warrior

Ajith Abeyratne
Ajith Abeyratne

Trinity College’s mid 1960s rugby captain and cricketer Ajith Abeyratne was a man for whom defeat was never a worry and in no sport has there been a captain who led by example quite like him, the fearless and ferocious.

He played at the age of 15, was one of the finest products to hail from the Kandy school and besides playing rugby, he performed with distinction in cricket, basketball, tennis and athletics. During his time his name was a household one in sports in Kandy and he holds the record for the fastest century between Trinity and Royal College –100 in 69 minutes off 62 balls in 1968 at Asgiriya.

He led the Trinity College rugby teams in 1967 and 1968 and won colours and the coveted Lion in rugby as well as the Ryde Gold Medal awarded to the best all-round student in 1968. He was also the president of the Students Christian Movement.

In 1967 in his first year of captaincy in rugby, Abeyratne’s side beat the star-studded St.Peter’s College led by Rodney Patternott. In that year Trinity were unbeaten rugby champions under the coaching of Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa and the team also had players like Shafie Jainudeen, Iswan Omar, Gamini Udugama, Alex Lazarus, Stephen Paul, Anil Siriwardena, Dudley Dissanayake, Mahendra Thalwatte, M. Affif, Errol Warne, Mohan Balasuriya, Jadi Dissanayake, Gogi Tillakaratne, B. Shanthi Kumar. NTB Dassanayake, Ranjan Nadarajah, Rafi Ismail, Mark Sundaralingam and Prince Nayagam.

The team also won both legs of the Bradby 17-3 and 16-3 when a try accounted for three points at that time.

At cricket Abeyratne was an all-rounder and the ‘Bowling Prize’ was awarded to him in 1968. His team mates were Chandra Amunugama, DN Dissanayke, Nihal Marambe, JL Weersinghe, H. Heart, PMR Perera, Cuda Wadugodapitya and PHB Marambe to name a few. He also played for the Colombo Cricket Club (CCC).

A gentleman to his finger tips Abeyratne played club rugby for CR and FC as a Number Eight and it did not take him long to don the Sri Lanka jersey.

He was also a high quality Sri Lanka coach and with the national side made tours of Wales, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore. He also coached St. Peter’s College in 1995 the year in which the Peterites became unbeaten League champions.

As Sri Lanka coach from 1985 to 1988 the side were runners up in 1986 and 1987 at the Hong Kong Sevens with players like the incomparable Hisham Abdeen, Priyantha Ekanayake, Asanga Seneviratne, Ronald Rodrigo, Hemantha Yatawara, Saman Kotalawela, Ajantha Samarakoon and Anura Bowela.

Abeyratne also took the Sri Lanka team to the World Rugby Sevens in Sydney in 1987.

In rugby administration Abeyratne was the national head selector and director coaching in the 1990s and a Consultant of CR & FC for nearly 20 years. He was the holder of coaching certificates from Wales (1986), New Zealand (Level 1), Australia (1987), England (1991) and the International Rugby Board Level 3 (1997).