East or West, EW was best | Sunday Observer

East or West, EW was best

EW Balasuriya
EW Balasuriya

Many seem to have forgotten those past glorious moments of sports in Kandy, but there are still a few who remember the part played by promoters. One such person from Kandy was the late EW Balasuriya, the founder of Kandy Lake Club and Kandy RFC who promoted the game for years and produced top sportsmen in rugby, cricket and iron sports.

Balasuriya was a product of Dharmaraja College and Ananda College and excelled in cricket as a left hand opening batsman. At Ananda College some of his team mates were PW Perera, PG Ranatunge, BR Fernando and Togo Sugathadasa to name a few.

He was known as EW and Bala to his friends, a sportsman, promoter and philanthropist. There was hardly any sporting event in Kandy in which he was not involved. His pet sports were rugby and cricket. The encouragement he gave to players and clubs by way of financial assistance, advice and guidance is well known to many.

As a donor he was unique and, unlike most others, he was freely available to all sportsmen at any time. He was one-time secretary of the Central Province Cricket Association and later hit the top spot when he organized the first official Test match at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy when the late Gamini Dissanayake was president of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka.

He gave a big hand to Kandy by converting the Bogambara ground into a stadium in 1972.

EW had the gift of making people feel exalted and raised their spirit by a few words of comfort or expression of support. “Don’t worry, you do whatever you like I will give the backing, I am there with you,” were his favorite words. He also gave a big hand to the Dharmaraja College swimming pool project.

He founded Kandy Lake Club in 1962 and later Kandy RFC and was a great rugby developer. His first rugby side was coached by Maurice Perera, the famous All Ceylon prop forward and Sidney Ratwatte. The first sport to be played by his club was cricket and some of the players were Bertie Gomes, Neville Herathge, DD de Alwis, ME Marikar, ZM Zarook and P. Peries to name a few.

His much loved sport was rugby and he entered a team in 1963 and played in the B division tournament organized by the Ceylon Rugby Football Union with Antonian Niyaz Majeed as its first captain. Some of the others who backed him to introduce rugby were Col. Stanley Ratwatte, Noel Paranagama, Dr. CDL Fernando, Sidney Ratwatte and Maurice Perera.

Within three years EW turned on a champion team that won the CRFU “B” Division title. In that year they were led by Vidyarthian TB Wijesinghe, a dashing wing-three-quarter. After seeing his good play the CR and FC absorbed him.

In 1967 Kandy Lake Club was promoted to the A Division to play along with top clubs like Havelock SC, Kandy SC, Dimbulla, Dickoya MMC, Uva, KV, CH and FC, CR and FC and Army SC.

From 1967 Kandy Lake club played in the “A” division and was a major force in the rugby arena with a galaxy of top class players and gave all the senior clubs anxious moments. The club’s founder EW Balasuriya helped many unknown players to become known and they made a name in the field of rugby.

Some of them were TB Wijesinghe who started his rugby at Kandy Lake Club and became the first product of Vidyartha to play for Sri Lanka. He was followed by George Jayasena while some of the other players who played for the Up-country and a few for the country were Farook Dole, Maurice de Silva, Carl Fernando, Sarath Kulatilleke, Didacus de Almeida, Mahesh Sabaratnam, Gavin Stevens, Alex Lazarus, Nihal Jayatillake, Niyas Majeed, Jadi Dissanayake, Iswan Omar and Shafie Jainudeen.

At the end of the 1973 season, a former CPRFU president Dr. KB Sangakkara well known in the rugby circle at that time, requested EW to amalgamate his club with Kandy SC and play under one banner. EW agreed to it and they played under one name Kandy Sports Club from 1974 with the Kandy SC jersey and Kandy RFC colour on the stockings.