Hector Perera; A cricketing giant of yesteryear | Sunday Observer

Hector Perera; A cricketing giant of yesteryear

Hector Perera
Hector Perera

Excitement ran high among the local cricket fraternity in March 1948 when the Australian cricketers were to play a whistle-stop match in Colombo. The Australians were sailing to England for the Ashes series.

Importantly, the visiting team was captained by Don Bradman, the great master who captured the attention of the world and whose magnificent deeds had been put on hold by the world war.

The local cricket enthusiasts not only showed their interest about the tour party, but also about the composition of the All-Ceylon team. This prompted that renowned cricket writer TB Marambe to note that “A few weeks before they were (Australians) due to play in Colombo, our men were busy at the Oval giving of their best in trials for picking a Ceylon team to give them battle.

“Among the crowd that gathered to watch these trials was a grey-haired veteran who said with perfect logic, ‘we are in any case in for it, but fielding is our forte, so let us pick a team which won’t let us down in the field. Hector Perera must play’.”

Hector Solomon Anton Perera (popularly known as Hector Perera) earned a name within the cricketing circle for his breathtaking fielding.

A genuine all-rounder, but best remembered as a dazzling fielder especially in the cover region, he was also well known as a fast scoring left handed batsman. Apart from his cricketing prowess he was a perfect gentleman on and off the field, a great product of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo 10.

Hector played his early cricket at St. Joseph’s and made it to the 1st XI team in 1937 as an opening batsman. He partnered with experienced opener Edward Marcus in his debut match against Royal College.

During his time the Josephians played only six matches in the first term - against Royal, Wesley, S. Thomas’, St. Anthony’s Kandy, Trinity and St. Peter’s. Amazingly, Hector was able to score over 900 runs against the best bowlers in the school cricket arena during his three years with the Josephian team.

According to Josephian cricket historian Harold De Andrado, Hector had the distinction of hitting a six on every school ground he played and making a half century against every school, with the exception of Wesley College.

When St. Joseph’s beat St. Thomas’ College in 1938 at the Darley Road ground, Hector was the highest scorer for the winners with an elegant 88 runs. Brief scores: SJC 296 beat St. Thomas’ (76 and 110) by an innings and 110 runs.

Anyhow, his second innings knock of 85 against Royal College in 1939 was rated as his best innings in school cricket by many a critic.

In my collection of Josephian sports history, I found a couple of interesting notes about Hector. When St. Joseph’s College “for the first time in her history entered two teams for the Rockmount Competition for teams of footballers under sixteen years of age” in 1935, the SJC “A” team went on to defeat the Rest by 3 goals to nil playing “better than that of some of the teams in adult soccer”. This junior football team which played under the captaincy of Collin Direksze also had Hector in the team. In 1939 Hector Perera was called upon to lead the Josephian team. Some of the members of his team were Percy Booy, Czerny Serpanchy, EAP Samarasinghe, Hugh Muller, HL Spittel, H. Randolph Smith, D. Muller, Christie Nicholas (wicket-keeper), Tennyson De Z. Abeysekera, Eric Mendis, R. Tissaveerasinghe and Gregory de Silva.

Look at the score card of the 1939 Joe-Pete “Battle of the Saints” match. St. Peter’s batted first and scored 312 with skipper Joe Misso top scoring with 122 runs.

Interestingly, Hector opened the Josephian attack perhaps for the first time in his school career. SJC replied with 129 (Hugh Muller 54, Hector Perera 49, HL Spittel 20). Six batsmen were out without scoring and batting again in the follow-on the Josephians were 64 for 4 when Hector joined Percy Booy, the opening bat.

The score was lifted to 152 producing some entertaining cricket, before Booy was out for 54. Hector remained at the crease till the end with an unbeaten match saving knock of 63.

Leaving school, Hector joined SSC and made his club debut against the formidable NCC in an all-important tournament match. As per a newspaper account “a splendid ninth wicket partnership between two old Josephian captains, Hector Perera and Claude Wijesinghe, productive of 63 runs helped the SSC to a brilliant victory over the NCC in the final inter club tournament match by seven runs”.

The Singhalese Sports Club had its maiden overseas cricket tour in 1945 and the 15-member tour party consisted of SS Jayawickrama (Capt.), FC de Saram, FJ de Saram, RJ de Soysa, DS Jayasundera, Ben Navaratne, HS Roberts, George Pereira, Lucien de Zoysa, AH Gooneratne, RB Wijesinghe, Hector Perera, FG Dalpathado and D. Ranasinghe. They left Colombo Fort railway station on December 20 by the night mail to Talaimannar and were to play matches in Madras, Baroda and Bombay.

Against Baroda CA, the visitors were shot out for 83 in the first innings but forced a respectable draw mainly due to a mammoth third wicket partnership between FC de Saram (137 n.o) and Hector Perera (95).

The team list of the Baroda XI almost looked a virtual Indian Test side with the inclusion of Hemu Adikari, Vijay Hazare, Amir Elahi, RB Nimbalkar, Gul Mohamed, Vivek Hazare and Ahmad Patel. It is said that Amir Elahi the famous Indian leg spinner who later played for Pakistan had confessed that never in England or Australia was his bowling treated with as much contempt as Hector did.

Playing at the famous Brabourne Stadium in Bombayagainst the Cricket Club of India, Hector Perera was once again at his best with the bat. The visitors lost their first two wickets with the total at 11.

As per a newspaper report of the match: “With the advent of H. Perera (Hector), the game livened up considerably and runs came in pretty fast.

The new comer scored almost twice as fast as his partner and when the teams retired for lunch, the visitors had made 155 for three wickets, Perera being unbeaten with 95 to his credit.

Hector’s first visit to India was with the Law College team. It took place during the Christmas holidays in 1944. A news item that appeared in Colombo broadsheets in December 1944 read: “Law College for the first time in its history will be sending a team of cricketers, footballers, tennis players, table tennis players and debaters to Madras this month. All arrangements for the tour have been very kindly made for the students by Mr. KS Ranga Rao, Secretary of the Cricket Board of Control for India.”

During this tour Hector scored an unbeaten 119 against Madras Law College and 43 against Madras United Club and took 4 for 52 against Madras Varsity Occasionals.

Years later in 1969 Harold De Andrado wrote: “Hector Perera’s deeds on the cricket fields of Ceylon ranks him not only as the greatest cover point we have ever seen, but a fieldsman in the same world class of Harvey and O’Neill or the present day Bland or Sheehan.

Apart from his superlative fielding he was an all-rounder of exceptional merit. Whether he made nought or ninety, he always gave you the impression that he enjoyed his cricket.” In 1948 Hector Perera was the 12th man of the All-Ceylon team led by M. Sathasivam that confronted Don Bradman’s all-time great Australian team.

When Hector’s son Peter (popularly known as Hector Perera junior) was appointed captain of the St. Joseph’s cricket team for the 1969-70 season, it created history of being the first instance of father and son to captain the Darley Road school.

Born on the 17th day of January 1920, Hector departed this life on the same day and the month 82 years later. During his day he was a model sportsman and most of all a Gentleman par excellence. This piece may be a tribute for him on his birth centenary.

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