Lafir the cricketing legend | Sunday Observer

Lafir the cricketing legend

ACM Lafir
ACM Lafir

ACM Lafir, a legend in cricket not only at St. Anthony’s College, Kandy but also for Ceylon. He was molded by renowned coach John Halangoda a product of Trintiy College and set many records while leading the Antonians to the championship in 1954.

He is well remembered for that epic opening batting record with Ronnie Stephens against Trinity College.

His full name goes as Abdul Cader Mohamed Lafir, born on 27 October 1935 at Katugastota. In 1948, he entered St. Anthony’s College and captained the First XI team in the College’s centenary year in 1954.

In 1962 Lafir married Carmini , an English teacher, had three children, Aashiq, Nirala and Mehera.

He was a real treat to watch, whenever he was at the crease. It was in the 1950s that Lafir sprang-up to dominate the batting scene, tearing the best of bowlers apart and entertained his numberless fans with brilliant stroke-play.

It was in an under-14 match that he was spotted by Halangoda and from 1950 Lafir was picked to play for the senior side and went on to captain the team for two memorable years. Through his consistency and excellence in batting during the season, he was selected to play for the Combined Schools team led by Josephian Kenneth Serpanchy.

Lafir scored the fastest 100 in 60 minutes against Ananda College in 1954 and had an opening stand of 266 runs with Ronnie Stephens (103) against Trinity.

In the Big Match he won four awards - best batsman, bowler, all-rounder and highest scorer. He scored over 1000 runs in 1954 with an average of 108.06, breaking the record of 92.6 set in 1918 by the legendary Jack Anderson.

In 1954 Lafir won the Sri Lanka schools Best Batsman Award. His 1954 team was made up of players like Ranjith Doranegama, J. Sivananthan, Ronnie Stephens, TM ‘Tom’ Deen, Cutbert Pereira, Saliya Doranegama, W. Premaratne, Guy Fernando, J. Abdeen, Nihal Fernando, Cecil Rodrigo, Adrian Berenger, C. Pamunuwa, Dicky Macky and Fred John.

In 1954 Lafir was the first Antonian, to play for Sri Lanka while yet in school against the MCC led by Sir Len Hutton. His service to the country continued for eight years period from 1954 to 1962 and was the first player on either side to make a 100 in the Gopalan trophy between Madras and Ceylon President’s XI in 1961.

He was also the first batsman to win the Macan Markar Trophy awarded for the highest score of 256 not out playing for Nomads CC against University in 1966 that beat the previous best of 236 by Makin Salih. Lafir led the Kandy schools team to victory over the powerful Colombo Combined Schools XI with a captain’s innings of 151 not out coached by Maurice Perera, a former Peterite and well known commentator who took over the job with the demise of Halangoda in 1953.

He played for Saracens and established his place in the Sri Lanka team with an impressive batting record which had 27 centuries and two double centuries. His batting performances for Sri Lanka were also outstanding, particularly his enterprising knock of 107 against Madras in 1955 and another century 132 in the following year. Some of his team-mates were VG Prins, CI Gunasekera, Dr. HIK Fernando, Brian Claessen, Stanley Jayasinghe, CT Schaffter, Dooland Buultjens, PN Schokman, GP Schoorman, PAT Kelly, N. Ponniah and Makkin Salih.

In 1958 Lahir was selected to play for All-Ceylon against the MCC, which was captained by Colin Cowdrey and had great England players like Tom Graveney, R. Subba Row, Peter Richardson, Trevor Bailey, Peter May, Frank Tyson, Jim Laker, Brian Statham, CA Milton and Freddie Trueman.

The Sri Lanka team was led by Vernon Prins and had CH Gunasekera, ACM Lafir, Michael Tissera, CI Gunasekera, A. Sethupathy, Dr. HIK Fernando, Clive Inman, CT Schafter, Tony Buhar, Malcolm Francke and Lasantha Rodrigo.

Dr. HIK Fernando was named the best wicket keeper in Asia by the Reuter’s special correspondent Leslie Smith, for his splendid performance behind the stumps. For his 84 runs in the Test against the MCC, the British Trade Commissioner JF Saunders awarded a prize for Sri Lanka’s highest scorer which went to Lafir.

In 1975 Lafir opened his cricket coaching school at the Nomads ground and conducted classes for boys between the ages of 12 to 15 years and some talented players who were coached by were Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinha and Nigel Fernando.

Lafir also played for the North Club in Melbourne, Australia on the invitation of Merril Gunaratne a former Anthonian cricketer.