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Daya Sahabandu:

Genial genius


Daya Sahabandu - a priceless asset and a genius in his time from 1960s to 80s.

CRICKET: The captioned superlative is intended and deservedly so. Daya Sahabandu was a priceless asset and a genius in his time extending from the 60s to the 80s. In the pelting rain, I sought refuge at Daya Sahabandu's for a revival of dusty memories. Betwixt claps of thunder the golden arm trolleyed in his precious scrapbooks, not having lost a scrap of his boyous zest for the beloved game.

Daya Sahabandu and his legendary skills were born on the 28th of March 1940 at 26 Charlemont Road, Wellawatte.

Aged about 6 years he honed his legendary skills on his hapless little neighbours down the lane, the left-armer wheeled away ceaselessly, from dawn to dusk, till the last weary toddler, turned home for supper. The effort was not wasted, certainly not on the budding maestro.

By the year 1958 the redoubtable Gamini Goonesena has earmarked Sahabandu's arm for glory, impressed by the youngster. Spinning his wares for Royal College under the leadership of Michael Wille.

Initially, marking his run for the Sinhalese Sports Club in the 'Daily News' Trophy from 1960 to 1963, a change of clubs in 1964 transformed his cricketing fortunes. At Nomads the crafty skipper D. H. de Silva, licking his chops, gave Sahabandu a fair crack of the whip, 6,552 overs in fact, over a span of 20 years. Bandu repaid his captain in full measure, with 1,048 wickets at an average 14.11, plugging one end with 1,919 maidens.

Armed with the destructive left-arm of Sahabandu and a wicked glint in his eye D. H. de Silva made a successful assault on Ceylon's plum title, the Sara Trophy in 1964/65, a proud moment for Bandu.

The Nomads and the Colombo Municipality who so large heartedly gave refuge to so many hugely talented cricketers bearing less fasionable names from the less fashionable schools. A big bouquet to the CMC velatedly though, for lifting that plum in 1965.

Runs and wickets did not pay your bills, certainly not in that era. The Board of Control paid him a paltry Rs. 200 per International as smoke money. The ever benevolent Mr. R. Rajamahendran, employing Sahabandu for well nigh 30 years ensured that our country was not deprived of a priceless asset.

Sahabandu's fistful of wiles consisted of his stock orthodox left-arm leg-spin, whilst his armer was a beast of a ball, evilly disguised amongst his slower deliveries. Purgatory for the batsman would arrive early in the day, in the event Bandu took the new ball. Loping in from 8 paces he would whip it into the right-hander at a sharp slant and a steep dip in trajectory, making the best of them look ridiculous.

Pathetically the mountains of accolades at home fetched him only a handful of International hustings, none of which were squandered by the erstwhile spinner.

* 3 for 54 for Sri Lanka against India at Nagpur in 1975.

* 2 for 90 Ceylon against MCC at Colombo in 1969.

* 2 for 64 and 2 for 52 for Ceylon against Australia at Colombo in 1969.

* 1 for 33 and 5 for 86 for Ceylon against MCC at Colombo in 1970.

The heaps of wickets taken in Gopalan Trophy matches and for The Board President XI against visiting Internationals are not depicted below as the figures would take much space to catalogue. Batsmen of the calibre of Graveney, Cowdrey, Lawry, Walters, Huntem Chappell, Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Edrich, Boycott were among the batsmen he had to contend with, and that he asserted himself is obvious. Reputed English Test stars such as Tom Graveney, Brian Close, and Alan Smith heaped accolades on our erstwhile left-armer. Tom Graveney arguably the best post war English batsman contended that Daya Sahabandu was the best bowler he had faced in 20 years of big cricket.

Daya conversely heaped praise on the captaincy of Tissera, the batting of Tennakoon and the pace of Kehelgamuwa.

A sudden tumble of wickets in the Nomads lower middle order would bring Bandu, seemingly reluctantly to the crease, equipped with an old relic of a twine bound bat. He reminded me with immense pride of his heroic 32 n.o. against the wiles of Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar in an unofficial Test against India in 1975.

The chink in his edifice was his ponderous fielding, Specializing at mid-on Bandu could be delightfully detached and absent minded, no doubt plotting the demise of the batsman who had swatted a couple of boundaries past his boot laces at long on.

In a rare flash of deadpan humour the maestro recollected as to how the peanut vendor, pineapple seller, umpires, scorers, spectators and the players all travelled to a game in the same bus, public conveyance being the primary mode of transport available during those austere times.

Just a couple of players sped past in autos, to be decimated by Bandu later in the day anyway.

Daya Sahabandu is mercifully in good health, delightfully eccentric, his lean frame wobbling a bit now has mellowed much and even at 69 years of age, exemplified the joy and pride of having been part of the great game. He spends his time amongst his souvenirs and memories lovingly tended to by his gracious spouse Swarna and son Janaka, a Banker by profession.

 

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