Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 30 January 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Mahes Rodrigo :

A brilliant sportsman and gentle human being

SPORTS PERSONALITY: A vital and precious wicket has fallen! The Umpire has called "Time" and likewise, the Referee has blown the final whistle. They mark the end of a life spent gloriously on the field of sport, a life cut short suddenly perhaps but without pain or illness.

Mahes Rodrigo - a Double International Cricket and Rugby Football.

And so we say "Farewell" finally to a most versatile and brilliant sportsman and gentle human being.

It is not easy to say 'Good bye' to Mahes Rodrigo who belonged to that class of sportsmen who excelled in both Cricket and Rugby Football with equal brilliance and grace! He was doubly blessed and doubly did he give delight to observing eye and warned the heart.

Mahes played both games locally and in the international arena with a brand of genius rarely seen. I dare say he enjoyed it all hugely, something that he treated purely as a game.

Playing as an opening batsman for Royal College, he captained the school in his final year. It was then he showed a rare genius for both games, a genius which blossomed into international fields.

He represented Sri Lanka in both sports, opening batsman in Cricket and playing scrum-half at Rugby, having graduated at the Singhalese Sports Club (SSC) and at the Ceylonese Rugby and Football Club (CR & FC). He showed a rare brilliance in both forms of sport; captaining Sri Lanka at Rugger in the Indo-Sri Lanka and All-India Tournaments.

He opened the batting for Sri Lanka both against the Australians and the West Indies, in the latter game of which he carried out his bat when all else were felled like ninepins. He went on to score a century and remained unbeaten against the likes of Prior Jones and John Trim, John Goddard and Gerry Gomes and Atkinson. These high-class bowlers had scythed through the Sri Lankan batting when Mahes stood firm and great-hearted to the end in the process of scoring a hard-earned century.

One has to remind oneself that in those days there were no steel helmets for protection against the tremendous speed and bounce of the West Indies bowlers. Besides, the Tamil Union Oval had a reputation of fiery, bouncy wicket surfaces!

Which reminds me of a story once told by Hanif Mohammed of Pakistan. He said, "Bradman was short; Brian Lara was short; I am short." And so was Mahes short. The bouncers went over his head. He saved a lot of Sri Lankan blushes!

Mahes appeared only intermittently on the cricket field. He did tour India and Pakistan with the Sri Lanka Team and with his beloved uncle Sargo as captain. This reminds me of a rare moment when on tour. Sri Lanka were playing against a provincial team in Peshawar, captained by none other than the old champion bowler, Mohammed Nissar.

When Sri Lanka were fielding, the umpire at one end kept shouting "No Ball" every so often. This was annoying and untoward. The game was being interrupted.

Mahes had a plan. He coaxed his uncle to let him have an over with the ball at this particular umpire's end.

Sargo reluctantly consented to see what his nephew was upto!

Mahes ran up to bowl, and was 'no-balled'. But he was not deterred. When he ran up to bowl, he did not deliver the ball!

"No Ball" shouted the Umpire. But Mahes retorted,

"Have ball; have ball", triumphantly as he held up the ball to the discomfited umpire's gaze. The manoeuvre proved successful! There was a laugh all around, the Umpire joining in.

Mahes played occasionally for the SSC as opening bat and cover point fielder. With Hector Perera and C.D.M. Weerasinghe, he formed an impregnable barrier to the immediate peril of the batsman attempting a run and to the delight of those watching. However he did play a few innings of character in one of which he was the fourth to score a hundred, and all in one afternoon!

His deeds on the Rugby field I am not qualified to expound, but I have been told by several who were that Mahes would have graced any team of international quality as scrum-half.

Mahes was a most lovable and friendly person. He was given to mischievous badinage. He would love to "pull one's leg"! He was cheeky, challenging and confident - yet friendly. Mild-mannered though he was, he was critical of anything untoward on the field of sport. His manners on the field of sport and in the company of friends were impeccable.

In his retirement he was regular at Bridge with a chosen band of friends. They were special and intimate gatherings. It is good to know that Mahes left memories that will never be forgotten.

Dorothy and I will miss him dearly, with his puckish humour and gentle smile. Sri Lanka has lost one of her dearest, brilliant sons.

To Yoga, daughter and son we offer our sincere condolences, and pray that they will be comforted by though that Mahes was spared pain and suffering.

Ave atque vale! Dedicit et discessit.


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