Mahes Rodrigo :
A brilliant sportsman and gentle human being
by Bertie WIJESINHA
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
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
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
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
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
Ave atque vale! Dedicit et discessit.