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Anura Tennekoon - the most prolific scorer in pre-Test era

Former Sri Lanka skipper Anura Tennekoon was full of praise for the Sunday Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show which is eagerly looked forward to by schoolboys and supporters alike.

Anura Tennekoon won the coveted award in 1964 at a time there were no sponsors for shows. The competition then was conducted by the Ceylon Daily News and Tennekoon won the award for his fine batting displays and he was very close to gaining recorgnition in playing for the Sri Lanka team.

He represented S. Thomas' from 1962 to 1966. While still at school, Tennekoon was selected to represent Sri Lanka against England under M.J.K. Smith when the English team was on their way to Australia.

Sri Lanka on that occasion was led by Michael Tissera and the match took place at the Saravanamuttu Stadium, earlier known as the Colombo Oval.

That year - 1964, Tennekoon was picked as the Ceylon Daily News Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year All-Island while Sumithra Fernando of St. Sebastian's won the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Award.

Anura Tennekoon was easily the most prolific scorer for Sri Lanka in the pre-Test era. He was able to do that because of his sound technique and long powers of concentration which enabled him to bat for long periods and compile a heap of runs for his country. He was the ideal No. 3 batsman for any country to have in a Test side. Unfortunately, for Tennekoon and Sri Lanka his talents were confined to playing only unofficial Tests. By the time the country got Test status, Tennekoon had retired from the game.

The secret of Tennekoon's success as a top-order batsman was his excellent footwork which enabled him to convert good length balls into half-volleys or full tosses.

In an early interview, Tennekoon said: "To a great extent the footwork I was taught made me a successful batsman. What I feel is that if a batsman has good footwork sometimes one can convert good length deliveries into half volleys and at the same time if you move back enough, convert a good ball into a hittable balloon the back foot. Footwork to me played a major role in my batting", Tennekoon said.

Tennekoon was still a schoolboy when he was picked to represent his country against Mike Smith's MCC team in the one-day match in 1965. He batted at number 7 and remained 4 not out.

By the time Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) toured Pakistan in 1966/67 Tennekoon had moved up the batting order to become the permanent number three for his country, replacing Lasantha Rodrigo in that position. Tennekoon represented his country for 14 years and was captain for five of them. The captaincy passed on to him from Michael Tissera when Tissera was unavailable for the tour to Pakistan in 1974 due to work commitments.

The selectors retained Tennekoon as captain although Tissera was available and he went on to lead the country in the first two cricket World Cups in England in 1975 and 1979 when Sri Lanka became the first non-Test playing nation to defeat a full member country India in World Cup match and they also went on to become ICC Trophy Champions.

Tennekoon said that even in the 1975 World Cup Sri Lanka had a good game against Australia at the Oval.

Sri Lanka chased 328 runs and got up to about 276 for 4 wickets in 60 overs. Sri Lanka were going well until Sunil Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis were knocked off by Jeff Thomson. Sri Lanka came close to beat Australia, but Australia had the capability to restrict Sri Lanka.

Before coming on to club cricket and international cricket, Tennekoon was a star member of the S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia cricket team and played for five years, captaining in his final year in 1966.

 

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