GALLERY OF EVENTS - Restored Turf Wickets


Three Turf Wickets at S.Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa
Historical background and road map to the launching of three turf wickets

Dear Friends,

‘Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes’ (‘I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts’)

When Collin Ratnayake, Headmaster, S.Thomas’ College Gurutalawa resigned and left in 1977 even without the customary one month’s notice, the Board of Governors and the Bishop at the time- Bishop Kenneth requested me to take charge of the College administration and review the ground situation. To be honest, I really took to the task entrusted to me with great relish ‘ as ducks take to water’. It was really ‘home’ ground for me and also brought nostalgic memories where I was a student in 1945, then teacher, Read Housemaster, cricket and hockey coach (1952-1956) inclusive of the year at Christ’s College, Cambridge on study leave, thanks to my parents, Dr.Hayman, Fr.Foster and Professor E F C Ludowyke. As Rajan said, I should know S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa ‘inside out”! In fact, I was de facto Headmaster cum Manager.

I visited S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa and met the staff and minor employees. At Assembly, I told the boys that I was happy to be back and would look after their interest in order to maintain the high standards we are accustomed to. Fortunately, I had an excellent team to work with.

On my return to Colombo, I met and discussed with Bishop Kenneth the strategy to be adopted during the inter regnum till a new Headmaster was appointed. On my recommendation Bishop Kenneth made the follwoign appointments: 1) L A M Chandrasekera, as Acting Headmaster to be in overall charge 2) S T Moorthy – Master-in –charge of the Boarding and academic work, with special reference to the Tamil Medium 3) K Bandusena – Master-in-Charge of infra-structure including buildings etc as Technical Officer 4) The Revd Dushantha Rodrigo as Chaplain.

As Manager, I appointed 1)ACM Laffir (now deceased) Prefect of Games and coach of Hockey, Squash and Badminton and Master-in-Charge of the swimming pool 2) J W Marasinghe (also now deceased) Master-in-Charge of Swimming in addition to his duties as Secretary to the Headmaster 3) Mrs. Yapa, Teacher-in-Charge of Keble Dormitory and the Primary Section. I am writing from memory, please excuse a lapsus linguae.

My magnum opus, so speak, was the construction of three turf wicket – two for matches and one for practices. The Bishop blessed the site and cut the first sod, followed by Ronnie Weerakoon (deceased) Bradman Weerakoon,Clifford Ratwatte and myself. The illustrious Aravinda de Silva’s famous coach W A N Silva and the Proprietor of the Cricket Shop recommended Marion Cooray (deceased), curator of the Moratuwa Cricket Stadium to lay the turf wickets. He did an excellent job (vide Ajit Jayasekera’s) report to the Board of Governors). I collected the money from a few former students of mine and some friend s (vide my financial report to the Board of Governors). To say the least I was overwhelmed by the response to my letter. Bandula Wanigasekera was the first with Rs.10,000! Ismeth Cassim was a tower of strength to me in my collection campaign, in addition to his own contribution of Rs.10,000/-. He took me in his car and that indeed was a God send.

On the recommendation of Bertie Wijesinha who was our coach in the 1st eleven cricket when I was playing for STC in 1946 and later our cricket coach at S.Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa when the late Bala Gunasegeram was Headmaster, I bought a ‘turf cutter’ for Rs.85,000/- with your money. He said it was essential if we are to have turf wickets. Ironically, at a Board of Governors’ meeting at which I was present, Mr.G Mendis, Headmaster at the time offered it on a platter to the Warden, S.Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia. O tempora O mores. He did not care to get my permission, though I had bought it with money collected by me.

During the inter regnum, at my request, Anura Tennekoon successfully conducted an excellent coaching camp with Asoka de Silva, Sylvester Dias to help him. Anura wanted us to invite Welimada Central and another Maha Vidyalya. I also invited STC Bandarawela to the camp. 2. Nihal Cooray (deceased), Director General of Education and Teacher Training (English) organized a week-end course for teachers of English at STCG. He brought a team of trained specialists in English teaching methods. Here too, I invited STC Bandarawela and there is no doubt it was beneficial to all the teachers who participated. 3. Dr.E S Thevasagayam (deceased) was a source of inspiration to our teachers with his workshop on “Integral Education’.

All in all this period was a fruitful one and many sent letters of appreciation. Bishop Kenneth and I assisted S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa often and addressed the staff and students in order to monitor the progress till the Board of Governors was able to find a suitable Headmaster.

Anyway I would like Father Marc to check (a) the location of the turf cutter and (b) what happened to the Rs.10,000/- balance in the Turf wicket Fund when I resigned and MR.Clifford Ratwatte was appointed the Manager. Mr.Alban Fernando was the Headmaster at the time.

I am very happy that Father Marc is settling down as the New Headmaster- already he has made his mark – no pun is intended ! There is no doubt that he has a Herculean task in cleaning the Augean stables. When I met Bishop Duleep de Chickera on 5th October in his office to invite him for the Festival of Cricket, I expressed my thanks to him and to the Board of Governors for the excellent choice. S.Thomas’ College Gurutalawa is in safe and capable hands and things are looking bright. He needs our help and support and I am, therefore, appealing to you to give generously for the turf wicket fund. Please send contributions, however small, to the Revd Marc Billimoria, Headmaster, S Thomas’ College Gurutalawa to be used exclusively to restore the turf wickets which have been thoroughly neglected by successive Headmasters. Guy de Alwis has very kindly agreed to re-lay the turf wickets to be ready when we have the Festival of Cricket. It is not fair to use the College Funds to revive the turf wickets. Fr.Marc has enough on his hands to upgrade the infrastructure with the limited resources at his disposal.

Mirabile dictu, on 8th February 1998, at my invitation, Bishop Kenneth left Colombo at 4 am along with Anura Tennekoon and Mahesan Selvaratnam blessed the turf wickets before the matches of the Festival of Cricket organized by me. Similarly, Bishop Duleep de Chickera has agreed to bless the ‘restored’ turf wickets on 1st March 2008 before the Festival of Cricket commences.

The Lord is good, his love is eternal and his faithfulness lasts for ever.

‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

With Christian greetings and every good wish.

Esto Perpetua!

Yours sincerely,

Gerald de Alwis

The inaugural cricket match for the Warden Neville de Alwis Memorial Trophy will be played on 1st March 2008 after the ‘Oldies’ Vs ‘Baldies’ six-over cricket match is over. It will be a 20 over cricket match. In the event of vicissitudes, the Duckworth Lewis system is to be followed to decide the result.

With Christian greetings and every good wish.

Esto Perpetua!

Gerald de Alwis


97/6, Poorwarama Road
Colombo 05

12th June 2000

Mr M.R. Aluwihare JP, MMC,
Hony Secretary
S. Thomas’ College Board of Governors,
102/11, Templars Road
Mt. Lavinia

Dear Sir,


At the last meeting of the S. Thomas’ College Board of Governors, I was asked to inspect the Truf Wicket at St. Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa and submit a report on its condition, after it was brought to the notice of the Board that the wicket had ‘sunk’.

The Board was also told at the March meeting that the turf wicket was a ‘White Elephant’ and that it would cost a minimum of Rs. 50,000/- per month, to maintain.

I visited S. Thomas’ College, Gurutalawa on 3rd June 2000, to carry out the said inspection. My primary concern on hearing that the wicket had ‘sunk’ was that white ants had attacked the under-surface, thereby causing the bottom layer of clay to collapse. This phenomenon is a common fault in turf wickets, and needs extensive digging and filling up to rectify. However, on inspection of the wicket, it was found that it had not sunk, as stated, but the wicket was in perfect condition despite its neglect over a period of time.

The impression I got was that there was a remarkable lack of interest in maintaining not only the turf, but also the entire playing area of the grounds, which is in a state of overall neglect. A concerted effort seems to have been made to blame the turf as the cause of this neglect. The turf itself has been extremely well constructed and has the making of a good cricket wicket. A tube well is available at the edge of the field, but no effort has been made to tap that source of water. Sufficient clay is available to maintain the wicket for at least the next one year. Blue grass is available in plenty in the area. The groundsman shows a positive attitude and asked if he could be trained in the preparation of wickets, which could be arranged by me personally, but it would be of no use if he lacks support. The Sports Master did not even bother to visit the grounds during the time I spent there.

It would be in the interest of the College and its students, if the authorities make maximum use of this excellent turf wicket and also improve on the overall maintenance of the grounds, instead of making false and damaging statements to discredit this invaluable gift they have got.

In conclusion, I wish to re-iterate that the turf has been extremely well constructed and its maintenance will not cost anything for at least another one year, if the authorities concerned show some interest and a more positive attitude.

Yours truly,

Ajith Jayasekara
OBA Representative on the Board of Governors.


Tentative Programme and Turf Wicket Contributions




The setting up of the Turf Wicket at Gurutalawa received much publicity and also invited criticism and debate. A fair amount of money collected from well meaning Old Boys and well wishers in Sri Lanka and abroad has been expended on that venture. It appears that the Turf Wicket had hardly been used and had not been maintained or looked after and with the result it has deteriorated and needs much improvement. Old boys who participate in the Annual Cricket Match during the Re-Union celebrations have described it as unsafe to play on. The Headmaster has indicated that competent ground boys will be required to maintain it and that it will not be possible for him to incur additional expenditure by way of salaries. Fears have also been expressed as to whether there was adequate water and whether it could be protected from cattle as well as villagers. It has also been mentioned that cricket at Under 19 level is no longer being played at Gurutalawa, as the A/L classes have been scrapped. It has been mentioned that cricket on Turf Wicket is not played by any school in that province at Under 15 or Under 17 levels. It has also been pointed out that the maintenance of the Turf Wicket would be expensive and the College may not be able to afford it. These are some of the arguments against trying to salvage the Turf Wicket and put it to use.

As against the above arguments, it has been pointed out that Mr.Ranil Abeynaike whilst he was the curator at S S C and even now as coach at STC Mount Lavinia would be only too happy to train the ground boys from Gurutalawa if they are sent up for one week or so; that the Ohiya water supply line which had been connected during the time of President R.Premadasa provides water to the grounds 24 hours of the day and throughout the year; that no new employees need be recruited as the minor staff already in employment are for too excessive and appropriate persons could be selected from that category for training and hence no additional expenditure need be incurred by way of salaries; the Masters in charge of cricket are confident that the villagers would not do any harm to the Turf Wicket because there is a lot of good-will established and the villagers would in fact protect the Turf Wicket and not permit their cattle to wander around the ground; aspiring cricketers of the future should be coached on the Turf Wicket and doing so at an early age would only enhance their prowess and cricketing career; although schools in that province may not have Turf Wickets, Schools in the rest of Ceylon do play on the Turf Wicket at under 17 & 15 levels; that teams from these provinces do have regular fixtures with Gurutalawa: that the Masters in charge of the game at Gurutalawa are very keen to go ahead with the Turf Wicket; that after having spent so much of money on the Turf Wicket, it will now not require much additional expenditure to put the Turf Wicket back in to its original condition. We have reproduced some of the arguments for and against the Turf Wicket and leave this matter for open discussion amongst the Membership and all interested, so that a considered view could be obtained and what is best for College and the game of cricket be accepted.

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