KALUPERUMA A Spin Wizard Who Was Lost To SL Cricket

Whether it is the spinning magic of Muralitherean in an international class of his own, or before the giants in the local scene in Abu Fuard ,Niel Chanmugan or Mahinda Athulatmudali , the spinning Magicians have tormented batsmen with nightmarish regularity.

Unlike leg spin bowlers, the names of off spin bowlers who have tormented and mesmerized batsman come to mind a dime a dozen. And today we honor in this column a spinning wizard in LALITH KALUPERUMA a legend as we look into the the history of the game.

In Sri Lanka before the country entered the elusive portals of Test cricket off spinners who could have held their own or even bettered some of the more famous international off spinners come to mind..

Leading them was former Wesleyite the mercurial Abu Fuard (Colts and CCC), and in his exalted company there were Niel Chanmugam (Tamil Union and SSC), Mahinda Athulathmudali (Saracens and Adastrians), V.Mahendren (NCC), Cyril Ernest (Adastrians) and Gordon Dissanayake (Nomads). Ernest and Dissanyakewho played under my captaincy for St.Benedict’s College in 1960.

Muralitheran magic

There was also Ralston Burke (Saracens), U.L.C. Perera (BRC), Suraj Randiv (Bloomfield) and LALITH KALUPERUMA (Bloomfield). Later the man who spun and stunned the cricket world with his off spinning magic was Muttiah Muralitheran of (Tamil Union).

Sadly Fuard and Chanmugam who not only mesmerized batsmen with their repertoire of deliveries are no more. Not only were they classy off spinners but great all rounder’s, but also batsmen who made big runs. In this category belonged Cyril Ernest and Ralston Burke who were also all rounder’s of repute. The game today lacks off spinning all rounder’s of that class

But LALITH WASANTHA SILVA KALUPERUMA is a story unto himself. Had he not cut short his career by going on the rebel tour of South Africa he would have joined the elite off spinning all rounders.

Played in Two Tests

KALUPERUMA played in only Two Test matches. In the inaugural one against England at the Colombo Oval from February 17 to 21, 1982 and one other Test against Pakistan In Faisalabad from March 14 to 19, 1982 and In those two Tests he showed glimpses of becoming an off spinning all rounder of the highest caliber. But the eagerness to visit the inhuman Apartheid Country called finis’ to his career.

KALUPERUMA was a cunning off spinner with all skills in his craft to lure batsmen to their demise. He flighted the ball cleverly to lure the batsmen out of the crease, bowled the top spinner and had the one that goes the other way with an off break action which Muralitheran did and which was called the ‘doosra’.

As a batsman he was safe offering a straight bat and had strokes all round the wicket with the off drive his pet stroke. As a fielder he was safe and sound like the Bank of England at gully and grabbed some stunning catches. I have played against him in ‘Sara’ cricket and can vouch for these excellent abilities.

Automatic choice

KALUPERUMA was an automatic choice in the Inaugural Test against England at the Oval in 1982,but did not get a long bowl due to the presence of leggie D.S.de Silva and left arm leggie Ajit de Silva. But in the few overs he bowled he troubled the opposing batsmen. He played in one more Test against Pakistan in Faisalabad and was given only six overs.

He came back and threw in his lot with the team that toured Apartheid country that saw him banned from the game for 25 years on his return like did the other players who went on that shameful tour.

Playing and captaining Bloomfield he steered them to win the premier trophy in the1980 /81 tournament. But it was in 1970 that he performed a historic feat by taking four wickets in four balls.

First ball wicket

Another feat that KALUPERUMA will remember will be the wicket he took of Indian captain Ajit Wadekar with the first ball he bowled in an ‘unofficial test’. He was in the Sri Lanka Board President’s X1 and playing in the Gopalan Trophy game against Tamil Nadu he captured 8 wickets for 43 and 2 for 36 to have a match haul of 10 for 79 which was no mean achievement.

After quitting the game he moved into the administration and was made Chairman of the Selection Committee replacing former fast bowling Sri Lanka all rounder Asantha de Mel. There were many controversial issues during his tenure, but with his experience and know how solved them to the satisfaction of all.

Be it in the international or local cricket scene, the names of off spinners come readily to mind. In the international scene the name that will not be easily forgotten are that of England wily off spinning sensation Jim Laker who ran rings around the Australian batsmen to bag 19 wickets in a Test match and Lance Gibbs of West Indies who took a hat-trick against Australia which saw the first ever tied Test match in the 1960/61 series that brought the fire back into Test cricket.

Laker’s stupendous feat

The ‘Sports Special’ pages of the ‘Daily News’ on January 11, 2018 featured Jim Laker’s stupendous feat with a picture of him walking back to the pavilion on 31st July 1956 at Old Trafford, Manchester where he took 19 scalps to help England beat the Australians and win the series. After a course in Journalism in West Berlin in 1976 when I was Sports Editor in chief of the Times Group, I went over to England and had the good fortune of being the guest of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Information for three days and on my request they arranged for me to meet the great Laker and also the most young promising player of that time in England Mike Gatting.

Meeting Laker in person and while greeting him and touching his right hand that electrocuted the Aussie batsmen with his vicious off spin with my Public Relations Officer Mrs S Goodhew was an unforgettable experience which is still etched in my memory. Talking cricket with Laker over lunch at the Park Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge, London was a great learning experience in my growing days as a cricket writer.