Stanley Jayasinghe the nonagenarian: going strong-by Harischandra Gunaratna

The nonagenarian cutting the birthday cake to the strains of ‘happy birthday’.

The oldest living All Ceylon cricketer Stanley Jayasinghe recently celebrated his 90th birthday at his Thalapathpitiya residence at a lavish birthday party attended by friends and fans.

Despite his age, his memory is razor-sharp and he shared some of the unforgettable incidents of his life with those present at the gathering with great humour and banter.

The grand old man of Sri Lanka’s cricket was hale and hearty and enjoyed the evening very much, entertaining his guests.

He was fit as a fiddle and still drives his vehicle maneuvering Colombo’s busy streets with tremendous ease, though some of those who are much younger to him would find it a nightmare.

The nonagenarian is a wildlife enthusiast and being an outdoor man, spent most of his time farming at Tanamalwila where he has a bungalow on a two acre land.

“Unfortunately due to the spread of Covid-19, I am unable to visit the place now and am confined to the apartment at Thalapathpitiya,” he said.

Jayasinghe is one of the best batsmen and a prolific run getter produced by Sri Lanka, representing the country from 1949 to 1967.

The batting machine made his debut for Ceylon while still being a schoolboy at Nalanda College, in 1951 playing against Pakistan in Pakistan under the captaincy of Sargo Jayawickrama.

The schoolboy hero captained Nalanda College, Colombo in both 1950 and 1951.

Jayasinghe scored  four centuries in his illustrious school cricket career in addition to many half centuries. His 170 against Prince of Wales at Moratuwa was the best, in a game where Nalanda went on to win the match by an innings. The all-rounder later played for the Sinhalese SC, Nomads and NCC.

He also played county cricket with distinction for Leicestershire for five years and prior to that league cricket in Lancashire. He was adjudged the Times of Ceylon Sportsman of the Year in 1951.

Jayasinghe is known as a stickler for discipline and punctuality.

He said, that he disapproved the unkempt appearance of some of our cricketers today and added “if you can’t be a cricketer, at least look like one.”

The cricketing great of yesteryear regretted the manner in which some of country’s cricketers play the gentleman’s game.

“Playing with a straight bat was the norm then, but today our batsmen have a tendency to play across the line and get out,” he said.

However, Jayasinghe praised about the standard of fielding in today’s cricket which has improved by leaps and bounds and said, it is 300 times better now than my time.

“I wish all cricketers of all nations uphold the noble traditions of the hallowed game,” Jayasinghe said.

Jayasinghe considers Mahadevan Sathasivam as one of the greatest cricketers produced by Sri Lanka in the pre-Test era for his brilliant stroke play and finesse, and admired Douglas Jayasinha, the former All Ceylon cricketer as a man who brooked no nonsense, acted with impartiality and a person who didn’t bow down to political pressure or dictates from any other during his tenure as Chairman of the selectors panel.

Asked about cricket becoming highly commercial, Jayasinghe was of the opinion that the players were entitled to benefits of the gentleman’s game.

He said the most cherished amongst the birthday presents he received was the book authored by Sri Lankan cricket writer Alston Mahadevan domiciled in Australia titled “History of Sri Lanka-International cricket 1882-1982” presented to Stanley by the author himself.

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