The 3rd Under-19 World Cup held in 2000 could be regarded as Sri Lanka’s best Under-19 campaign to date. The islanders hosted the event and secured a place in the final. To date, 14 editions of the World Cup have been held, and the only Sri Lankan team to feature in the final was this team.

Let’s take our memories back to 24 January 2000. The semi-finals of the Under-19 World Cup was held at the Galle International stadium. Winning the toss, Lankan skipper Malintha Gajanayake decided to take first lease of the wicket. Losing wickets at regular intervals, Sri Lanka were 79 for 4 at one stage. But Sri Lanka had one of the most technically sound batters at the top of the order: calm, cool and a man for crisis situations – Ian Daniels. He steadied the ship with 58 off 93 balls which helped Sri Lanka register a fighting 219, and the importance of his calm and sedate innings saw the boys winning the match by 10 runs.

Ian Daniels was always consistent and made valuable contributions at the top. Prior to the semi-final, few of his notable knocks were the unbeaten 72 off 76 balls against Ireland, unbeaten 40 off 78 against a strong Australian outfit, 46 against an equally strong England side, and 44 against Nepal. Daniels consistency saw him end the tournament as the 3rd highest run scorer behind legendary Graeme Smith of South Africa and Ranveet Ricky of India.  He scored 299 runs at an average of 74.75, but unfortunately on the day it mattered, the big final, Gerald Ian Daniels bat let him down badly, as he was out LBW for a 2nd ball duck.

This was one reason why the Lankans were bowled out for 178 runs. Jehan Mubarak top scored with 58. The game was in the balance when India lost their 4th wicket at 116 – player of the tournament Yuvraj Singh out for 27. Reetender Sodhi and Niraj Patel then stuck around with a 64-run partnership to ensure an Indian victory.

The lion cubs were impressive in the tournament. They were unbeaten in the group stages with three easy wins over Ireland, Namibia, and Australia. They restricted a quality Australian line-up – led by former national skipper Michael Clarke – for a mere 90 runs. The team also had former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson.

In the Super league, Sri Lanka won two games out of three. They beat England and Nepal convincingly, but tasted defeat against neighbours India. In the semi-finals against Pakistan, Sri Lanka won by 10 runs.

The team led by Malintha Gajanayake had players of the caliber of Jehan Mubarak, Thilina Kandamby, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Kaushalya Weeraratne, Akalanka Ganegama, Prabath Nissanka, and Muthumudalige Pushpakumara, who went on to represent the national team. They also had one of the most technically sound players, Ian Daniels, who did not have the luck to represent Mother Lanka.

Born in Colombo on 17 August 1981, Ian was the youngest child of Late Patrick Daniels and Felicia. His elder brother Ives and sister Sharon provided their little brother with unconditional love. Ian attended St. Joseph’s College.

Ian fell in love with the bat and ball when he was 10, and got an opportunity to play for his alma mater. He captained the Under-13 team and moved up. The boy’s talent saw him being selected for the under-15 World Cup in England. He was also a member of the Under-17 national team and toured Hong Kong.

Ian played for the first X1 team at 17 and was made captain in 2000. This was the same year he played in the under-19 world cup which saw Sri Lanka walking away with the runner-up trophy.  Ian who was ranked 8th at the under-15 World Cup, was the 3rd highest run getter at the Under-19 World Cup. The classy right hander scored eight hundreds during the four years he played for the first XI team.

A dream of any Josephian before they bid farewell to their alma mater is to obtain the Josephian Blues, and Ian’s talents, skills and dedication saw him being a recipient. Together with the Blues, he won Sri Lanka School Colours in 1997 for playing in the under-15 World Cup.

Ian’s contribution at the top of the order was one of the main reasons why the young lions had success in the Under-19 world cup, to date the first and only team to feature in a youth World Cup final.

“We were a family; the bond we shared was special. We had players who played together as a bunch from the under-15 World Cup and it was very easy for the boys to understand each other and showcase our talents. We participated in many tours and gained experience.’. Ian did not forget to speak about the successful under-19 team.

His last year in school, Ian got the opportunity to be employed at Seylan bank from 2000 till 2014. He also got the opportunity to play for the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team during the same time and won games on his own. In his 1st first class game against Zimbabwe, he scored 52 in the 2nd innings and in the ODI he scored 81 and was the match winner. He started his first-class career at SSC and then moved to Bloomfield, where he played for six years. Next it was a year at Tamil Union, and finally six years at Ragama. He has scored over 12,000 runs in his List ‘A’ and first-class career.

Daniels was a consistent scorer for the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team. He scored centuries against New Zealand ‘A’ and India ‘A’, which saw him being absorbed into the Sri Lankan squad that toured Zimbabwe in 2004. Yes, we had a settled team; all batting positions were well secured and locked. However, his impressive batting over the years grabbed the attention of the selectors and finally he found a place in the final 15. He traveled to Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Pakistan and was in the South Africa series squad as well, but unfortunately, he couldn’t get into the playing 11. This showed how strong our cricket was back then. No one hardly failed. Hence, the players performing well in the domestic circuit could not find a slot in the playing 11.

Every human has feelings, and it is the same for Ian as well. He was upset that despite performing well he was unable to get into the final 11, but on the other hand, he understood that with the line-up Sri Lanka had it was difficult to replace any of the players.

Many of us know that Ian is a technically sound batter, and Ian did not forget to mention the reason for it. “Well, my first coach was Roy Dias. That was the foundation I got to be technically sound and correct, because he was one of the best technical players as well, so the foundation was very important and that was the best.”

From 2008 to 2020, Ian played Cricket in Australia and in the UK, and acted as a coach while moving up his coaching levels. The classy batter has completed coaching level two in both countries. He completed UK level 2 in 2008 and Australian level 2 in 2019. After gaining experience as a player cum coach he came down to Sri Lanka and decided to give back to the country what he has learnt. Ian is currently the head coach of Sri Lanka Air Force team.

This humble gentleman is a father of three. He married long-time girlfriend Shamalie in 2006. His elder daughter is Elisha, his son is Aaron, and the youngest daughter is Joanna. Aaron has now started playing Cricket at the SSC Academy. Shamalie has been a pillar of strength to Ian and has always backed him in whatever he needs. Their love story dates back to 1998. He was a Josehphian and she was at HFC. The two met at a party and after dating for eight years they decided that it was time for them to build their dream family. Shamalie has been supporting, motivating and rejoicing with Ian at his good times, and a tower of strength at his worse times.

“Everything about who I am is because of cricket. As a player you need to have discipline and focus, and based on all these factors your life and character builds up. You need to take up victory and when you lose you should know to come back. Cricket helped me to build character. Traveling with the team made me get to know people and learn a lot from other personalities.” Ian added how cricket has helped him to build his personality.

Ian is a believer and a lover of Jesus, has great faith in God and is always grateful to Him for giving him this life and taking him to where he is now. Throughout the chat with him, he wanted to credit and thank Lord Jesus for giving him a great life.

“Parents should never apply pressure on kids and should always let them be who they are. Parents should never expect anything from kids, applying pressure on them will not help to get the best out of them, and you can’t get the full potential. You should let the kids enjoy and be their best. Always remember as parents that it is not what they want, it is what the kid wants and what we can get out of them. As a kid you should be dedicated and work hard and extra. Muscle memory will give you results then, and there are no shortcuts to success. You should always work hard. My parents never pressured me, the only thing they did was to back me up and motivate me. Since I was the youngest, everyone at home supported me immensely and backed me to be a better player and a better human.’ Ian provided his advice to parents and kids and stated how his parents and family helped him.

Ian might have been born in the wrong country in the wrong generation. Even though he had regrets since he gave his wholehearted best, he knew that he had nothing more he could do. But he is always grateful that he was able to play together and against all the legends. He considers Viv Richards for his stylish and attacking batting and Steve Waugh for his mental strength and great leadership as his role models.

One proud moment in his career was featuring in the under-19 team led by Kaushalya Weerarathne, that became the first team to win a Test series in England.

Finally, Ian wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped him and backed him up to now. A special thank you to his parents, family, Uncle Joe, Lord Jesus and his coaches.

By Vimukthi Adithya