First Test skipper Warnapura bids adieu
By Jatila Karawita
Sri Lanka’s first Test cricket skipper Bandula Warnapura who represented the country in two World Cups, passed away aged 68, while being treated at a private hospital in Colombo yesterday. The late Warnapura had been hospitalized earlier this month after he was diagnosed with high sugar levels, and according to sources was recovering after having had his right leg amputated. The former Nalanda College star had the honour of leading Sri Lanka when the country became a fully-fledged Test-playing nation 40 years ago.
He also faced the first delivery in that match against England at the P. Sara Stadium in Colombo in February 1982. “He was an excellent cricketer, administrator, coach, commentator and above all, a good person, and his passing away is a huge loss for the cricket community,” said SLC President Shammi Silva in a message posted on Twitter yesterday. “I am sure his name and deeds will remain in our hearts forever”.
Warnapura won four Test caps as an opener and a medium fast bowler between February and September 39 years ago, including two in Pakistan and one in India. He also played 12 ODIs including the sport’s marquee events in 1975 and 1979, before the country was elevated to cricket’s highest echelon. However, his decision in late 1982 to join a tour to South Africa, which was in sporting wilderness due to its apartheid policies, resulted in a lifetime ban being imposed by the then Government and the Board, which was known at the time as Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL).
The revocation of the life time ban was however, too late for Warnapura to make a comeback to international cricket. He therefore decided to contribute to the sport by working as a broadcast commentator, a coach and as an administrator at both national and domestic level. Charged with the difficult task of leading Sri Lanka in their formative years, Warnapura did a commendable job and could have contributed much to the sport but for his decision to lead a rebel side to then banned South Africa. The finest moment of his short international career came at the 1979 World Cup when he led Sri Lanka in place of the injured Anura Tennekoon, and led them to a famous win against India at Old Trafford. His funeral arrangements are to be notified later