by Premasara Epasinghe
(legendary Cricketer and cricket administrator Abu Fuard passed away on July 28th at the age of 75.This article written in 2010 is reproduced here in honour of his memory)
He was a man for all seasons. His life is woven around cricket. In early 1950s, he was one of the best schoolboy cricketers representing Wesley College, Colombo. Later, he joined the club circuit, played for Colts CC.
In short, he is the best off-spinner Sri Lanka produced before she gained Test status. He was one time Asia’s Best off-spinner and one of the finest cricket administrators that Sri Lanka ever produced. He is Abu Fuard.
His big break came, when he mesmerised Australians at the Colombo Oval, with his willy off-spinners. They were all at sea against his bowling. After the “Whistle stop match” Ritchie Beneud said “We like to take this Bloke to Australia. He is one of the best off-spinners in Asia today.
This compliment was paid by Ritchie Beneud to Abu Fuard. What a compliment!
Abu, is a marvellous man a workholic. He is a strict disciplinarian. He is a man who calls spade a spade. Therefore, some misunderstood him. At times, he is a “Tough Guy”.
With my long association with Abu, I can state here, although, he is harsh at times when he sees injustice, his heart melts. He possess a Golden Heart. One thing I have seen in him is that he always fought for the rights of the so called Non Elites, and outstation schools. This was one reason, he became somewhat unpopular among the so-called Elite Society.
As a Nalandian, my happiest moment was the day that one of my students – at Nalanda, Bandula Warnapura was selected as the first Test captain. When I was the Master-in-charge in 1968/1969 and Prefect of Games, Warnapura was the Nalanda opener with Palitha Seneviratne. I personally know, that Abu Fuard and late K. M. T. Perera, backed Warnapura to the hilt, in the race for the Sri Lanka’s First Test captaincy. If not for the untiring efforts of these two gentlemen, I am sure, Warnapura would not have got the opportunity of captaining the first Sri Lanka Test Team. I presume these are all history now. But facts are stubborn.
One of the greatest achievements of Abu Fuard was introducing, Minister Gamini Dissanayake to cricket administration. At that time, in 1970s – 1980s. The Minister of Lands, Land Development and Mahaveli Development Gamini Dissanayake was living at 5th Lane, Colpetty, Opposite Abu’s house. It was Abu, who invited and motivated Dissanayake to get involved in the cricket administration. Gamini Dissanayake a gentleman par excellence was undoubtedly the “Yuga Purusha” (Man of the Era of Sri Lanka Cricket). Until such time the Mahaweli waters flow, and cricket is played in this country late Gamini Dissanayake lives in this country.
“The greatest achievements in my life is the fulfilment of one of my ambitions – “To take the game of cricket and open doors to outstation and the so called “Non Elite” schools. There was a time that certain schools dominated Sri Lanka cricket. I took up the challenge. In those early days, a few cricketers like Dhanasiri Weerasinghe (Ananda), W. Premaratne (St. Anthony’ College, Katugastota) backed me. I knew I become unpopular among the Old Boys of some of the so-called Elite schools. But, I fought hard for Justice. Ultimately it paid dividends.
The great cricketer Abu Fuard was born on 6th December 1936 in Colombo.
Abu Fuard hails from a cricketing family. His father too captained and represented Wesley in 1915. His brother late Ansar Fuard captained and played for Wesley. Incidently, I opened batting for the Education Department with Ansar when I was a Graduate Teacher at Nalanda.
This unassuming gutty cricketer Abu Fuard, was one of the best cricketers produced by Wesley College. This fine all-rounder, in 1953 stroked a chanceless century against Richmond College, partnering Brian Classen, another brilliant product of Wesley. Later, both won their “Ceylon Cap” for cricket.
As a schoolboy, in 1953, Abu captured 6 for 76 against S’Thomas College and annihilated the Royalists by capturing 8 (eight) wickets. Then, against Prince of Wales, Abu Fuard returned the amazing figures of 9 for 53.
Abu’s story is fascinating like a fairy tale. Many does not know that he was a fine schoolboy athlete. He represented Wesley College in public schools and competed with late Lalith Athulathmudli in 100 metres hurdles.
He took upto cricket at the age of 12 as a fast-bowler. It was his first coach Alban Fernando, who turned Abu, to be an off-spinner.
After leaving school, Abu, played for Moors, Colts and CCC. He represented Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from 1956-1971 with distinction. Undoubtedly, he was the number one off-spinner during his time.
“Premasara, I am a self-made cricketer. Those days, I used to walk all the way from 5th lane, Colpetty, to Colts ground Havelock Town. I start practise on my own at about 3.00 p.m. I keep a coin in the matting and do “Spot Bowling”. I improved my flight, length and direction through this exercise. We were committed, disciplined worked hard. That was the secret behind my success as a cricketer.
Abu Fuard after representing Ceylon in 1961 against Australians, in 1962 played against Ted Dexters’ England side. His moment of glory was when Abu captured six (6) for 31 (thirty one) in a fine-spell of willy off-spin bowling against Joe Lister’s International XI.
I still remember in early 1960s, in the first unofficial test against India at Ahamadabad, he played a key-role in defecting India.
“We, had to chase a victory target of 112 runs. I opened batting in the second innings. The Ahamadabad wicket was a nightmare. I scored a quick fire 40. We won the match with 45 minutes to spare. I must tell you, it was a fine all-round effort of the Team”, stated Abu Fuard.
Abu Fuard was an Insurance man. He joined De Soysa and Company Colombo 2. Who were the principal agents of major projects like Gal Oya, Inginiyagala, Kelanitissa, Victoria Bridge. They did the secretariat work. Abu Fuard handled the Insurance sector. A special chapter should be written on Abu Fuard, – the Cricket Administrator.
In 1973, during Robert Senanayakes tenure of office, Abu entered the cricket administrator, after retiring from cricket. The peerless Gamini Dissanayake a true lover of cricket, had the knock of selecting the correct man for correct position. Abu was his able Lieutenant. Dissanayake improved the cricket infrastructure. He hand-picked Abu Fuard to handle the re-vamping of Asgiriya Stadium, constructor of the Indoor Nets at Maitland Place and the present of Sri Lanka Cricket Board Headquarters. He gave a helping hand.
Abu Fuard functioned as a successful cricket manager, a selector and chairman of selection committee. He was a qualified coach. Under his able guidance, Sri Lanka recorded her first Test victory against India on 11th September, 1985 at the Colombo Oval (Present Saravanamuttu Stadium). Sri Lanka beat India by 149 runs.
In 1979, Abu Fuard, functioned as the Manager of SL team. He was the 1979 World Cup manager and manager for Pakistan Tour in 1985 and England Tour 1999.
Abu Fuard’s motto was always “country before self”. I still remember an incident which happened at the CCC ground when Sri Lanka played in a Test Match. W. A. N. Silva will also bear testimony to me to this incident.
One of the opening bowlers, after capturing a wicket in the second over, rushed to the pavilion complaining about a slight pain in his leg.
“Young man, country is greater then your slight pain in your legs. Go out immediately to the centre, perform well for the sake of your country – Sri Lanka. Then you will forget you slight pain. Believe me, the particular test bowler captured five wickets. When he returned to the dressing room Abu said, “Well Done Son”. my congratulation”.