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‘We would have been as good as today’s team,’ – David Heyn

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
David Heyn is a name synonymous with Sri Lanka cricket of the seventies, a period in which many easily tend to forget whenever the past history of the game is written or spoken about.
It is perhaps the period when Sri Lanka had in its ranks some of the finest cricketers to emerge from this country and who could have taken cricket to lofty levels on par with other Test playing nations only if that recognition had been given to them by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
It was an era when Sri Lanka were fighting for Test status and although many believe it was denied them at that time because of the veto powers the two founder members England and Australia held at that time, there were other factors which contributed towards Sri Lanka’s entry getting delayed.

Factors for instance like exchange control which was in force at that time and did not allow any foreign exchange to take place. Heyn, a wonderfully gifted left-hand batsman and outstanding cover fielder was lost to the game at the age of 30 when most cricketers reach their peak because there was no hope in that period that Sri Lanka would gain Test entry.

“I gathered from our ICC rep at that time Dusty Miller, it was less a question of our ability but more to do with getting guarantee money out of country in foreign exchange,” recalled Heyn when ‘The Nation’ caught up with him at the NCC.
“We had three years of intensive cricket from 1973 to try and get Test status but although our performances were good we did not get full status in 1976. My understanding was that as long as there was exchange control we weren’t going to get Test status,” continued Heyn. “You couldn’t foresee anything. I had to think of a career outside cricket, starting a family and things like that.”
“When I was in England for the World Cup in 1975 I discovered that the previous year legislation had been changed and because my mother was English I could go there on a permanent basis. The moment the news came through in 1976 that we weren’t getting Test status, I just sort of packed up and went to England on a permanent basis,” stated Heyn.

“We were a good side in 1976. We beat a full Pakistan side here both in unofficial Test and one-day match. Our playing abilities then were on a par with a lot of other countries. It was just that we didn’t have the experience of playing big cricket on a regular basis,” he continued.
“It was unfortunate for possibly reasons other than cricketing ability that we didn’t get full test status in the years that I was playing. By 1976 the cream of our cricket had come to the top. There is a constant argument about the ability of teams in different generations but I would think that the team I played would have been as good as the team of today,” he said. Heyn recalled a visit to Ambalangoda to meet an old team mate of his Ajith de Silva and there was a picture of a scoreboard where seven of his team mates who played against Pakistan in 1976 were members of the team that played England in the inaugural Test match in 1982. “The only ones missing were me, Tony Opatha, Anura Tennekoon and Sunil Wettimuny. We might have been playing against England if everything was carried forward.”

On a recent visit to Sri Lanka, Heyn recalled how he had met former Australian off-spinner Ashley Mallett who played in the unofficial Test against Sri Lanka in 1969.
“I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that they had done some homework on our side before they came to Sri Lanka. They knew that we had talented cricketers and it was not going to be some warm-up match against some country bumpkins. We gave them a good testing here. I was pleased to here that sort of comment from him because it goes to prove how good we were,” said Heyn.

Another instance where Sri Lanka lost a golden opportunity of putting across their case for ICC Test status was when a scheduled tour to England in 1968 had to be cancelled over a row over selection.
“Too many factions were at work at that time. The MCC never forgave us for canceling the tour. If we had gone and done well we might have got Test status immediately after. There were no exchange controls upto about 1970. If the problem was exchange control in 1976, that era we should have got it and it wouldn’t have been a problem,” said Heyn.

The biggest shock in that selection was that Heyn could not find a place in the 17 because ‘on the pretext of saving on foreign exchange’ it was decided to select three players who were resident in England - Mano Ponniah and Vijay Malalasekera who were playing for Cambridge University and Gamini Goonesena who had played for Nottinghamshire. It was later proved that their selections were unjustified when it became known that they had played little or no cricket at all in England.

“The disappointing aspect of my career was not being selected for the tour and us not getting Test status when we should have. I am happy we finally got Test status in 1982 and when we won the World Cup in 1996. The whole cricket scenario in Sri Lanka is very good. They are well respected around the world and they are performing well. We can think to ourselves that our contributions and efforts in the mid 70s is a result of the success the team is having now,” said Heyn.

Amongst his most memorable knocks was the 69 he scored for Sri Lanka against a West Indies bowling attack comprising Wes Hall, Gary Sobers and Lance Gibbs at the Sara Stadium in 1967 and the 104 and 84 he scored against India at Hyderabad in 1975-6. “We just couldn’t hold out long enough and unfortunately lost the game.”
Heyn recalled the most enjoyable period of his cricket career was between 1973 and 1976 when there was an influx of cricket played against India, Pakistan and the West Indies. “We played so much of cricket with a lot of intensity.”
Heyn’s quality batting was matched by his brilliance on the field. He said he got his break in the Sri Lanka team through his fielding.

“The hard work I put in at school proved to be useful. I got my break in 1964 playing for the Board XI against Pakistan more on my fielding. When I didn’t play I was twelfth man. When I toured Pakistan in 1966 I was batting no. 7 or 8. We knew we were in for a leather hunt and on a day I could save 30-40 runs on the field, so I played. By the time I finished my career I was batting at no. 3. The fielding helped me get into the side and my batting also improved,” said the former BRC and NCC cricketer.
While at St. Peter’s College he had a natural aptitude for fielding. “I could innovate and make myself better. Subconsciously I was always trying to improve,” Heyn stated. “It’s almost impossible to explain how you do it. I could anticipate what was going to happen. That is something you cannot teach somebody. You can teach them the basics then its upto them.”

“Unfortunately there are no moving pictures to compare me against guys like Jonty Rhodes to prove to myself I was doing similar things, different or better. In my time it was Paul Sheahan and Colin Bland. I was often compared to them. There was no official recognition worldwide because there was no television. If I played today they would focus me as a fielder the same sort of way they did with Rhodes. That’s the way I feel about it. Having seen him fielding I know that I could do the same things,” Heyn said.

Heyn came quite close to becoming a double international when he was picked for the national hockey pool in the mid sixties, but cricket took precedence. His brother Richard however went onto excel in that sport.
At 61, Heyn whose father Major General Russel Heyn was a respected figure in cricket and hockey circles is retired and lives in England with his English wife Sue and two daughters Alexander (24), qualifying to be a chartered accountant and Georgina (22), a 50 metres freestyle swimmer with hopes of representing Great Britain in the future.

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Nimbus issues notice to BCCI; threatens to pull out

New Delhi,
Barely a year after signing a telecast deal with the Cricket Board for a whopping 612 million dollars, Nimbus today issued a notice to the BCCI threatening to pull out of the deal.
Nimbus` decision to withdraw from the deal, covering matches in India till 2010 March, comes after the Government issued an Ordinance making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share with Prasar Bharti the live feed of sports events of national importance.

The sudden development prompted the BCCI to go into an emergency meeting at Board President Sharad Pawar`s official residence here to discuss the issue.
“We have received a notice from Nimbus threatening to pull out of the deal,” a top BCCI official said.
Nimbus apparently has told the BCCI in its notice to sort out the `encryption` issue with Prasar Bharti.
The encryption of live match feed has emerged as a bone of contention with the private broadcaster insisting that PB should take initiatives to encrypt the signals.
The recent cricket tournaments featuring India have invariably led to long-drawn court room battles on the telecast issue.

The series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka had also suffered a similar fate before the Delhi High Court first ordered Nimbus to share the feed with a seven minute delay and then a simultaneous telecast with Doordarshan.
The Government then came up with an ordinance making it mandatory for private broadcasters to share the live feed with DD of all sporting events of national importance.
The Mumbai-based Nimbus acquired the Cricket Board’s telecast rights pipping ESPN-Star Sports and Zee Sports when the rights were awarded in 2006 February
Nimbus, which did not have a channel of its own, then launched `Neo Sports` in the middle of last year and the Challenger Series domestic limited overs tournament in August was the first tournament it beamed.

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Gilchrist and Hogg star for Australia

KINGSTON, (AFP) - Adam Gilchrist’s 72 was the centrepiece of Australia’s successful run-chase during a five-wicket victory against England in the teams’ final World Cup warm-up match here Friday.
   Left-hander Gilchrist, back from paternity leave, put on 140 with fellow opener Shane Watson (55) as reigning world champions Australia, chasing 198 for victory, finished on 200 for five with more than nine overs to spare.
   Victory meant Australia had ended a three-match losing streak against England in one-dayers.
  
“It was nice to spend some time in the middle and to get 20 overs in the field,” said England skipper Michael Vaughan who has been plagued by a hamstring injury.
   “I’m disappointed with our performance. Australia put the squeeze on. We should have got 250-260 but we were well beaten by a good side.”
   Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said the match had been good practice for them.
  
“It was a good result,” said Ponting. “We clawed things back, our slower bowlers took over and we did well in the field.” 
England 197 (48.3) (M. Vaughan 62, I. Bell 56, S. Tait 4/33, S. Clark 3/16)
Australia 200-5 (40.5) (A. Gilchrist 72, S. Watson 55).

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