‘We would have been as good as today’s
team,’ – David Heyn
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
“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
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.
Nimbus issues notice to BCCI; threatens to pull out
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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).