Living Legends - Nihal Kodituwakku

Kodda – short in stature but effectual

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Nihal Kodituwakku was one of the most feared right-hand opening batsman for Ceylon during the sixties. Being short of stature he was so strong on his back foot – cutting, pulling and hooking that opposing captains always made it a point to advise their fast bowlers not to bowl short at him.

“Right throughout my career even bowlers like TB Kehelgamuwa (one of the fastest produced by the country) never bounced at me. Because of my height I had to develop my back foot play. It was a little tricky to get on the front foot so from my small days I developed my back foot play,” Kodituwakku told The Nation.

“I remember a fast bowler who pitched short twice at me trying to bounce me out. I hit him in front of square leg for four and I heard him telling his partner ‘for god sake don’t bounce at that short ‘bugger’ he will hammer you’. In another match much later when I had retired and come back to play in Kurunegala, Michael Tissera brought the CCC team for a Donovan Andree trophy game. As I took guard the first thing I heard him say to his bowlers was ‘for god sake don’t’ bowl short at him’.

Kodituwakku came from a sports oriented family where his father Jolly Edwin Kodituwakku, an old Trinitian represented Notts CC as a cricketer. “My father was mad on cricket. He used to take me to watch cricket matches. That’s how I got a liking towards the game. Most of my cousins also played for their respective schools.”

Kodituwakku had a distinguished career at Royal College, Colombo where he captained the under 12 cricket team at Royal Primary and from there onwards worked himself through under 14, 16 into the first eleven side whom he represented in 1958 and 1959. “I was a no. 6 batsman at school but when I joined the SSC and started playing in the Donovan Andree side, Bertie Wijesinghe who was captain persuaded me to open. He said that I had a good tight technique and asked me why I didn’t try opening. From that time I was an opener.”

Kodituwakku joined SSC in 1962 and played in their Sara trophy team. He got selected to play for Ceylon in 1965 against Colin Cowdrey’s MCC team and represented the country for two years touring Pakistan in 1966 and playing against West Indies in 1967 against whom he scored a gutsy 33 at the P. Sara Oval facing the might of the world’s fastest bowler at the time Wesley Hall and the world’s best spinner Lance Gibbs.
“We got 420 and they replied with 560 and I still remember Garfield Sobers their captain telling us at the party after the match that he never dreamt that we had so much talent because we played the world’s fastest bowler and the world’s best spinner at that time. He said that if there was any chance of their backing us for Test status they were fully prepared to do so because they were really surprised at the amount of talent we had,” Kodituwakku recalled.

Other memorable knocks he remembers are scoring a fifty in every game in seven under 14 matches for Royal and making 80 against Wesley’s famed fast bowler LR Gunatillake when Royal were in a bad way. Then in one year when the Sara trophy tournament could not be played because of an injunction, the NCC conducted a tournament for the Cecil Horan trophy, Kodituwakku scored 170 and won the batting prize. Of the 15 hundreds he scored at domestic level, he twice exceeded 150 against Moors SC.
On the tour to Pakistan in 1966, Ceylon sent a very strong side under Michael Tissera and comprising players like Clive Inman, Stanley Jayasinghe, David Heyn and Anura Tennekoon but was beaten in all three unofficial tests because of bad umpiring.

Kodituwakku who was also a member of the team said, “The tour was marred by problems with umpiring. It was after that people like Imran Khan stepped in and cleaned up umpiring in Pakistan. Their umpires were well noted at that time for favouring the home team. In all the side games we did extremely well but when it came to the ‘Tests’ they just completed fixed us.”

“Wherever we were hit we were given out. I remember David Heyn been given out twice and when we were searching for him he was missing. We located him in the toilet crying. We were so surprised that these things happened. He was given out lbw wide outside the off stump shouldering arms and when he went to bat a second time we pleaded with him not to leave the ball but to make contact with it, but he repeated the same mistake,” said Kodituwakku.

“During our period we played serious cricket but it was not as intense as it is today. Now it’s highly professional and naturally very intense. There are so many tours that half these guys I don’t know whether they have time even to stay at home because all the time they are playing. They have all the supporting staff and it has become very high pressure,” he said.

“On the tour to Pakistan we were paid Rs. 15 a day. We were not even allowed to take our own money – three pounds ten shillings was the foreign exchange that was allowed. We went and met the Finance Minister who at that time was Dr NM Perera but he told us the government can’t make any special provisions for the cricket team. Most of the guys kept the money with them till on our return we brought a few things from the duty free shops for our family.”

After his playing days Kodituwakku, a Sri Lanka Cricket Level 4 qualified coach made a name for himself in coaching. He began with Maliyadeva College in Kurunegala in the eighties where he relates an unusual incident. “I dropped their third year coloursman for coming late, he was late every day. Against Ananda he had got 80 odd runs but I dropped him in the next match. I didn’t know the father had six boys who had played for Maliyadeva. We were playing Richmond one day and suddenly I saw them coming. The father came to me and said that he was going to get his son to give up cricket. I told him it was his decision and that I won’t interfere with it. Then he said that I had dropped his son after scoring 80 runs. I told him, ‘even if he had scored 200 runs I would have still dropped him because to me discipline is no. 1.’ I told him I cannot make an exception for his son. I said I had warned him three times.

“Then the father started crying and he brought out a letter which he wanted to hand over to the principal thanking me for teaching them how to win matches. I said part of winning was discipline. Many years later at a Big Match I saw a guy coming with a moustache. He came and stood next to me and saluted. I asked, ‘who are you’? I am Keppetiwala you remember you dropped me from the first eleven team. I came to thank you because you are the first person who taught me what discipline is’.”

Kodituwakku was first employed at J Walter Thomson & Company as a junior executive and then as a senior executive. After the company closed down he became a director at Thomson Associates Ceylon Ltd and with more responsibility he retired from first-class cricket in 1969. Following the death of his parents Kodituwakku resigned from the company and went to Kurunegala to manage the family’s estate at Wariyapola till 1989. He returned to Colombo and was cricket manager/coach at CCC till 1992. From there he became head coach of S Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia and after six years moved to Royal College holding onto the same position. He remained at Royal till 2002 when became CEO of the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation. In 2005 he retired from that post and at present he is one of the senior coaches at the SSC School of Cricket and a match referee for Sri Lanka Cricket. He is the only person to coach school cricket’s traditional rivals Royal and S. Thomas’.

Comparing the school cricket standards, Kodituwakku said, “When we were playing most of the schools had very strong sides and the school season was very exciting. One thing that has crept into this game today is this ‘win at any cost’ which was not there in our time. We used to be very friendly my closest friends are Thomians. Today even during lunch time or after the game the two schools don’t mix and they don’t talk. I personally blame the coaches because they don’t take action to stamp out this kind of nonsense in the game.

“When I was coaching Royal I told the team there was no way that they were going to sledge the batsman. I asked them to concentrate on their job. I told them, if you can’t get the batsman out without using your gab there is something wrong somewhere. You are all too busy trying to say something to the batsman and maybe provoke your team to laugh a bit and when the catch comes you drop it. I put down one rule, if I heard a single voice during play the player would not be playing in the next game. I stamped it out completely. When I was at S Thomas’ also it was the same. These bad habits have crept in through TV they think its part of the game.”
In his role as coach and match referee, Kodituwakku has had the opportunity to spot talent around the country.

“Players like Lasith Malinga was actually discovered when the Sri Lanka Cricket Foundation ran a coaching program for seven months for the discards of the under 19 team. Anura Tennekoon who was CEO then asked me whether I could do the batting, Roger Wijesuriya handled the spinners and Champaka Ramanayake the fast bowlers. While doing the batting in one net I suddenly saw batsmen ducking and weaving in the other net. I looked to see who was bowling and it was Malinga. Champaka was sort of wavering with the idea of trying to change his action but I advised him not to do anything because this boy had got pace and good line and length, what more do you want from a fast bowler? If that is his natural way bowling let him bowl. From that time Lasith has come several times to the Foundation when I was there and thanked me and he always talks to me,” said Kodituwakku.

“Another player whom I picked up when I was doing coaching programs for the Foundation was Suranga Lakmal from Debarawewa College. I told Stanley Jayasinghe how good he was and he came and saw him and wrote about him in his column in the Daily Mirror. Champaka saw him and brought him to Colombo. He took him from Debarawewa to play for Galle CC and for Richmond College. When he started playing for Galle, Tamil Union saw him and took him. When his parents see me they still come running to me and thank me for opening the doors for their son,” he said.

“My concept of coaching is that we shouldn’t try to make every cricketer bat in the same way. They have natural talents and as a coach what we should do is bring it out not to force too much technique into them. If six frontline batsmen are batting the same way one field setting can block all of them. If a player is technically wrong but he is getting away scoring runs you must leave him alone. Paul Adams would never have played if some coach got hold of him and changed his action. The coach’s job is to identify the natural talent in a boy and nurture not to force book technique into him otherwise they will all end up very average cricketers.”
Kodituwakku resides at Kottawa with his wife Orema from a second marriage. They have two daughters one of whom is in France and the other living in Nugegoda. He also has two daughters by his first marriage both residing in Australia.


2nd Under 19 Youth Test at Scarborough

England square series with win

England surged to a series-levelling six-wicket win, overcoming a tenacious Sri Lanka side after four days of hard fought cricket at Scarborough. Having folded in the first Test, this was a spirited comeback by an England side beset with off-field problems. That they completed victory was largely down to a 174-run fourth-wicket stand between Daniel Bell-Drummond and Ateeq Javid that hauled England out of trouble at 25 for 3 to make their 221 chase a formality.
Rather than try to blaze their way out of trouble Bell-Drummond, still only 16, and Javid patiently dug in and ground the Sri Lankan bowlers down. In a partnership that lasted the best part of 61 overs runs were eked out at a snail’s pace.

Javid struck 11 boundaries and batted for nearly four hours, and was the first of the pair to reach his half-century off 111 balls. Bell-Drummond was equally resolute at the other end, taking 137 deliveries to register his fifty as the pair batted throughout the afternoon session.
Finally Sri Lanka struck, with offspinner Rumesh Buddika trapping Javid in front for 89 but by that stage England had victory in their sights. Jack Manuel ensured they got over the line with the minimum of fuss, swiping a couple of fours and a six to end unbeaten on 18 off 13 balls. Throughout Bell-Drummond stood firm, finishing undefeated on 88 after 197 deliveries to carry England home. It was an innings of immense maturity at the top of the order, made all the more special after a frustrating morning for England’s bowlers and fielders.
With Sri Lanka starting the day at 171 for 7, England would have fancied their chances of wrapping things up quickly and getting the chase underway. Jacob Ball got them off to a good start, adding two wickets to his overnight haul to bring up his five-for but a 40-run final wicket stand halted England in their tracks. Sanitha de Mel smashed six boundaries and took the Sri Lankan lead to a competitive level, but England’s diligent batsmen ensured it wasn’t enough.

Scores: Sri Lanka Under-19s 317 (98.3) (N Karunanayake 90, B Rajapaksa 47, D Rajakaruna 35, A Fernando 39, C Peiris 22, C Jayampathi 31, N Rajaguru 22, P Best 5/53) and 224 (65) (K Vithanage 53, A Fernando 49, C Peiris 28, C Jayampathi 25,S de Mel 29,J Ball 5/64, P Best 3/53)
England Under-19s 321 (107.3) (A Javid 33, J Mnuel 57, P Best 37, Extras 32, C Peiris 6/79) and 221-4 (71.3) (D Bell-Drummond 88, A Javid 89, C Peiris 2/49).


Dalmiya elected CAB president

KOLKATA: Former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya on Wednesday extended his reign at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for a third consecutive term as their 79th annual general meeting turned out to be low-key affair, lasting less than an hour.
Star attraction of the AGM, Sourav Ganguly who represented Mohammadan Sporting, did not raise any issue on the floor that saw some concern on the state government’s decision to levy amusement tax on tickets which are priced at and above Rs 500.
“All positions were elected unanimously. This has obviously given tremendous responsibilities to the members,” Dalmiya told reporters after the AGM.
Airing concern about Bengal’s mediocre performance last Ranji season, Dalmiya said “Our team did not do well last time and we are very much concerned about it.”
Dalmiya further said the CAB would cut a sorry figure if the recent Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill 2010 is ratified. The new Bill levies a 20 per cent amusement tax on sporting event tickets that cost Rs 500 and more on a daily basis and Rs 3,000 and more on a season basis.
“Tickets for the World Cup matches have already been sold not only in India but overseas. We will cut a sorry figure if we ask the buyers more for their tickets. After seeing the Bill, we will give our representation to the state Finance minister (Asim Dasgupta),” Dalmiya said.
Citing past instances, Dalmiya said, “Never before - in 1987 and 1996 - there was such taxes. Even Commonwealth Games has been exempted of tax.”
The four new faces of Dalmiya panel are vice-presidents Shibaji Banerjee, Shivaji Ray, Ranjit Roy and Rathin Sarkar.
For Dalmiya, this will be his third consecutive year at CAB helm after returning to the post with a convincing win over incumbent Prasun Mukherjee in 2008 elections.
In 2006, the CAB AGM was a high-voltage affair with Dalmiya and Mukherjee - then Commissioner of Kolkata Police - locking horns that saw the latter having the support of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee and the BCCI President Sharad Pawar. – [PTI]