Living Legends – Darrell Lieversz Jnr.

Lieversz a double international of repute

By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
Darrell Lieversz was fortunate to have a father who played under the same name and initials (DWL) and represented the country. Lieversz Jnr owes much of his success as a cricketer and as an athlete to his parents who encouraged him in every aspect. Lieversz Snr known as Douglas opened batting for Ceylon against Jack Ryder’s Australian team in a 3-day game played at the Nomads grounds at Victoria Park in 1935 and he also had the honour of representing Indian Gymkhana against MCC at Lord’s in the early thirties along with former Ceylon Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake when he was in England studying to be an Electrical Engineer. He also kept wickets from time to time.

“My dad must have been disappointed although he did not show it that I developed into a bowler. He used to encourage me in my batting, often telling me I had a good technique etc. In the end I think he and mum were very happy with my bowling performances,” Lieversz told The Nation. “When I was in school, as an incentive my dad used to give me one rupee for every wicket I took and ten cents for every run I scored. It must have started to affect his budget because after some time my mum often had to remind him about fulfilling the contract, especially in the last few years of my school cricket career.”

Lieversz had an outstanding career as a right-arm fast-medium bowler at Royal College, Colts CC and for Ceylon whom he represented in 1964 and 1965 as the spearhead of the bowling attack. He however went one step further than his father by becoming a double international when he represented his country at athletics at the fourth Asian Games in Djakarta in 1962 in the sprint events (100m, 200m and 400m).
Lieversz played an integral part in bowling his country to their first victory in an unofficial test against Pakistan at the P Sara Oval in 1964. He swung the ball alarmingly much to the discomfort of the Pakistani batsmen and ended up taking a match bag of nine wickets for 68 runs as Ceylon registered a historic 41-run win.
“It was an amazing game for me. I opened bowling and took two wickets in my first over and finished with 5 wickets for 40 runs in the first innings and 4 for 28 runs in the second innings. However it was disappointing to hear the comments made at a Radio interview after the game by the Pakistan captain Imtiaz Ahmed who said that ‘everything is uncertain here, the weather, the wicket and the umpires’”. I understand he never played for Pakistan again,” recalled Lieversz.

He was also a member of the Ceylon team when they beat India for the first time in an unofficial test by four wickets at Ahmedabad in 1965 providing good support to Norton Fredrick and Stanley Jayasinghe. Lieversz recalls that it was skipper Michael Tissera’s astute captaincy that won the match.
“Michael summoned a team meeting and informed us that he was thinking of declaring our innings at the start of play the next day (fourth and final day) even though we were 45 runs behind. His reasoning was that the condition of the pitch after the overnight dew would suit our bowlers better. It was a gamble but we all agreed with him, and this declaration was indeed the master-stroke that enabled us to win the Test match,” said Lieversz.

India scored 189 and 66 and Ceylon replied with 144-7 declared and 115-6.
Lieversz performed brilliantly in the side games making a career best first-class score of 40 not out and capturing 4/70 against Indian Universities at Madras and taking 5/71 against Indian Board President’s XI at Baroda.
Lieversz was taught the fundamentals of accuracy and swing bowling by sports journalist AV Fernando and school coach Elmo de Bruin. “AV Fernando, a good friend of my father showed me how to hold the ball with the seam upright. One day at the end of the day’s play of a Sara Trophy game that my father had played in, he took me to the centre wicket, replanted one stump, and pulled out a brand new cricket ball from his pocket. It was a junior 4¾ ounce ball. He gave it to me and said, ‘If you can knock that stump in one over (6 balls) you can have the ball’. It was the first new ball I had ever handled and it must have been sheer luck because I knocked the stump over with my first ball and I took the ball home with me,” said Lieversz.

“Elmo de Bruin who was school coach of cricket and athletics was another person who inspired me in my cricket and athletics career from an early age. He taught me what swing bowling was all about, along with other variations of using the width of the crease as well as occasionally bowling from a little behind the crease. He discouraged me from short pitched bowling and often reminded me that line and length is all I needed. Even a full toss was better than a short ball and suggested that as an occasional ‘change of pace’ the faster ball could be more of a surprise. Without a doubt I used all these tips throughout my bowling career,” he said.

Lieversz played for Royal College in 1961 and 1962 the year he captained the team. “The most memorable school game that year was when we beat St Peter’s at Reid Avenue. On the strength of St. Peter’s performance against Ananda the previous week, and Royal’s injury toll having four regular players on the sick or injured list, the press at that time tended to play down Royal’s prospects against the Peterites,” said Lieversz. “No one, least of all Royal, could have predicted the mayhem that lay just around the corner. They say opening bowlers click in pairs and serve as an inspiration towards each other. I firmly believe that this was the case with Chanaka de Silva and me in the years we opened bowling for Royal. Chanaka finished with 4/14 and 3/13 and, I had 6 wickets for 7 runs and 7 wickets for 17 runs. We trounced the Peterites by 160 runs. The effect was sensational and it seemed like Royal could do no wrong during that game.” Lieversz was also selected to tour India with the strong Combined Ceylon School’s side captained by Yatigama Amaradasa of Ananda that won all their matches on the tour.

Leaving school Lieversz joined Colombo Colts CC, the club his father was president of. “While he was the president of the Colt’s Cricket Club, he was Chairman of the Selection Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in Ceylon for many years. However, he dutifully resigned from the committee as soon as I approached the cricket scene.” Playing in the Sara trophy division I tournament Colts narrowly missed becoming champions by a mere 0.02 points to Colombo University in 1962 when Lieversz set a new bowling record by capturing 72 wickets for the season at 9.78 runs apiece.

Lieversz recalls: “It was the final game of the season and was referred to as the most sensational game ever in the Sara series. Praise must be given to the two captains, W. Premaratne of Colts and Carlyle Perera of the University for their intelligent declarations during the course of the game. ‘It was cricket at its glorious best’ wrote one sports journalist. We had the better of them throughout the game until Premaratne declared the Colts second innings with three wickets remaining which deprived the University of valuable bonus points if they had got the entire side out.

“This was when the battle for bonus points began. When the University batted a second time, they needed to score 20 runs per wicket to keep ahead of us on bonus points and all we needed was five wickets, and the Trophy would have been ours. It went down to the last hour when they were four wickets down for 34 runs. At this stage their target was 70 and we needed only one more wicket. However, Buddy Reid who was one of the most technically perfect batsmen and Nihal Gurusinghe not only deprived us of that one wicket but with some stubborn batting managed to get the 70 runs needed for the bonus points for them to beat us by 0.02 points. At the end of the day all credit must go to the wonderful game of cricket.”

Lieversz made his debut for Ceylon in the Gopalan trophy match against Madras at the P Sara Oval in 1964 and proved to be an instant success taking six for 29 off 21 overs (11 maidens) in the second innings and bowling his team to victory by six wickets. With two wickets in the first innings Lieversz had eight in the match and his new ball partner Norton Fredrick five. That same year he was picked to play against Australia captained by Bob Simpson in the traditional one-day game. Lieversz’s swing didn’t bother the Australians who played him late and scored runs comfortably. His only noteworthy contribution was running out Ian Redpath for one off his bowling with a direct hit on his follow through.

Being a big swinger of the ball, Lieversz admits that reverse swing is something that he has not fully grasped. “Reverse swing is something which I still don’t understand. It is being used quite extensively by many pace bowlers of the world. They now have designated ‘ball polishers’ who are responsible for keeping the ball as dry as possible which I understand is essential for reverse swing. Players who have sweaty palms are discouraged from touching the ball except when bowling. During my time, by the second or third over everyone knew which side of the ball to shine and that it should be returned to the bowler without it being dropped on the ground.”
Making a comparison to the cricket that is played today and during his time, Lieversz said, “I think cricketers of my generation made a massive contribution to the game where many ended up becoming excellent coaches and advisers to the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. We all played mainly for the love of the game and that is something we often forget. All we received was a cap, blazer and a tie which we proudly wore when the occasion arose. Finding suitable employment was the priority at that time, as we were not paid at all to represent our club or country. Most of us had to get permission from our employers to get time off to play cricket.
“I don’t take anything away from the present day cricketers because they work very hard for what they receive. They play a lot more cricket than we ever did in the sixties and I admire the effort and dedication they are constantly required to give. Fitness training in gyms etc. was not heard of in those days. However with my background in athletics, I did not have any major problems with fitness. Most teams now have different specialised coaches for batting, bowling and fielding. Many hours are now spent on fielding and this is one area that has improved tremendously. I cannot recall anyone during my time diving head first and sliding on the grass to save a boundary. It is incredible to see them all doing it now,” he stated.

Lieversz was also a remarkable athlete and he divided his time at school between the two sports. Taking part in the final trials held at Police Park grass track to select the squad for the 4th Asian Games in Djakarta Lieversz broke the long-standing Ceylon record of Dr. HMP Perera in the men’s 400 metres and also qualified for the 200 metres finishing second to Lakshman de Alwis although both runners were clocked at 22.5 seconds. It came as a surprise to him when he was also selected to run in the 100 metres an event which he had not trained for. “I did not fare very well at the Games, but enjoyed the fellowship and experience it had to offer.”
Like most cricketers during his time, Lieversz took to planting and was encouraged by his boss Mike Ondaatje (who ran the Nuechatel Estate in Neboda) who had a concrete pitch built especially for him to practice as he could not travel daily from Colombo and back. “I was given a box of new balls by the Board of Control and I used to go down to the Tebuwana Club with Mike in the evenings after work and bowl at one stump using a handkerchief to indicate where I should pitch the ball for good line and length. Mike used to stand behind the net and return the ball to me indicating where exactly the ball had pitched.”

Due to circumstances Lieversz had to leave Neuchatel and joined Duckwari Estate in Rangala despite the advice given to him by Ondaatje that he would be putting his cricketing future in jeopardy. As it turned out to be Lieversz was dropped from the Ceylon team as he could play only Donovan Andree trophy and Daily News trophy cricket for Kandy SC and Dimbula CC without any practice. He played one more game representing Central Province against Colin Cowdrey’s MCC side at Asgiriya in 1969 where he and Sugi Rajaratnam plundered runs hitting leg-spinner Robin Hobbs for three sixes. Rajaratnam made 50 and Lieversz was unbeaten on 24 to go with his two wickets for 40 runs.

After retiring from cricket Lieversz and his wife Shanti got involved in the sports welfare of the Duckwari estate staff and labour force. He introduced softball cricket and organised matches to be played against the staff sides of rival plantations. “With the permission from our Principals in London I was able to uproot some tea bushes and level a suitable piece of land with enough area to play cricket. This area was used as a playground for children and others that needed space to have fun. We also had a floodlit badminton court which was used regularly weather permitting off course, by staff and their partners.”
When the foreign company-owned estates were acquired by the government, Lieversz decided to migrate to Canada in 1976 and ten years later moved to Australia where he is resident now with his family – wife, three daughters and six grandchildren.

“I didn’t think there was a future in the planting industry and also, we wanted to provide better opportunities for our children. We settled down well in Canada but decided to move to Australia in November 1986,” said Lieversz who is now retired after working for Coca-Cola as a Quality Assurance Technician for 22 years.