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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cyril Ernest, Cardiologist and Cricketer par excellence


Episode 1,  April 2016
Cyril Ernest, Cardiologist and Cricketer par excellence

It is my great pleasure to record this virtual interview with my pal Cyril and I thank him for his kind permission to post this on our own Blog, ColomboMedgrads1962 which as we all know is the brainchild of Lucky Abeyagunawardene.

Speedy: Good morning Cyril. 
Cyril: Good morning Speedy, or should it be Mahen?
Speedy: Don’t mind! I know that you are used to calling me Speedy. Cyril, most of us of course know that you entered Medical school in 1962after  doing a six-month course in chemistry at the University of Ceylon in Colombo. But coming from St Benedict’s, how is it that you were sent to Peradeniya and not Colombo?
Cyril: That remains a mystery but I was very happy at Peradeniya at the brand new Medical school there.
Speedy:  It is also on record that while at St. Benedict’s College you excelled in several sports – cricket, hockey, tennis, and track & field – representing your school in all these sports and also playing in combined-schools teams, and participating in public schools events and meets. Of course once you entered Medical School, your priorities must have changed. Tell us how you met these new challenges, i.e., pursuing a quite demanding study schedule with sports.
Cyril: Absolutely right Speedy. Once I entered the university, studies were my major concern, though I pursued my sporting career but confining myself to two sports – cricket and hockey. With my sporting prowess, I was able to get into the university cricket and hockey teams. Being in Peradeniya was a distinct disadvantage to combine sports with my studies, as all the sporting events were in Colombo. I was somehow able to manage to combine both pursuits, sports and studies, and keep up my grades, while being on the varsity teams for both.
Speedy: There were many talented cricketers in University at the time. Could you tell us a bit more about them?
Cyril: That is correct. When I entered medical school my classmates included contemporary cricketers Cecil Saveryimuthu, a fellow Bendictine teammate (pace bowler), SenarathJayatilleke, a dashing batsman from St. Anne’s College Kurunegala, and Kumar Gunawardena, a wicketkeeper/batsman, from St. Thomas’ College. Talented as they were as cricketers, they did not pursue playing cricket and decided to concentrate on their studies. My other school contemporaries, LareefIdroos (St. Thomas’ College), Harsha Samarajeewa (Royal College), and KiththaWimalaratna (Royal College) continued their pursuits in cricket. We were teammates in the University Cricket Eleven.
Speedy:That is an impressive list! I know that the University Cricket Team took part in the Sara Trophy Tournament. Tell us a bit more about those times.
Cyril: Yes Speedy. Looking back now, I often wonder how I did it!  Playing cricket on the Varsity A team, in the Sara Trophy Tournament, was very time-consuming and it did, to a certain extent, interfere with our academic pursuits. However, we persevered and we were regular members of the University Eleven. We were regular members of the Sara Trophy cricket team from 1961/62 to 1966/67.
Speedy: Could you give us some idea of the schedule in those days?
Cyril: During the cricket season, which was from March to August, we were involved in matches with our rival teams every weekend and having daily practices during the week. This was quite a tedious routine and we stuck to our tasks, helping the team to be a force to be reckoned with. Unlike the other participating teams in the tournament, Varsity had to contend with key players missing matches due to exams, as well as, leaving the team on graduation. Despite these hardships, we were an enthusiastic band of players and during our time, we reached the final playoff rounds every season between 1962 and 1967.
Speedy: What were the greatest achievements of the Team that gives you a lot of pride?
Cyril: 1962/63 was a great year, when we won the Sara Trophy championship, being national champions in cricket under the captaincy of Carlyle Perera – another medico. The next year too, we almost won the championship under Buddy Reid – another medico, losing by the slimmest of margins (0.04 points) to Bloomfield due to an unfortunate error in the field, a dropped catch. The university cricket team was rewarded for their national championship with an all-expense paid trip to Singapore and Malaysia in 1963. Here too, we excelled. Lareef, Harsha, Kiththa and myself, were preparing for our second MBBS exam, and foolishly we took our textbooks and skeleton to study on the tour. Which, of course, never materialized, being distracted by other goings-on.

Speedy: It is my recollection that there were a lot of Medicos in the Varsity Team in that era who Captained the Team. Could you please tell us a bit about them?
Cyril: Your recollection is good! I see that so far you have been spared from memory changes which some of us may experience in the future. The Varsity cricket team was captained in 1963/64 by Buddy Reid, followed by Mohanlal Fernando in 1964/65, LareefIdroos in 1965/66, and myself in 1966/67. In 1966, I captained the University of Ceylon cricket team on its’ tour to India for the inter-university cricket tourney in Bangalore.
Speedy: How did you fare in Bangalore?
Cyril:We had a very good team, but we were unable to advance beyond the second round, due to local conditions and most importantly, the biased umpiring decisions by the local umpires.
Speedy: That must have been tough to take.
Cyril: Yes it was and there were other unexpected problems too.Let me tell you an interesting story. I went on the Indian tour just three weeks before the third MBBS exam. I was in a panic on my return because of a lack of preparation for my exam. However, two of my classmates, whose names I shall not reveal, helped me out immensely by coaching me in bacteriology and forensic medicine. They were my life savers. Unfortunately, when the results of the exam were revealed, I had passed and they had failed in the very subjects they had helped me with.
Speedy: That seems so unfair, but that is life I suppose!
Cyril:  Yes indeed!
Speedy: Tell me Cyril, did you ever represent Sri lanka in cricket?
Cyril:LareefIdroos and I, from our class, were fortunate enough to have represented Ceylon in international cricket competitions.

Speedy: That is a great achievement and we are very proud of both of you. Any other unforgettable cricketing memories?
Cyril: Well, there is something which I shall never forget. I was playing on the Rest Eleven against the Nationalised Services Eleven at the Colombo Oval in the Robert Senanayake trophy pentangular tournament in 1967, just one week before my finals. I was batting well and a Sylvester Diaz (pace bowler) bouncer did me in when I tried to hook him and had my nose shattered. I was taken to the emergency room, by taxi, with blood streaming, and had Dr.RienziePieris reset my displaced nasal bone fracture. You wouldn’t believe that I came back and batted again, scoring 48 runs – this was at a time when I was vying for a place on the Ceylon side. I went back to BLOEM with a thundering headache but recovered in time to take my final exam the next week, and managed to pass again.
Speedy: That is some story Cyril, speaks volumes for your courage and tenacity.
Cyril: Not really Speedy. When these things happen, you just get on with it as best as you can!
Speedy:Any other cricketing memories from those days you want to share with readers?
Cyril:During our days in medical school, we also played on the medical college team, in the annual Law/Medical game. Lareef, Harsha, Kiththa, EaswaraKanapathipillai, and I were teammates in 1966. Lareef captained the side. After graduating from medical school we went our separate ways and Lareef played for SSC, and I played for the NCC side and later for the Adastrians, when I joined the Air Force.
Speedy:  You left Sri Lanka and moved to California in February 1972.
Cyril: That is right, In February 1972 I migrated to the United States, Lareef having left in 1971. I joined Lareef in New York and we were together at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, where there were several other Sri Lankans doing internship and residency. In 1977, I moved to California, Lareef having moved there in 1976.
Speedy: Were you able to pursue your interest in Cricket?
Cyril: We both resumed our cricketing career in California, playing in the Southern California Cricket Association tournament. Our cricketing abilities were recognized by the USA Cricket selectors and we were both selected to play on the USA Cricket team in 1979 against Canada in Vancouver. Lareef did well, scoring 60 runs in the first innings and I got 4 wickets in the match. I was once again selected for the Associate Member World Cup tournament in 1982, representing the United States in Birmingham, England. I took an interest in the administrative aspects of USA cricket and was at one time manager of the USA team, and also chairman of selectors, despite the heavy schedule of being a Cardiologist. Lareef and I were members of the Hollywood Cricket Club and we went on many a tour to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa, England, South America, and the West Indies. Those were happy outings and we had the privilege of meeting and playing against many an old test cricketer.
Speedy: Cyril, that was a most enjoyable journey with you and I am sure all our readers will enjoy reading it as much as I did. Thanks you so much and I look forward to seeing you in March next year at our Reunion.
Cyril: Thank you Speedy for your interest and I do hope that these memoirs, recalled at your behest, is not misconstrued as if I am tooting my own horn. I am still working full time and hope to attend the reunion in Sri Lanka in March 2017.
Speedy: Rest assured Cyril, there is no danger of that at all and once again, thank you so much.


  1. Cyril and Mahen
    That was a wonderful trip down memory lane with cricket and many of our batch in the spotlight. I met Cyril at the Cinnamon Grand in 2012 with Lareef when I was with a former Wesley captain Senthil Sinniah. That was a great mini reunion. It is privilege to reminisce living so far apart thanks to Mahen who has done the 'interview ' like a true Pro. Thanks to you both. This a welcome change of format. I sincerely hope this will be the first of many.

  2. As a keen follower of school cricket, the name "Cyril Ernest" was familiar to me even before I entered the University. Then in June 1961, I found myself in a small group of 15 students who had been selected to follow the 6 months course (1st MB) in Chemistry. Cyril was one of them.

    As Cyril has mentioned, the 1962/63 season was unforgettable. I was always there on weekends under the shady trees of Thurstan Road seated on my little Honda 50 scooter watching the University team in action against other clubs in the Sara Trophy tournament. Although we didn't know him too well at that time, Prof. Rajasuriya too used to be an interested spectator from near the barbed wire fence on Thurstan Road. There was a band of spectators who always supported the University team. Among them were many non-academic staff of the University. Our UMO Dr. EHC Alles and Director of Physical Education Mr. PAS Perera sat with the team in the pavilion. The day the University team won the Sara Trophy, all spectators were as elated as the players.

  3. My first encounter with Cyril was when we were in the opposing sides in school cricket. He was a member of St. Benedict's College team and I was playing for the sister school -- St. Anthony's College, Wattala. As I was the opening batsman, I did not have the occasion / fortune to face Cyril's vicious off-spin as my job was to see off the fast bowlers. Did score a quarter century and was long gone before Cyril came on to the scene--- lucky me!!!
    Then in 1961 when I entered the 1st. MB course ---- there was Cyril seated next to me @ Chemistry Lectures & I was wedged between him & Lucky and... as the saying goes "the pig in the middle"????
    Of course Lucky was in school at St. Anthony's with me up to Std.3... in our early formative years before his move to Ananada College & I stayed on.
    There--- a little piece of history for you.
    The 'Awesome forces of Fate & Destiny' does play its hand in many a mysterious ways....
    In fact our lot are not just 'Batchmates'.... we are a FAMILY..

    1. A typical humorous response from Razaque, the substantial one!
      Your sense of humour must brighten the life of all who have the good fortune to associate with you; long may it last!

  4. Hi Cyril! Hi Speedy! Hi Lareef! I can go on saying just that, with my limited sports lingo. I admire you guys who did wonderful things in sport in the 60s. I love virtual interviews such as these but they did really happen in our psyche, in our unsaid thoughts and our admiration.
    Cheers! from Zita

    1. Just back after the SLMDA Dinner-Dance in Heathrow, London. I do hope you are better with less pain. Thanks for taking the time to comment in spite of your discomfort.
      Kumar Sangakkara was there to promote the Charity Walk organised by "Trail" starting on the 6th of October 2016 to raise funds for a Cancer Hospital in the South. Read all aboout Trail at ..
      "With the success of Trail 2011 - the establishment of 120 bed, 3 ward (including pediatric) Tellippalai Trail Cancer Hospital with 45 specialized staff and cutting–edge equipment– we are now revving up again for Trail: The Walk Back on October 6th 2016. This time we are energized to raise USD 5 million to further expand needed health care access by establishing a specialized oncology treatment and research center as an extension of the Karapitiya Hospital, Galle.

    2. Hi Zita,
      Thank you very much for your kind comments. It is indeed heartening to know that you keep a close tab on the goings on via the blog, with your witty comments and observations. Also I was not aware of your surgery, and I hope you have recovered fully now.
      Cyril Ernest

  5. Hope you are feeling much better Zita.