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Header image: Courtesy Prof. Rohan Jayasekara, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo (2011 - 2014).
CYRIL ERNEST: a gutty sportsman in all ‘earnestness’
From the Ceylon Daily News
Friday, July 6, 2018 - 01:00
Sent in by Sanath Lamabadusuriya
He was ernest in anything he signed up to do. Whether it was to attend to patients with heart aliments or caring for family and friends he was there, always. But when it came to sports the earnestness that Dr. Cyril Ernest devoted his energies and talent was legendary. No wonder then that we feature him today as our ‘SPORTS LEGENDS'.
In any form of cricket, be it local or international it is essential that every team carry with them an all-rounder or all rounders. An all-rounder is a must because he will be of great importance to the team and above all to his captain.
On Sri Lanka cricket and at the time of writing, a close scrutiny will show that there is no all-rounder of repute win the team which is a pity.That coaches and captains don’t lay emphasis on all-rounders is inexplicable.
And an all-rounder who shone in all forms of cricket in the 1960s and 1970s was CYRIL ERNEST. More on him as this copy unwinds. He was a hard hitting opening batsman crafty off spinner and a brilliant close in catcher who would pocket blinding catches so to say.
Highly prestigious Test arena
Before the country entered the highly prestigious TEST arena, the country had first class all-rounders such as Gamini Goonasena, Ivers Gunesekera, Stanley Jayasinge, Abu Fuard and Neil Chanmugam. They were a team and a captain’s dream.
During our time taking to the game in the under-12, to name our coaches Bro. Stanislaus, Bro Condrad and Herman Candappa at St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena would at practice give every player trying for a place in the squad to bat, bowl and also watch in what position we would be best in the field.
These coaches would instill in us that that one must endeavor to be an all-rounder. While being a brilliant batsman or a classy fielder or a promising bowler would be appreciated, they would talk to us on the importance of being an all-rounder and explain to us what it would be to a team.
One of the best all rounders
Now to CYRIL ERNEST and he was an all-rounder who could have held his own against the best not only in local cricket but international as well. He was a hard hitting right hand opening batsman in the mould of Gordon Greenidge of the West Indies, a right arm off spinner of the likes of England’s Jim Laker and Windies Lance Gibbs, a close in fielder like Australia’s Bobby Simpson.
ERNEST began his career at St.Mary’s College, Negombo where he shone like a beacon and then stroked his way to St.Benedict’s College, Kotahena where he debuted under the captaincy of Lionel Fernando in 1959 and the next year under the writer in 1960.
ERNEST showcased his talents when as a 15-year old he played for Negombo United in a ‘Daily News’ trophy game and missed a century by just 10 runs against NCC which had the famous G.M. Spittle in the NCC team. Spittle watching the young man in action predicted a bright future for him and he lived up to that.
St. Mary’s first side
And then making it to the St. Mary’s first side he made 85 against St.Thomas, Kotte and registered three scores of over 50 against St.Anthony’s Wattala, St.Mary’s,Chilaw and Carey College with his best bowling effort being 5 for 33 against St.Anthony’s College, Wattala.
Then he played for the Combined Negombo Schools against the Indian schools and was top scorer with 28 and capturing 3 for 14.
ERNEST did not want to blow his own trumpet but my urging him made him reveal that he was selected for the Rest team in the schools quadrangular and scored a dashing 66 against a star studded Colombo North Schools team led by Anandian Yatagama Amaradasa.
The CNS team had the cream of schoolboys cricketers of that era and to name them were – Neville Casiechetty and Cecil Waidyaratne (SBC), Priya Perera, Raja de Silva and Tissa de Zoysa (SJC), Nihal Amaradasa (Nalanda), Upali Samaratne and L.R. Gunetilleke (Wesley).
Gladly welcomed to SBC
The next year he was gladly welcomed to St.Benedict’s College and opening the batting his best scores were 64 vs STCML, 57 vs SACK, 71 vs SJC and 70 against St. Anne’s Kurunegala and 50 vs Combined Schools and his best figures were 5 for 31 against Royal.
After a successful school season, where he also shone in studies he entered University/Medical School. He captained the ‘Sara’ Trophy side in 1966/67. He also led the University team on a tour of India for the inter-university cricket tourney.
His batting highlights in the Uni team were 82 vs. Moratuwa, 55 and 52 against them again, 53 vs SSC, 60 vs Tamil Union, 45 vs SSC which knock helped them win the ‘Sara’ trophy and in bowling he remembers taking 5 wickets against SSC.
During his stay at the university doctors who captained the team were Carlyle Perera, Buddy Reid, Lareef Idroos and Mohanlal Fernando and ERNEST too captained the team and he led the team to India for the inter-university tourney in Bangalore in 1966.
After winning the ‘Sara’ trophy the Uni rewarded them with a trip to Singapore and Malaysia and against the Negrisembilan state team he made 56 and 49 against Combined Malaysian Armed Forces. He was successful with the ball and had figures of 8 for 99 vs. Malaysia and 6 for 33 against Penang.
After graduating from medical school he joined up with the Nondescripts and played for two years with best bowling figures of 8 for 7 against Moors, 6 for 15 against University 6 for 99 against Nomads.
Joining the Air Force
Later he quit NCC and threw in his lot with the Air Force where he was a formidable opponent playing for Adastrians captaining the team in 1970 with 139 not out vs Saracens, and again 84 vs Saracens and several other scores of over 30. 5 for 82 and 7 for 38 against Army being his best figures.
His most memorable experience was playing for the country under Michael Tissera against Colin Cowdrey’s MCC team in 1969 and capturing the wickets of Colin Cowdrey and Basil d’Oliveira in a game won by Sri Lanka.
In a Gopalan trophy game against Madras he scored 45 not out in the second innings to help Sri Lank win that game. He played against Pakistan which team included Imtiaz Ahmed, Javed Burki, Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam. He was also selected to play against Pakistan in 1971 but unfortunately the tour was cancelled because of the India - Pakistan war over the formation of Bangladesh.
Migrated to USA
When he migrated to USA it was their gain and big loss to Sri Lanka as a sportsman and doctor. While playing cricket, hockey, being an athlete how he found time for studies that finally ended up in him being a cardiologist much in demand in the US is amazing.
In the USA he played for the national team in the Associate Members World Cup in Birmingham, England in 1982. He was manager of the USA team in 1995/’96 and was Chairman of the Selection Committee 1995/’96. He has the rare distinction of playing for two countries Sri Lanka and America.
Dr Ernest was a keen long distance runner, running in four marathons –Honolulu twice in 1985 and ’86, Los Angeles 1987 and Bejing 1995 and numerous 5 and 10 kilometre races. In addition he is also a formidable black belter in Taekwondo /Karate.
Dr Ernest achieved all this while being a top Consultant Physician and Cardiologist and a Medical Administrator. He specialized in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular diseases. He is a Fellow American College of Cardiology in 1985, Fellow American College of Chest Physicians 1985 and
Fellow American College of physicians 1990. He held the position of President Los Angeles County Medical Association in 1984 and served in the Los Angeles County Medical Association Board of Governors.
One mishap that is vivid in his mind was when playing for the Rest X1 against Nationalized Services in the Robert Senanayake trophy tournament in 1967 at the Colombo Oval when a Sylvester Dias bouncer when he failed to connect with a pull and had his nose shattered.
He was taken to the emergency room in a taxi with blood streaming and had the famous Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Reinzie Pieris another Old Ben who reset his displaced nasal bone fracture. But his courage made him to come back and continue batting making 48. ERNEST also presented a Bowling Machine to St. Benedict's college cricketers.
Recalling old memories
Dr. Ernest was here recently for the BenedictIne Prize Giving as chief guest with his wife Dr. Indrani and daughters Cheryl and Melanie and it raised goose flesh meeting him with cheer leader of that era Kenneth Daberera and team mates Ranjit Fernando and Anton Abeysekera going down memory lane and recalling anecdotes of old.