P.W. Perera, the legendary cricket coach of Ananda College is no more. He passed away last Sunday, at the age of 84, appropriately enough whilst watching Sri Lanka playing Australia in the 2nd VB Series final in Sydney.

With him died many glorious seasons which lit up and laid the foundation of Ananda's impressive cricket record. But those performances that he made possible will live on in the memories of those who were fortunate enough to play and those lucky enough to have witnessed them.

PW, as he was fondly called, grew up during a period when the resurgence of national consciousness was in full flow.

Home-grown institutions like Ananda, Nalanda and Dharmaraja were not merely schools but centres where the collective conscience of emerging, independent Sri Lanka was being formed. Even sports, like cricket, were not just amusements but part of the struggle to conclusively prove that the 'natives' were capable of achieving excellence and taking care of their own affairs.

He was a student at Ananda between 1935 to 1941, playing for the college for four years from 1938 to 1941. In his final year he set up that famous Big Match bowling record and went on to captain the Combined Schools team - the first Anandian to do so. This was a period when no one from outside the anointed circle of schools and clubs could hope to be considered for the national team. So PW played club cricket and Sri Lanka missed out.

He started his coaching career at Dharmaraja College, Kandy in 1941 shaping the team up to beat teams like Ananda, Nalanda, Trinity and St. Anthony's. He then joined the Prisons Department in 1944 and thereafter, coached schools wherever his job took him - St.Mary's College - Negombo, an 8-year stint with Ananda, St. Servatius' College - Matara, another 8 years with Ananda, St. Anthony's College - Kandy and on to D.S. Senanayake Vidyalaya (where a young Aravinda de Silva was rising fast).

Finally, PW took charge of all the junior teams at Ananda in 1982 and kept going until he finally retired at the end of 2004. Quite a long and varied inning spanning over 60 years of coaching - testimony to his love and dedication towards the game.

PW was a cricketing institution at Ananda and so many other schools around the country - truly a national asset.

He taught his pupils, directly and through his lifestyle, the lessons that cricket and its traditions offer to produce mature, decent human beings - qualities such as simplicity, unselfishness, fairplay, determination, perseverance and team spirit.

Whenever those who benefited from his paternal guidance happen to meet, they never fail to recall those golden years of cricket that PW made possible. The sharing of these happy memories alone will ensure that P.W. Perera will be remembered well into the 21st century and beyond.

His funeral takes place today at the general cemetary, Kanatte at 3 p.m. Cortege leaves residence from Malabe at 2 p.m.

Source - Daily News (2006/02/15)


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