Sports Opinion

Out of Focus: Our weekly analysis of a great sports photograph

Here is the Sri Lankan national cricket team of 1965, over 56 years ago. On 5 January 1965 in Ahmadabad, the then capital of India’s western most state of Gujarat, Sri Lanka, which was named Ceylon until 1972, recorded the country’s first-ever win in an “unofficial” Test in India. This is also the country’s first “Test” win abroad.


So this 1965 unofficial Test played at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmadabad stands out to be a major Test victory for Sri Lanka against India during the last half-century. It was the third of a three-match Test series.

After winning the first two matches as well as the series, the home team had fielded a relatively young side for this severely rain-hampered match.

Tissera’s able leadership prompted him to declare their second innings minus 45 runs from the Indian first innings’ total, at the close of the third day’s play. On day four, Polonowita, Jayasinghe, and Fredrick shared three wickets apiece to reduce the home team to a mere 66 runs, giving the Ceylonese a target of 112 to win before a sizeable home crowd. They were through for the loss of only six wickets, creating history not matched even till today.

What the photo reveals

Now, let’s have a look at the photo. The 11 men who played the historic Ahmadabad Test 55 years ago are here posing under the scorching sun during midday, before the game. Standing from left are Darrel Lieversz, Michael Tissera, Stanley Jayasinghe, Anurudda Polonowita, Herbert (HIK) Fernando, and Abu Fuard. Squatting from left are D. Premachandra de Silva, Norton Fredrick, Lasantha Rodrigo, Mano Ponniah, and T.C. Trevelyan Edward.

Neil Chanmugam replaced de Silva in the final XI.

Here there are Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, and Burghers too as the very names suggest. It is a truly a multiracial and multi-religious Ceylonese side depicting the historic harmony that prevailed in the country’s cricket.


This classic image also shows it was thorough gentlemen who played the game of cricket then. What a remarkable similarity of personality, posture, and attitude! All men are identically similar – their haircuts, faces (only Fuard and Fredrick post moustaches), the identical shirts, trousers, shoes, and caps – and their athleticism and bravery too are evident. No wonder they beat their neighbouring giants for the first time in their own backyard.



An afterword

And it still remains the only “Test” win, either officially or unofficially, recorded by Sri Lanka so far on Indian soil. Sri Lanka has played 20 “official” Test matches in India, since playing her inaugural one in 1982.

They have lost 11 of them while winning nothing. Nine matches ended in a draw.



India team in Ahmadabad ‘Test’:

Nawab of Pataudi alias Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (Captain), Dilip Sardesai, Farokh Engineer (wicketkeeper), Abbas Ali Baig, Hanumant Singh, Ramesh Chand Saxena, Ambar Khirid Roy, Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan, Umesh Narayan Kulkarni, C.K. Bhaskaran, and Rajinder Goel.

Series results:

* First unofficial Test from 11-13 December 1964 in Bangalore (three-day match) – India won by an innings and 46 runs

* Second unofficial Test from 19-22 December 1964 in Hyderabad (four-day match) – India won by seven wickets

* Third unofficial Test from 2-5 January 1965 in Ahmadabad (four-day match) – Ceylon won by four wickets

Brief scores of Ahmadabad ‘Test’:

Toss: India

* India 189 all out in 68.4 overs

(Ramesh Saxena 63 n.o., Hanumant Singh 30, Nawab of Pataudi 28; Stanley Jayasinghe 6-38, Norton Fredrick 4-85)

* Ceylon 144 for seven wickets declared in 45 overs

(Polonowita 53, Herbert Fernando 38 n.o., Michael Tissera 28; Umesh Kulkarni 4-43, C.K. Bhaskaran 2-35) and (target 112)

* 66 all out in 26.4 overs

(Ambar Roy 16, Ramesh Saxena 12; Anurudda Polonowita 3-7, Stanley Jayasinghe 3-14, Norton Fredrick 3-24).

* 115 for six wickets in 52.2 overs

(Abu Fuard 40, Mano Ponniah 22, Stanley Jayasinghe 19, Michael Tissera 15; Rajinder Goel 4-33).