Ruchira Palliyaguruge | Roshan Mahanama | Kumar Dharmasena

Long years before Sri Lanka’s domestic cricket was given first-class status the P Sara trophy was considered the plum for clubs to contest. It was the blue riband of cricket in this country and the clubs that participated did so with passion and pride.

Bloomfield Cricket & Athletic Club is one of the clubs that has won this title on several occasions, the first being in 1963-64 under the leadership of the late Noel Perera. To mark the golden anniversary of that victory and to honour the cricketers who formed that champion team Bloomfield have set aside May 30 as the date for the felicitation dinner at their club house at Reid Avenue.

Bloomfield is also using the occasion to felicitate three former cricketers who have brought honour and glory to the club by being selected as match officials of the ICC for international cricket matches namely Roshan Mahanama (match referee), Kumar Dharmasena (umpires’ elite panel) and Ruchira Palliyaguruge (umpires’ international panel). All three of them officiated at the recently concluded ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

What is so creditable of Bloomfield’s Sara trophy victory was that they achieved it with primitive facilities without a ground of their own and with a club house on wheels. From that winning team Bloomfield produced two cricketers who went on to represent the country in the pre-Test era – fast bowler Norton Fredrick and batsman Dhanasiri Weerasinghe.

Of the 17 members who played in that champion team there are 13 survivors, three of whom are overseas, the other ten, according to the club’s immediate past president Hirantha Perera, will be invited to grace the occasion.

The full team comprised: Noel Perera (captain – deceased), Mahinda Wijesinghe (vice-captain), Norton Fredrick (deceased), Ranjith Malawena, DP Wickremarachchi, Nihal Jayasinghe, Charlie Warnakulasuriya (deceased), KAS Perera, D de Silva, Daya Amarasinghe, Stanley Amendra, WAN Silva, Lucky Abeywardena (deceased), Dhanasiri Weerasinghe, G Molligoda, TD Rajapaksha and Mahinda Athulathmudali.

Perera also stated that the three ICC match officials had also confirmed their availability to grace the occasion at which president’s and secretaries of other Premier trophy clubs will also be invited.

Bloomfield president Jayantha Seneviratne said that the last occasion the club hosted an event of this magnitude was a long time ago in 1997 when they felicitated two of their star players Roshan Mahanama and Sanath Jayasuriya for establishing a world Test record of 576 runs for the second wicket against India at the R Premadasa Stadium. The record was subsequently broken by another Sri Lankan pair Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene nine years later.

Despite the drawbacks Bloomfield had over the years they have a proud history of producing quite a number of cricketers to the national team (including four national captains – Bandula Warnapura, Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan) as well as winning all the major domestic tournaments conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket.

Having a permanent ground of their own has been a major drawback for the club. They have been pushed from pillar to post and even today their present location at Reid Avenue, are hopeful that the Urban Development Authority (UDA) would extend their current lease so that they could go ahead and lay plans for a new building.

“We are a poor club trying hard to exist. Our finances are very limited and our membership is also limited (they have around 450 members), but our credentials are impressive and have been part of the success story of Sri Lanka cricket,” said club secretary Rohan de Alwis.

Ashroff Ghany head of the club felicitation committee stated that due to the confined space in the club they have restricted the number of guests to around 300 and tickets are being sold at subsidised rates.

The champion Bloomfield team that won the Sara trophy in 1963-64 under the leadership of Noel Perera pictured with club president HL Gunaratne and secretary TMN Mahamooth. (Pic by Chandana Wijesinghe)