“I’m aged 77 now, two days younger to Sir Garfield Sobers, and most of the cricketers known to me commented that I’m in good shape than him” boasted the one man cheering squad of Sri Lanka, Percy Abeysekara. The young at heart, “Percy Uncle” as referred by the young (he is not a youngster any more) is as clamant as he used to be in the early days of his life and tougher than a person of his age. In spite of the frailties that have come with age, Percy looks almost unchanged after cheering for Sri Lanka for over 50 years and shouting for the country while carrying the National Flag for over 30 years.
“I went to Richmond College, Galle up to the 4th standard and then to St. Aloysius’ College, Galle up to the SSC Examination. Then I was admitted to Aquinas College, Colombo for HSC Examination. Vasudewa Nanayakkara, Tyron Fenando and Kumar Ponnambalam were my contemporaries. Kumar was the opening bowler of our school’s cricket team then.”
Percy’s lunacy for the game of cricket was so high that it ended up his education on a very crucial day.
“It was ‘Economic History paper’ of the HSC examination; I skipped the paper and rushed to see the famous C. I. Gunasekera whacking a century against Tamil Nadu in a Gopalan Trophy match at the Oval (P. Saravanamuttu Satdium)”
“And when my father got to know this he got me out of the school and put me on work at Associated Motorways in Kalutara. That was in 1961 and in 1962 I have joined ACL, a subsidiary of the AMW, where I still works, as its Public Relations Officer”.
“I was the first to captain the AMW cricket team and managed to snatch the Mercantile Services tournament trophy beating the Lake House team in 1968.”
“It was for ‘Bloom Field’ club that I have started cheering and it was me who has introduced Bandula Warnapura and Lalith Kaluperuma to the Bloom Field. I have imprisoned several occasions over various things I have done to cheer up our National Team facing defeat, those days I was not popular and no one knew it was me.”
“Once Sir Richard Hadley gave me his official tie as a souvenir, then Martin Crow gave me two trophies, one was at the end of Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan tri series tournament and the other was in a World Cup match. I asked Martin why he was so generous towards me and he replied it was for your diverting character and for your nationalism.”
Percy has two grandsons who were given names of legendary cricketing stars, the eldest is Garfield and the youngest is Sachin. Percy’s ambition was to see them as talented cricketers but none were on to cricket but are good rugger players and Percy’s friends make a joke of it.
Walimuni Simon Mendis Abeysekera, Percy’s father, was from Balapitiya, near Galle and Percy’s mother, Dolly Margeret de Zoysa Siriwardene, was a Headmistress for 38 years. Percy’s father Simon Mendis retired in 1950 as a school Principal after serving in eight schools in the Southern Province who died at age of 97. Percy has two brothers Susil, Cyril and Two sisters Padmini and Sirimathie. Padmini was a highly respected retired school teacher and one time English teacher of Aravinda de Silva, at D. S. Senanayake College, Colombo.
Many players have had a liking for this cheerleader. His knowledge of the game and its history is second to none and Percy comes up with certain anecdotes that stun you at times. No doubt that some of his comments have angered overseas players, but none of them have had a row with him for they know that Percy doesn’t mean any harm.
Following are some of those unforgettable comments by Percy the legend.
For Andy Flower during his tour to Sri Lanka in 2001
You are indeed handy,
When you come to Kandy,
I`ll give you brandy,
But you bring the shandy,
If you try to be chandi
And hit Murali out of Kandy,
I will make you nondi.
For David Boon (One time Australian opener)
Come back soon,
Before noon. (Boon got out before lunch obliging to Percy’s request)
When the match fixing controversy embroiled so many leading players including his good friend Mohammad Azharuddin, the former Indian Captain, Percy frowned at the Indian dressing room during a warm up match and came up with this beauty.
Cricket is a game of gentlemen,
Invented by the English,
Improvised by the Aussies,
Mastered by the Sri Lankans,
And f—ed up by you bloody Indians
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