19 August 2023

Daya Sahabandu ran out of partners but must have smiled to the end

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is 199th article in the new series that began in December 2022. Links to previous articles are given below] 

 It is a name that lends itself to multiple truncation. Daya Sahabandu was Daya to some. The surname was duly split and while some referred to him as Saha, others preferred Bandu. At least according to former Sri Lankan test cricketer Athula Samarasekera who wrote a beautiful tribute to him on Facebook.  

Athula contends that regardless of address, the man was full of ‘dayaava (humanity or kindness).’ Athula knew him, as did all those who played Division 1 Sara Trophy club cricket between 1963 and 1992, as someone who was feared by batters. They all knew what Athula describes as a trademark smile, chewing a corner of the closed lips.

I didn’t know him. I do remember my uncle Grenville Herat, who captained the ‘Varsity’ team back in the early 70s, taking me to see a cricket match at the Municipal Grounds. I remember one of the teams being Nomads. He may or may not have mentioned Daya, but I knew the name for I was an avid reader of the sports page of the Daily News from the time I could read and being a cricket fan checked out all the scores of ongoing matches. Daya’s name always popped up. There may have been a picture or two for I have on more than one occasion recognised him in the streets. That face. That chewing of the lip, according to Athula, which I mistook for a habit of grinding his teeth.  

I think there must have been a story published in one of the newspapers when he took his 1,000th wicket in Sara Trophy matches. Perhaps someone mentioned it to me or there was some reference to the fact in some other piece on bowlers or the pre-test era.  The number stayed with me.  My friend, colleague and sports journalist Dhammika Ratnaweera mentioned it in a tribute published in the Daily news and Sa’adi Thawfeeq, friend, colleague, stats man and sports journalist confirmed this when I called him.

 He played 253 matches in total, bowled 6552.1 overs of which 1919 were maidens, conceded 14,787 runs, took 1048 wickets at a 14.11 average. He represented Ceylon/Sri Lanka from 1969 to 1975, played 18 matches and took 87 wickets at an average of 19.49, with 6 five-fors and 2 match bags of 10 wickets, his best being 8.37 vs East Zone in 1975. Dhammika mentions, in addition, a brave innings as a night watchman in an unofficial test against India in 1975, when he defied the deadly spin of Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar for five and a half hours, remaining unbeaten on 32!

Athula remembers a certain remarkable uniformity in the way Daya responded to what happened on the field. He was unmoved. The same smile, the same chewing of the lip, regardless of the outcome of any delivery, regardless of the decisions of the umpires. It probably indicates focus of an exceptional order. Teams going up against the Nomads did not worry about fast bowlers, according to him. It was Daya. Just Daya.

Sa’adi echoes the sentiments expressed by Athula — he was one of the best of the pre-Test era. In bowling at least, he was our version of Gary Sobers. He opened the attack with his medium pacers and would later switch to leg-spin. Tom Graveney, recalling Daya’s efforts in 1969 states that Daya was the best left arm bowler he had faced in his 26 year career up to 1969 and opines that had he been born in England, Daya would have played for that country.

He's gone now. The man who spun out hundreds of batsmen was spun out himself in the end. I saw a post quoting another legend, Mevan Pieris. Mevan lamented that apart from himself and Michael Tissera 'not a single other cricketer who had played with him at school, club or national level attended the cremation.’

‘Not a single Royalist or a representative of the Board of Control for Cricket was there. Only about 15 persons were at the final send off to this illustrious Royalist and National cricketer. Such is life.’

When I learned that this great cricketer was no more, I felt sad. I am out of the country and attending the funeral was out of the question. I wouldn’t have gone, even if I was back home. I rarely attend funerals of those I do not know, not even those of distant relatives. I did think of those ‘Daily News days,’ random street-sightings and what I took to be the habit of grinding his teeth.  And those 1,000 plus Sara Trophy wickets. 

‘Such is life,’ Mevan is correct. We do what we think is right (as he and Michael Tissera did), observe presence and absence and leave it at that.  

Daya Sahabandu didn’t die. But he certainly ran out of partners. I like to think that such things would not have perturbed him one bit. He would have smiled. To the end.  


Other articles in this series: 

Gentle intrusions 

Sleeping well

The unleashing of inspiration

Write, for Pete's sake

Autumn Leaves Safeness

 Sapan and voices that erase borders

Problem elephants and problem humans

Songs from the vaekanda

The 'inhuman' elephant in a human zoo

Ivan Art: Ivanthi Fernando's efforts to align meaning

Arwa Turra, heart-stitcher

Let's help Jagana Krishnakumar rebuild our ancestral home

True national anthems

Do you have a friend in Pennsylvania (or anywhere?)

A gateway to illumination in West Virginia

Through strange fissures into magical orchards

There's sea glass love few will see 

Re-residencing Lakdasa Wikkramasinha

Poisoning poets and shredding books of verse

The responsible will not be broken

Home worlds

Ownership and tenuriality of the Wissahickon

Did you notice the 'tiny, tiny wayside flowers'?

Gifts, gifting and their rubbishing

History is new(s)

Journalism inadvertently learned

Reflections on the young poetic heart

Wordaholic, trynasty and other portmanteaus

The 'Loku Aiya' of all 'Paththara Mallis'

Subverting the indecency of the mind

Character theft and the perennial question 'who am I?'


A degree in people

Faces dripping with time

Saji Coomaraswamy and rewards that matter

Revolutionary unburdening

Seeing, unseeing and seeing again

Alex Carey and the (small) matter of legacy

The Edelweiss of Mirissa 

The insomnial dreams of Kapila Kumara Kalinga 

The clothes we wear and the clothes that wear us (down) 

Every mountain, every rock, is sacred 

Manufacturing passivity and obedience 

Precept and practice 

Sanjeew Lonliyes: rawness unplugged, unlimited 

In praise of courage, determination and insanity 

The relative values of life and death 

Feet that walk 

Sarinda's eyes 

Poetry and poets will not be buried 

Sunny Dayananda 

Reunion Peradeniya (1980-1990) 

What makes Oxygen breathable?  

Sorrowing and delighting the world 

The greatest fallacy  

Encounters with Liyanage Amarakeerthi 

Beyond praise and blame 

Letters that cut and heal the heart 

Vanished and vanishing trails 


A forgotten dawn song from Embilipitiya 

The soft rain of neighbourliness  

The Gold Medals of being 

Jaya Sri Ratna Sri 

All those we've loved before 

Reflections on waves and markings 

A chorus of National Anthems 

Saying what and how 

'Say when' 

Respond to insults in line with the Akkosa Sutra 

The loves of our lives 

The right time, the right person 

The silent equivalent of a thousand words 

Crazy cousins are besties for life 

Unities, free and endearing 

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!" 

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis 

The revolution is the song 

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins 

The day I won a Pulitzer 


Ella Deloria's silences 

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness 

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable  


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan 

Enlightening geometries 

Let's meet at 'The Commons' 

It all begins with a dot 

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation 

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone 

On sweeping close to one's feet 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts... 

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm 

Who really wrote 'Mother'? 

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing 

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed 

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember 

On loving, always 

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal 

When you turn 80... 

It is good to be conscious of nudities  

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday  

There's a one in a million and a one in ten 

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling 

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California 

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature 

Pathways missed 

Architectures of the demolished 

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts 

Who the heck do you think I am? 

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha' 

The Mangala Sabhava 

So how are things in Sri Lanka? 

The most beautiful father 

Palmam qui meruit ferat 

The sweetest three-letter poem 

Buddhangala Kamatahan 

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello 

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership 

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked 

Pure-Rathna, a class act 

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna 

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other 

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles 

Matters of honor and dignity 

Yet another Mother's Day 

A cockroach named 'Don't' 

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth 

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara 

Sweeping the clutter away 

Some play music, others listen 

Completing unfinished texts 

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn 

I am at Jaga Food, where are you? 

On separating the missing from the disappeared 

Moments without tenses 

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have) 

The world is made of waves 


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller 

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya' 

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist 

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses 

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced 

Some stories are written on the covers themselves 

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature 

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time  

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie 

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists? 

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords 

The books of disquiet 

A song of terraced paddy fields 

Of ants, bridges and possibilities 

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva  

World's End 

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse 

Street corner stories 

Who did not listen, who's not listening still? 

The book of layering 

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain 

The world is made for re-colouring 

The gift and yoke of bastardy 

The 'English Smile' 

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5 

Visual cartographers and cartography 

Ithaca from a long ago and right now 

Lessons written in invisible ink 

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness' 

A tea-maker story seldom told 

On academic activism 

The interchangeability of light and darkness 

Back to TRADITIONAL rice 

Sisterhood: moments, just moments 

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging 

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha 

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows 

Sirith, like pirith, persist 

Fragrances that will not be bottled  

Colours and textures of living heritage 

Countries of the past, present and future 

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched 

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains 

The ways of the lotus 

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace 

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville 

Live and tell the tale as you will 

Between struggle and cooperation 

Of love and other intangibles 

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions 

The universe of smallness 

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers 

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills 

Serendipitous amber rules the world 

Continents of the heart
The allegory of the slow road