Cricketers of the caliber of Henry Siri Mevan Pieris who hailed from S. Thomas’ Mt Lavinia are not made they are born once in a life time. And to this category belongs this lanky all rounder who any captain in world cricket will dearly love to have in his team.
Pieris not only used the willow and the ball or brawn to showcase his skills, but above all used his brilliant brain that had cells not only for cricket, but also for academic success.
From a very early age, Pieris showed a love for the game and had it in his genes to become an outstanding all-rounder. Being a batsman or only a bowler was not sufficient for him. The bottom line for him was to be an all-rounder and contribute in every aspect of the game for his school, club and country and also be Captain Marvel.
Pieris achieved all this by dint of some hard work, dedication, determination and above all commitment and discipline. That captaining the country eluded him was a travesty of justice. Had he had the opportunity of captaining, he would have joined that illustrious band of international captains whose stints were writ with outstanding success.
Pieris was unlucky not to have been in the big game after Sri Lanka entered the Test arena. He was one of the greats during the pre-Test era. After showing his capabilities in school he entered the University and later enrolled in the Sinhalese Sports Club and continued his stature in the game and it was not long when national honours came his way.
Pieris played for the country from 1970 to 1975 and many were the memorable wickets he captured, big innings he played and showed his brilliance on the field and clever captaincy cricketing brain he showcased. In school, he was right arm medium paced, but once in Uni he took to bowling fast with a long run up and his pace was tremendous.
He could make the ball talk when it came to swing bowling – in and out – and was rightly tagged the ‘King of Swing’. He could get the ball to rise disconcertingly from off a good length and batsmen feared to face him, especially on the mat. He was equally menacing on turf wickets. Pieris captained the university in 1970 and by example led them to win the Division 1 league championship.
During his career, he shone like a beacon and had among his victims, illustrious batsmen of the class of Sunil Gavaskar, Zaheer Abass, Dough Walters, Greg Chappel and Keith Fletcher. Playing against Madras captained by former Indian off spinner and later international umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Pieris also showed the batsman in him scoring twin half centuries and taking five wickets for 55 runs. An admirable all round performance.
In this game, Madras required eight runs for victory with Sikh Satweder Singh blasting away on 87. Singh was a prey to Pieris and he helped turn victory from the jaws of defeat and for his wonderful effort the huge crowd present ran on to the field carried him off the field. Seldom are cricketers honoured this way.
Pieris’ outstanding efforts were rewarded when he was picked to play for the country in the first World Cup in England captained by his school teammate Anura Tennekoon. In the match against Australia at the Oval he sent down 11 overs of high-class seam and swing bowling and was rewarded with the wickets of Greg Chappel and Doug Walters.
After the successful first season in school cricket, he achieved the dream of every Thomian or Royal cricketer to play in the ‘Battle of the Blues’. Pieris achieved this dream when he played in the victorious Thomian team that beat Royal in 1964 by 8 wickets.
At University in addition to his prowess at cricket, he also won colours in tennis and hockey. Having to do a lot of studying at the University it is amazing to note how he found the time to indulge in two other sports and succeed. Pieris later captained the Sinhalese Sports Club in Sara Trophy cricket and his memorable knock was the century he made against the Colts.
It is a pity that he could not captain the country in cricket. Had he done so, he would certainly have been classed with the best captains produced in world cricket. In addition to his excellence in the sport, he had an outstanding academic career. Pieris in addition to his prowess in the sport was also a brilliant academic.
He is highly qualified in Polymer Science, holds a BSC from the University of Colombo. MS(c) and MBA from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and FPRI (UK) and holds a Masters Degree in Polymer Chemistry and Business Administration. He can rightly claim to be the most qualified cricketer here and abroad which is great for the game and the country.
He was also a knowledgeable journalist and an efficient Radio cricket Commentator. He was eloquent on any subject and I deem it an honour to have got to know him and play against him in ‘Sara’ Trophy cricket. He was a gentleman we all ought to know.
It is a pity that Sri Lanka Cricket did not have the fortune of having Pieris in its administration. Had he served SLC he would have contributed immensely to his experience and knowledge and the country’s cricket would have attained great heights.
Pieris is married to Dr. Nirmala an UNID Consultant. They are blessed with a son Nilanka who played and captained STCML in 1995. Their daughter is Dilani a Chartered Accountant. Pieris is also an unsung sports legend.