Home News Former Sri Lankan international Tony Opatha dies

Former Sri Lankan international Tony Opatha dies

-

Tony Opatha, the former Sri Lankan seam bowler who died on Friday at the age of 73, played a significant part in the development of Dutch cricket in the 1980s, and also had a brief spell as a professional in Ireland.

He was a member of Sri Lanka’s winning side in the inaugural ICC Trophy in 1979, and also in the 1975 and 1979 World Cups, at a time when his country was still an Associate Member of the ICC. He claimed three wickets in Sri Lanka’s epoch-making victory over India in the 1979 World Cup.

It was during that 1979 tour that he was recruited to play the rest of the season for Eglinton in the Irish North-West Union, and the following year he returned to Europe to play for VOC Rotterdam in the Dutch Hoofdklasse.

- Advertisement -

Player-coaches had been permitted in the Dutch competition since 1978, and Opatha had a significant impact, taking 34 wickets in his first season at an average of 13.32.

He stayed with VOC for five seasons, helping them to three successive championships between 1982 and 1984.

He then moved to Excelsior ’20 Schiedam, for whom he played in 1985 and 1986. In August 1997, at the age of 50, he returned to play two more Hoofdklasse matches for VOC.

A dedicated coach, Opatha was one of several Sri Lankan players who had an important influence on the development of cricket in the Netherlands: Flavian Aponso arrived in 1981 and played for HBS, VRA and ACC over a 17-year career, as well as turning out for his adopted country in the 1996 World Cup, while Opatha’s erstwhile captain for Sri Lanka, Bandula Warnapura, took over at VOC for three years after Opatha moved on.

KNCB High Performance Manager Roland Lefebvre, who was a youngster at VOC when Opatha coached there and who went on to captain the Netherlands and to have a successful county career with Somerset and Glamorgan, has fond memories of him.

‘His arrival at VOC was during the time I changed from leg spin to pace,’ Lefebvre said on Friday, ‘and his classic action, accuracy and skill in moving the ball all became important elements of my game.

‘Discipline was a very big thing for him: if you didn’t listen he would grab you by the ears and twist hard.’

Lefebvre remembers under-18 training sessions on Saturday mornings at 7:30.

‘That was late for Tony, because in his playing days he used to go running at 5 a.m.,’ he says. ‘He used to say that your legs are your motor.’

But Opatha’s international career ended in controversy, when in 1982-83 he was instrumental in organising a rebel Sri Lankan tour of South Africa, part of a campaign to bring the South Africans back into Test cricket.

Following that tour he and the other 13 members of the party were given life bans from international cricket by the Sri Lankan Board, and he, like Aponso, settled in the Netherlands during and after his playing career in club cricket.

There was a measure of reconciliation towards the end of his life, however, and in 2018 he and 48 other players from the period before Sri Lanka became a Full Member of the ICC were recognised by the national body for their contribution to the game.

Keep up with news and events happening in the emerging game through our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Looking for audio content on the emerging game? Add the Emerging Cricket Podcast to your favourites on AppleSpotify and Podbean.

Want extra Emerging Cricket content? Contribute to the Emerging Cricket Patreon cause from as little as $2 a month. Sign up here!

Rod Lyall
Rod Lyall
Retired academic, now a journalist and commentator, mainly covering Dutch international and domestic cricket.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest EC Podcast

Latest articles

Excitement as ICC Women’s Asia Qualifier is announced

Following the announcement of the expansion of the ICC Women’s Qualifier Americas to include Argentina and Brazil, the World Cup news continues....

Women’s cricket returns to Italy

The Italian Cricket Federation has announced the return of women’s cricket in Italy with the launch of new Italian Women’s Cricket Championship...

Commonwealth Games: An Associate Opportunity?

Cricket returns to the Commonwealth Games at the 2022 edition in Birmingham. When teams take to the field at the imposing Edgbaston...

Olympics not an immediate priority says ICC Global Development Head

Speaking with Emerging Cricket in a long form interview recently, ICC Head of Global Development William Glenwright stated that while Olympics inclusion...

Support EC

Follow us

22,159FansLike
698FollowersFollow
5,860FollowersFollow
103SubscribersSubscribe

Subscribe

Sign up for weekly updates.