"His devotion, dedication and addiction to Cricket would not let him forego his passion for the game".
BY: LESLIE J. CHEESEMAN.
Founder Member and General Secretary (1978 - 1996), Association of Cricket Umpires & Scorers (England). Member M.C.C. for ~ 40 years.
As the (former) General Secretary of the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers, England (1978 - 1996), I deem it both an honour and privilege to be invited to provide this commendation of the credentials of an author, experienced and courageous enough to write, "Thinking Cricket - The Players Guide to Better Cricket". In my view, Ajith Chrysantha Stephen Perera has few peers when it comes to judge his aptitude and competence to address such a wide-ranging and daunting subject.
It is now close to quarter of a century since he first wrote as an aspiring Umpire to enquire of me, in England, what steps he should take in seeking to qualify professionally as a Full Member of the, then, Association of Cricket Umpires, England. Even in those early days of what would later develop into a mutually respectful relationship, the perceived extent of his unbridled enthusiasm, the level of his intended personal commitment, high degree of technical knowledge of the game, analytical mind, plus his unquenchable thirst for newer knowledge and willingness to improve individual performance, collectively led me to believe that he would achieve his ambitious quest with honours (1985) and even go on to become a well respected official at the highest level of the game. Indeed, as the programme of his career development unfolded, my original assessment of his potential, was seen to fall someway short of his ultimate unique achievements, as he matured into both, mentor and tutor to others in his own right. (Single-handedly, he organised a highly successful training program for Sri-Lankan colleagues in 1988 titled: "The Effective Umpire").
It was at this time, when the Association of Cricket Umpires England itself decided to provide both training and examination, leading to the qualification of Scorers at advanced level to complete the third team of officials in Cricket. Recorded history confirms that in early 1990 Ajith Perera was amongst the very first candidates to achieve this double professional qualification. Indeed, his energy and motivation for the betterment of the game were such that, he also became the first (and the only) official in Sri Lanka, to additionally qualify (in August 1990) as a Senior Training Instructor in the art and craft of both Cricket Umpiring and Scoring.
This further extension of his talent in the tutorial field, should not have been all that surprising when one considers there would appear to have been a latent genetic element to his origin. His father, Instructor Commander M.G.S.Perera, later the Director of his countrys Naval Training and subsequently, also appointed as the Training Staff Captain of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation, was the First Training Officer of the Sri Lanka Navy, training generations of officers, sailors and merchant navy cadets on board and was also the creator of the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee. Thus the predisposition for coaching and discipline were already in Ajiths blood.
This incipient talent for teaching was to blossom further in his earlier appointment to lecture at the University of Colombo, to be supplemented, in turn, by eleven years of vital man-management in his professional career as a qualified Chartered Analytical Chemist holding key Senior Managerial positions in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, which again involved him in the training and development of his and other departmental staff.
In search of wider practical experience, Ajith visited England to undergo fifteen weeks of enhanced training which included officiating in County 2nd XI fixtures and other top leagues in Lancashire, partnered by such colleagues of international calibre as Don. Oslear. This rare opportunity to observe at close quarters how the game is played in England, plus his earlier personal experience of playing Cricket at first-class level, augers well in cascading appropriate information to novices through the pages of this volume.
What is perhaps singularly remarkable, is that his academic qualifications - B.Sc.(Hons.), M.Sc., followed by his election as Fellow of three international bodies, (The Royal Society of Chemistry, London; the Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon and of Quality Assurance, England) - have all been acquired simultaneously in tandem and parallel with his many Cricketing achievements. This should not be all that surprising to those familiar with aphorism: If one needs to find someone to undertake a difficult task, then look no further than to a man who is known already to be heavily involved in another direction!
In November 1992, a personal dream came true for Ajith when the Sri Lanka Cricket Board selected him to join the six-member Test Match Panel of Umpires for the tour of New Zealand cricket team there and was appointed to stand in his first-ever international at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Sadly, within a few days prior to officiating this precious match, whilst driving through a tropical storm, fate was to deal him the cruellest of blows, when a large wayside tree straddled his moving car and injured his spinal cord to leave him permanently paraplegic in the prime of youth! For a less determined character, such a devastating catastrophe would have been astronomical in its effects on future career prospects. Not so for Ajith, who, in spite of enforced physical impairments and even the absence of wheel-chair accessible facilities to the buildings throughout his country yet, his devotion, dedication and addiction to Cricket would not let him forego his passion for the game and he has since worked harder than ever, albeit with a decided change in emphasis.
Despite being confined to a wheel-chair, he still wanted to be useful and in 1996 became of great assistance to the Sri Lanka Cricket Board as, single-handedly, he accepted and satisfactorily completed its highly technical assignment to streamline the rules and regulations governing tournament aspects of the game, to produce them on computer type-set on his lap-top.
He was to follow this by writing with both charm and distinction, "The Golden Era of Sri Lankan Cricket", a literature best-seller, which described the fascinating story of his national team which blossomed out and established as International Champions in 0vers-limited cricket during 1996 / 1997. The measure of world reaction to this brave initiative may be determined from the fact that Wisden Cricketers Almanack, 2000, has since seen fit to regard him as one of only eight cricketing people to be specifically recognised for his many achievements and worthy contributions to the game and also that he became a proud recipient of prestigious " Star of Asia 1999 " award for Sports.
All the while, the development of his academic skills was complementary to his abiding life-time passion - the pursuit of excellence in the great game of cricket, in terms of playing, its administration and the enhancement of its literature. The lurking danger in the development, improvement or refurbishment of any cause such as the one embarked upon, is that measures calculated to improve efficiency might unwittingly destroy something vital: one might build the body but destroy the soul. The soul in Ajith Pereras ambitions has been evident in the unselfish, altruistic, voluntary nature of his service. Ajith has given of his time unstintingly and has been motivated by an intense enthusiasm and faith in the integrity of the common objectives - to improve the overall standards of the game at all levels and in all places. May the time never come when those involved in Cricket ever measures the expenditure of personal time against the pleasures, satisfaction, prestige, or even self-esteem, the job or the gratitude of the beneficiaries gives him. Rather is the hope that the game will continue to be served by those whose hobby, principally, it is to do so, and gladly. This is the essence and very soul of cricket. Its encouraging to know that Ajith has this attribute in abundance.
It is often said that, "Great minds think alike!" and in this context, I am reminded of the splendid exposition from that doyen of the games well-being, the late Lord Harris, when he said:
"You do well to love Cricket, for it is more free from anything sordid, anything dishonourable, than any game in the world. To play it keenly, honourably, generously, self-sacrificing, is a moral lesson in itself and the classroom is Gods air and sunshine. Foster it, my brother, so that it may attract all who can find the time to play it; protect it from anything that would sully it, so that it may grow in favour with all men. In my view, the Author is an apt evangelist to once again impart this time honoured truth of the real "Spirit of the Game", through the pages of his latest esteemed work: "Thinking Cricket - The Players Guide to Better Cricket". I am happy to endorse his message and to wish a successful outcome to his quest.