Bill Devanayagam captained St. Joseph’s College in the early years

Posted on 17 November 2013 by admin

Courtesy: Premasara Epasinghe – Daily News

Kanapathipillai William Devanayagam, popularly known as (Bill) Devanayagam, was an outstanding, versatile sportsman, produced by St. Josephs' College, Maradana during the period 1927-1930. He captained the college cricket and Football teams with distinction. Further, he was a fine tennis player.

Devanayagam was a Roman Catholic, who hailed from a respectable family from Kalkudah, Batticaloa. He joined St. Joseph's College, during the time of the great educationist, French Catholic priest, Professor Maurice J. Legoc. He was the last foreigner to hold this highly prestigious position of Rector at St. Joseph's College.

Devanayagam was a born leader of men. He was a Hosteller. Under his captaincy, he made St. Josephs College, one of the best schoolboy outfits in the island in 1930. Some of his contemporary players were D.S. Jayasundera, supposed to be the Fastest bowler Sri Lanka produced.

Some of the other leading players were Bobby Fernando, Johnpulle, Claude Wijesinghe, K.C. Visvanathan, V.C. Samaraweera who played with him.

Under the astute leadership of Devanayagam the Maradana school, won all their inter-school matches, except St. Anthony's College, Katugastota.

In a low scoring affair, St. Anthonys scored 59 and 108 and St. Josephs replied with 72 and 94 respectively. Antonians beat then in a thriller, by one run. On the following day, the leading English Daily in Sri Lanka "Daily News" reported it with a fine headline. "Eagles shoot down high riding blue white".

In 1930, St. Josephs drew with Trinity in a rain marred match. SJC scored 220, skipper Devanayagam contributed 93. They defeated Wesley by an innings Joes scored 339. Wesky replied with 79 and 151. Skipper Devanayagam scored a swashbuckling 63. St. Josephs defeated Royal. They drew against S. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia. Josephians faced the Royal bowlers H.E. Poulier, N. Kandiah, S.S. Jayawickrama and F.C. De Saram with confidence.

Josephians could not beat the school by the sea, due to the fine bowling of two brothers Dudley Senanayake and Robert Senanayake and A.J.D.N. Selvadurai.

Bill Devanayagam had an exemplary stance, easy, and upright. The hall-mark of him was that he always saw the ball early. Further he played the ball, both off front and back foot. He was stylish bat who occupied the centre stage during 1928 to 1930.

During the season, no bowler could be blamed, because, Devanayagam batted magnificently, majestically and defended correctly. Further, he led the Darley Road Side in a text book style of captaincy. He was a shrewd captain. Cricket enthusiasts at that time had a great admiration, since he had some charm. He was very fortunate that he possessed a Deadly Weapon D.S. Jayasundera a terrific fast bowler under his wings. The Royalist F.C. De Saram, a legend in Sri Lanka cricket called this fast bowler, Jayasundera, as the "Jaya the menace".

A highly distinguished "Old Joe", my beloved cricket coach at Nalanda late Gerry Gooneratne, has told me that Jayasundera was the fastest bowler he had ever faced in his memorable cherished cricket career. He played for St. Josephs and Ceylon with that brilliant pace bowler, who played for Ceylon with another Josephian Malcolm Spittel.

The other renowned players were Fairlie Dalpathado and Hector Perera who are considered as two of the best produced by St. Joseph's College.

Not only in cricket, Devanayagam excelled in athletics too. He was a fine short distance runner, who brought credit and honour to college in many publics school athletic competitions. He was a superb athlete and a member of the Relay quartet that won the public school championship.

He was great team man. After leaving school, this unassuming sportsman joined law College, and passed out as a proctor. He represented law college cricket team and was also a prolific scorer.

Bill Devanayagam practiced as a lawyer at the Batticaloa courts. In 1947 he contested Kalkudah seat and was defeated.

As a time sportsman, he had a true fighting spirit. He was a man of honesty and integrity.

In 1960 parliamentary elections he won the Kalkudah seat. He retained this seat in 1965, 1970 and 1977. the charming charismatic sports personality K.W. (Bill) Devanayagam always stood for fair play and justice, which he learned in the playing fields. He served as the Minister of Justice in J.R. Jayewardene's Government from 1977 to 1988.






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