Originally Published on the Daily News (11th February 2017)
Michael Tissera is a name synonymous with Sri Lanka cricket especially in the pre-Test era where he shone as an astute leader of men and also excelled as a top order batsman of the highest quality.
Tissera, a product of S. Thomas’ College Mt Lavinia shares his thoughts and views ahead of the 138th Royal-Thomian cricket encounter which commences at the SSC grounds on March 9.
Q: The Royal-Thomian series extends a long time. What should the brand aim to contribute to cricket in Sri Lanka?
MT: Well rounded, disciplined cricketers with the temperament to perform on the big stage, well versed with the traditions of the game and brought up to appreciate the value of teamwork and sportsmanship. They will take immense pride with their school and country and be a credit to both.
Q: How should a school with scarce resource set about organizing a cricket programme for its students?
MT: Cricket, unfortunately, is an expensive game and a school starting the sport should ensure they have sufficient funds or have well-wishers who will contribute. Begin at U13 and U15 levels. Many schools try to concentrate on the 1st XI but it is difficult to teach player’s basics at that level. If the school is fortunate to have on its staff, one who has played the game to organise and conduct practices that would be ideal.
Q: What kind of practice facilities should it have?
MT: Not all schools are fortunate enough to have grounds but if there is space for a couple of matting wickets, nets and a small area for fielding practice, that should suffice for a start.
Q: What are the values, if any, that should be inculcated in a young cricketer?
MT: Top of the list take utmost pride in your cap and likewise school, club or country you might represent. To remember always that cricket is a team game and no cricketer or team can succeed if individuals pull in different directions. The same applies to Discipline without which a team or individual will not prosper. To play hard not only within the laws but the traditions and spirit of the game as well.
To remember cricket is a great leveler, one can be on the top of the world one moment and down to earth next. This is where character steps in and helps one to take the hard knocks but still remain cheerful and find consolation in the success of one’s teammates. To be humble in victory and yet when fortunate be gracious in defeat.
To never underestimate opponents, however weak they appear to be for cricket is a funny game and fortunes can turn rapidly, often referred to as the glorious uncertainties. To always play with a straight bat, meaning be above board and honourable.
To never stop learning, even the great Don Bradman admitted he kept on learning even after retirement. Finally to enjoy the game.
Q: How do you make a captain? What should he know? What should he do?
MT: It is not easy to manufacture a good captain as, most often successful captains have been born with an innate ability. Good captains like Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell, F. C. de Saram, Arjuna and Mahela seemed to have had that inborn talent.
At school level focus on a cricketer who appears to be a leader and who has the character and personality to think and learn about the game. Then build up their cricket sense, which by the way, appears to be lacking even in some national players.
Encourage the reading of books on cricket and captaincy and also the history and traditions of the game. Watching cricket with an experienced cricketer by his side to draw attention to the many aspects of the game and regularly talking with experienced players will help.
It is paramount a captain should be fully conversant with the laws of the game and the notes that accompany them.
He should be mindful that he is a Trustee of the traditions of the game and at all times conduct himself appropriately, on and off the field. He will respect his teammates, opponents and officials and earn respect as a player and leader. He should enforce discipline and set an example in dress and punctuality.
A trait of a good captain is to be unselfish and put others before himself except when the team requires otherwise. He should endeavor to keep the team spirit up by treating the players fairly. In school cricket as the host captain, it would be a nice gesture to meet the visiting team on arrival and show them to their dressing room and assist them if necessary.
On the field he will study his opponents and set fields and change bowlers according to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. As a batting group there will be a plan to counter the bowlers they face.
Whenever possible the captains should dictate and try to retain the initiative, inspire optimism and would not be afraid to follow instincts and hunches. As a fielding captain, to know your bowlers and prepare in advance field placings and adjust as the game dictates.
When players know their roles and positions, the game flows well, makes the captain’s job easier and importantly improves overrates. He might encourage the team to make suggestions but, in the end the captain must decide what is best. He should lead by example and not expect others in the team to do something he is not prepared to do. Finally, a successful captain must be blessed with an element of luck.
Q: Who were the influential persons in your tenure as a cricketer?
MT: At school Mr. Lassie Abeywardene was my mentor and coach at junior level and I was fortunate to learn the basics from him. He did not play competitive cricket but was well read and had a passion for coaching. He was a great motivator and instilled confidence.
I am highly indebted to him for the grounding he gave me. On leaving school I had the good fortune to be assisted by F.C de Saram, Bertie Wijesinghe and Chippy Gunasekera, three of the finest coaches/tacticians one could wish for.
Cricket ran in their blood and they volunteered their services for the love of the game, with no remuneration whatsoever. Many benefitted from their dedication and I remember them with extreme fondness and gratitude.