Our son was 7 at the time and he was promptly put over the garden fence to play cricket Sue Thorne - Spondon CC
Project supported by MCC Lord's and University of Glamorgan

Marylebone Cricket Club, Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood, London, NW8 8QN | Project enquiries: Neil Robinson | 020 7616 8559

The Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club has been one of the leading clubs in Sri Lankan cricket since its foundation in 1899. Established originally by and for the Tamil community in Colombo, the club now admits players and members from all over Sri Lanka and from all ethnic backgrounds. The club's ground, the P. Sara Oval, was Colombo's sole international venue for years and despite the improvement of facilities, particularly in recent years, the club and ground retains its intimate feel.

Brief club history 

The Tamil Union was founded in December 1899 when the two major Tamil clubs in Colombo – the Tamil Sports Club and the Tamil Cricket Club – were amalgamated, largely due to the efforts of Mr G.N.C. Ponnambalam. During this period the club was exclusively Tamil and many of the elite of Tamil society, such as the politician Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, were members of the club and committee. In 1937 the club moved to its current home, and thanks to the efforts of Mr. P Saravanamuttu the club developed a ground to host international matches. The ground is named the P. Sara Oval in his honour. All international matches were played at the P. Sara Oval before Sri Lanka gained test status, and a large photograph of the great Sir Donald Bradman walking out to bat in the 1940s proudly hangs in the club bar. On the field, the club was successful and often challenged for silverware. From the late 1970s onward it established links with Sri Lanka's Southern Province to introduce players into the club from outside the normal Colombo schools. The club offered support for these young men during their move from the outstations into the big city, a practice that continues today.

When Sri Lanka gained full ICC membership in 1981, the P. Sara Oval was the venue for the first official test match against England. The Tamil Union’s fortunes began to change, however, as ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka grew. The new Board of Control for Sri Lankan Cricket chose space elsewhere for their headquarters, and the ground was no longer the sole venue for international matches. During the ethnic riots of July 1983 the club was targetted and burnt down in the violence. Much of the club’s archive and photograph collection was lost, and many of the ground’s facilities were destroyed. Despite serious consideration whether or not to continue, the club survived and was rebuilt thanks to the dedication of its members and committees. In 1985 they hosted Sri Lanka's first test win (against India), and despite difficulties getting international matches over the next 30 years the ground and club facilities continue to be improved. International cricket has now returned to the P. Sara Oval with England’s visit in spring 2012. On the field, the club continues to play in the premier league and is home to many Sri Lankan internationals.

The Tamil Union has always been home to some of the greats of Ceylonese and Sri Lankan cricket; but perhaps the best were Mahedevan Sathasivam, or 'Satha', who played between then 1940s and 1960s and the spin master Muttiah Muralitharan. Satha was named by Gary Sobers as 'the greatest batsman ever on earth' and had something of a playboy image; stories of his drinking are almost as legendary as his batting. Satha was unfortunately forced to leave Ceylon after being accused (although later acquitted) of the murder of his wife in the 1950s. Because of this he is the only cricketer to have captained three international teams: Ceylon, Singapore and Malaysia. Murali, the world’s highest ever test wicket taker, needs little introduction to English fans who saw him rip through their batting order once too often! He joined the Tamil Union in 1991 played for the club until his recent retirement.

The club and Taking the Field 

The Tamil Union became involved with TTF after TTF's Emma was put in touch with former player, president and international great Chandra Schaffter. Both Chandra and his son, the current Tamil Union president Prakash, were a great help in organising interviews and visits to the P. Sara Oval during Emma's stay in Colombo in Jan-Feb 2012.

Thinking Big

Thinking Big

Club President Prakash Scaffter talks about the amibitious improvements that have been made to the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletics club during his time there.

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A Traditional Club

A Traditional Club

Prakash Schaffter talks about the values of the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club and how they try to maintain the traditional feel of the club.

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Tamil Union - Black July

Tamil Union - Black July

In 1983, riots spread across Sri Lanka after government soldiers were killed by Tamil insurgents in the north. During the riots, ordinary Tamils were attacked and their homes and businesses looted. This awful event marks the beginning of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Tamil Union ex-player and former president Chandra Schaffter tells us what happened to the club at this time.

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The Tamil Union: Hosts of the Inaugural Test

The Tamil Union: Hosts of the Inaugural Test

In this short digital story, former Sri Lankan international and team manager Chandra Schaffter tells how his club, the Tamil Union, came to host the first ever Sri Lankan test match at the P. Sara Oval, Colombo

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