Dr. A. M. Mubarak, from Sultanwatta to Cambridge
October 6, 2010,
From Sultanawatta, Elvitigala Mawatha, Borella, Sri Lanka, to Cambridge University, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, was undoubtedly a very strenuous journey. As a self-made man of determination, courage, hard-work and commitment he achieved his ‘Dream’, by playing cricket for the prestigious University of Cambridge. To begin with, he had two ambitions. To enter university and to play cricket. He achieved both with the highest distinction and brought credit and honour to Sri Lanka.
Born in Colombo on 4 July 1951, he is the eldest son of a large family of eight (8), three (3) brothers, four (4) sisters. His father, K. A. M. A. Azeez was a businessman. They lived in Sultanawatta, Elivitigala Mawatha, Borella.
He started schooling at Isipatana College, then known as Greenland College. He sat for the Grade 5 Scholarship exam, and entered Royal College, Colombo.
This was the turning point in the life .
Azeez Mohamed Mubarak. From Royal College, he entered the University of Ceylon, Colombo, obtained a first class Honours Degree in Chemistry.
Today, he is Dr. A. M. Mubarak, Director, CEO of Industrial Technology Institute, former CISIR, a leading state sector research and development sector in the country. This institution comes under the educated dynamic Minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana the Minister of Technology and Research.
Mubarak lived in Sultanawatta, a 20 acre coconut land at that time in front of the present British school along Elvitigala Mawatha. He started his cricket career, playing soft-ball cricket at a very young age. He enjoyed playing soft ball cricket with his brothers and cousins. Later, most of them excelled in cricket and hockey, at top class level. They had more than the required numbers for two teams, one of the advantages of the extended family. Further, this enabled Mubarak to play and participate in a variety of sports disciplines, such as soccer and hockey, badminton. During this era, they had more free time – No tuition – no Sunday classes. As children they enjoyed playing games.
"I joined Royal College, Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1963, after the Scholarship Examination. If I remember right, 11 of us, moved to Royal from Isipatana. They included S. H. S. Karunaratne Senior Master Royal College, and Prof. R. L. Wijeweera, Dental Faculty Peradeniya," stated Mubarak.
He joined the Tamil medium, a minority among minorities, as he was the only Muslim in the Tamil class. "Thalayasingham Jr. (UK) Chandrakumar (Australia), V. Mahendran (USA), Ajith Yoganathan (USA), Arulpragasam (Vice Chairman Lankem), Omprasadam (Managing Director) were some my class mates at the Tamil steam class."
"We had the big fortune of learning under some of the eminent teachers like Viji Weerasinghe, E. C. Gunasekera, K. T. I. De Silva and chemistry teacher Sharma Nanayakkara etc. They were not only our teachers, they were our philosophers and guides who moulded our characters", stated Mubarak.
Never played for Royal First XI
As a student at Royal College, he was keen to play cricket. Unfortunately, he never represented the Royal first Eleven. He never got the opportunity of playing in a Royal-Thomian, which is considered the ‘Pinnacle of All Big Matches in Sri Lanka’. He only played for Harvard House at Royal College. Whilst studding at Royal, Mubarak was introduced to club cricket by his uncle Ghulem Razik and he played for Moors Sports Club. He was coached by the legendary Bertie Wijesingha.
Mubarak belonged to the ‘63 Group’ of Royal College. The live wires of the group, are Mayadunne and Kanil Wettasinghe. He was in ‘high company’. This brilliant ‘63 group at Royal produced Vice-chancellors – Susirith Mendis, M. J. S. Wijeratne, and Professor, Rohan Abeyratne (M. J. S. wijerathna and Professor, Rohan Abeyratne (MIT Singapore), Ajith Yoganathan (Caltech Caltomia), R. I. Wijeweera. This batch consisted of many doctors of medicine and reputed surgeons, such as Dr. Fred Perera, Dr. Maiya Gunasekera, Dr. Samary Gunatilaka and Settinayaka. Then, there were ‘top men’ like Dhammika Kithulgoda, Secretary General of Parliament, CEOs Sarath Piyaratne, Palitha Samarasinghe, the brother of Navy Commander Thisara Samarasinghe, Asela De Livera, to name a few.
There were some outstanding sportsmen in Mubarak’s batch. They are Jagath Fernando, Maiya Gunasekera, Fred Perera, Samarage, Nirmal Hettiarachchi, Ananda Ranasinghe and late Wing Commander D. S. Wickramasinghe, who obtained colours for athletics, rugby, tennis and basketball, ("I could not play for Royal, as there were a galaxy of fine cricketers such as Jagath Fernando, Samarage, Hettiarachchi, Adamally Thalayasingham, Jr. Sunimal Yapa. They were good players."
A. M. Mubarak entered the University of Ceylon, Colombo in 1971. What he could not achieve at Royal in sports, he achieved at the University of Colombo.
He captained the the university at cricket, soccer, tennis and was a member of the hockey and badminton teams. Added to all his versatility in sports, he notched a first class in Chemistry and topped the batch. A very rare achievement!
Lalith Weeratunga played cricket for University of Ceylon, Colombo
The dynamic Lalith Weeratunga, the Secretary to President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also a contemporary of Mubarak. Weeratunga opened batting and kept wickets for the University of Ceylon with distinction.
Mubarak’s other batch mates included Tilak Collure, A. P. De Silva, Dilip De Silva (brother of Chandrananda de Silva).
After obtaining a first class in Chemistry and topping the batch, he joined Moors SC and performed with distinction under Dr. Gamini Ambepitiya. As an opener, he was a prolific scorer and against Moratuwa SC he scored a fine 112. Moors cricket rose to greater heights in the 1975-1976 season and entered the final round. As Mubarak fared well, and in recognition of his outstanding performance, he was picked to play for the national team.
Commonwealth Scholarship interview
Mubarak, with his outstanding academic performance applied for the commonwealth scholarship to do a PhD the University of Cambridge. The interview was conducted by the Ministry of Education and chaired by S. Paskaralingam.
Enters Cambridge – obtains the ‘Blue’
This brilliant versatile student Mubarak was awarded a Commonwealth scholarship to do a PhD at the University of Cambridge from 1977 to 1980. During the period, he opened batting for the Cambridge First XI cricket team and obtained by ‘Blue’. His contemporaries were Ian Greig, brother of the famous Tony Greig, England Test player Derrick Pringle, Ian Peck (British Lion), and Paul Parker, a fine fielder. Mubarak, was at his brilliant best. He scored his maiden century for Cambridge University against Warwickshire, at his pet hunting ground Fenners.
Some of the outstanding Sri Lankan cricketers who represented country were Thomians Dan Piachad, Mano Ponniah and P. I. Peris and Royalist Vijaya Malalasekara, come to mind. It must be mentioned that most of the Sri Lankans who represented Cambridge and Oxford were from Royal and S. Thomas’. Among them are F. C. De Saram, Gamini Goonasena and Gajan Pathmanadan.
Incidentally in one of the famous Oxford-Cambridge encounters. two Royalists had the proud distinction of opening the innings. They were M. A. Mubarak (Cambridge) G. Pathmanathan (Oxford)
To be a successful professional!
"Another factor one should have if you are to become a successful professional is "Mental Toughness.’ In today’s context, without this you cannot survive in this highly competitive atmosphere. I learned this in the cricket fields. It is a transfer of training for me," added Mubarak.
"I scored 86, facing the pace trio of Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall, without a helmet and other modern day protective gear. Every four did follow with a barrage of ‘Four letter words’ and a ‘Bouncer’. When I thumped three consecutive fours against West Indian Norbert Phillips, he almost floored me with a ‘Beamer’, which prompted his captain Keith Fletcher of Essex to stop him the very next over as he did not want to be a party to ‘cold blooded murder’! stated Mubarak.
Mubarak, replaced Ian Peck, who represented England at rugby and a minor country cricketer as an opener in his first year at Cambridge. Ironically, in Mubarak’s third year at Cambridge as a coloursman, this same Ian Peck, became a first player in the history of Cambridge to be elected captain without having won the ‘Blue’.
Gem of an innings
Exciting Mubarak hits "innings to remember." As Mubarak drove handsomely, the West Indian Manager Clyde Walcott compared the batting to that of J. G. Dewes and D. S. Sheppard.
Daily Telegraph lead story headlined this article, which I produced above.
Another London Daily, - The Times paid a tribute to Mubarak in the following manner, describing his epic innings against the mighty West Indians.
With Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Marshall and King, Swooping down in close formation, courage, as well as ability would be necessary if batsman were to change the method of the bowlers. These qualities and more were to be found in the admirable Mubarak. Slightly built and hatless, Mubarak stood easily at the crease and in so doing gave no hint of the tiger that lay crouched behind that bland exterior, ready to pounce."
He is the player, who faced the likes of the demon West Indies attack of Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall and scored 86 runs in 1980, representating the University of Cambridge and Oxford. They are called Oxbridge combined team.
Cambridge Uni-founded in 12th century
After obtaining his PhD at Cambridge. Mubarak, returned to Sri Lanka in 1981. Later he proceeded to do his Post Doctoral Research at the University of Maryland, USA.
This fine human being is also a good good samaritan. He is a Rotarian and the President of the Colombo South Rotary Club. They help the need ones and provide social services to enlighten the lives of the many.
Mubarak married Chitrangani (daughter of a Senior Secretary, Mahinda Silva). They met at the University of Ceylon, Colombo. Chitrangani was a fine badminton player, who was coached by the late Ariyadasa Silva.
Presently, Chitrangani is the Programme head of ICTA. They are blessed with a son and a daughter. Following the footsteps of their illustrious parents, they are also academics.
Dr. Mubarak’s son, Jehan, a Royalist, is a double international. He represented Sri Lanka in cricket and water-polo.
Jehan was selected for higher studies, but as he was called upon to perform national duties, he was not able to represent Cambridge University, though he was selected to represent the team.