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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Percy Abeyasekara remains Sri Lanka’s top cricket cheerleader despite age and demanding job

Percy Abeyasekara has been Sri Lanka’s cricket superfan even after he recently turned 81, and has fans of his own in Indian skipper Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

india-vs-sri-lanka-2017 Updated: Aug 01, 2017 23:01 IST

Hindustan Times, Colombo
Percy Abeyasekara, the cricket superfan of Sri Lanka, has fans of his own in Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
Percy Abeyasekara, the cricket superfan of Sri Lanka, has fans of his own in Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. (HT Photo)

We have only seen Percy Abeyasekara in a casual Sri Lankan shirt, waving the national flag and leading the chorus in the stands. The other, more formal side of Percy was on display at the Sinhalese Sports Club Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, when he walked in dressed smartly in a white shirt and a tie.

When not cheering cricket teams, the most famous Sri Lankan face in the stands, is a corporate man, working as a PRO at ACL Cables.

When the game is on, he wears his Sri Lankan heart on his sleeve, cheering the team heartily, but his infectious charm makes him equally popular with the Indian boys.

On Tuesday, the moment Rohit Sharma saw Percy, he greeted him, coach Ravi Shastri walked up to him and exchanged pleasantries, at the presentation ceremony in Galle, the Sri Lankan was happily chatting with skipper Virat Kohli. The Indian players sure love the 81-year-old cheerleader.

READ | Virat Kohli’s India face ‘problem of plenty’ in opening combination vs Sri Lanka

So, what’s it about Percy that endears him to this young Indian team? “They like my actions, my knowledge of the game, my cheering style, my singing, my style of talking. Among the touring teams, India is my favourite. Love thy neighbour,” says Percy, who has been with ACL Cables for 54 years now.

“Rohit Sharma always asks me to dance. The last time in Galle, he walked up to me and started asking “please dance Percy uncle. Some other fellows also joined me in dancing, but he stopped them, saying, ‘I want to see Percy’. Rohit now calls me Uncle Percy. Earlier, he used to address me by my name, but when he got to know my age, he started calling me uncle. I told him you should call me grandfather… I told him my grandson was 24 years old.”

Percy also has high regard for Virat. “He is a lovely guy, some people call him proud. He is not proud, that depends on the crowd and the way you talk to them (players). I cheer both sides and wave the flag for them,” says Percy, who donned the role of “Sri Lanka’s No 1 fan” in 1982 during the England vs Sri Lanka Test at the P Sara Oval.

READ | Dinesh Chandimal set to return for Sri Lanka in 2nd Test vs India at Colombo

Percy turned 81 on July 30 and there were plans to cut a cake at the ground with both captains in attendance at Galle. However, the plan didn’t materialise as India wrapped up the Test on July 29.

“I wanted the match to end on July 30… the (Sri Lankan) cricket board wanted to cut a cake and invite the two skippers. Nevertheless, the Indian players wished me from the dressing room when I was cutting the cake at the Galle Cricket Club.”

First Published: Aug 01, 2017 21:25 IST

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