Bernard Perera, the former Sri Lanka first-class cricketer and national women's team coach, has died aged 56 in a hospital in Peradeniya, Kandy, on Friday, where he had been receiving treatment the past fortnight. Perera had an attack of hepatitis two years ago and following recovery he continued to be a provincial coach.
A right-handed middle-order batsman and offspinner, Perera was a brilliant cover fieldsman and looked destined for higher honours following an outstanding school career with St Anthony's College, Kandy, the school that produced the world's leading Test wicket-taker, Muttiah Muralitharan.
Perera's contribution to St Anthony's, whom he captained in 1976 and to Kandy CC earned him a place in the national team in the early 80s, when Sri Lanka had made their entry into Test cricket. He missed making the final XI in the inaugural Test against England in February 1982, despite scoring an unbeaten half-century for Board President's XI against an England attack comprising John Lever, Paul Allott, Derek Underwood, Graham Dilley and John Emburey in Kandy. But after a tour to Pakistan, where he failed to find a place in the Test side, he joined the rebel tour to South Africa in 1982 and was subsequently banned from all forms of cricket for 25 years. Although the ban was lifted after eight years, Perera's first-class career had ended.
He played eight first-class matches, scoring 537 runs, averaging 38.35 with one century - 102 for the rebel Sri Lankan side against a strong South African line-up in a four-day game at Cape Town.
"Being a cricketer from the outstation, Bernard didn't get the opportunities that today's outstation cricketers receive. He was in the same mould as Aravinda de Silva and would have made it big if he had played for any of the schools in Colombo," said Mahesh Goonatillake, his team-mate at Kandy CC, Ceylon Tobacco and the rebel Sri Lankan side.
Perera made a quiet comeback to cricket by qualifying as a Sri Lanka Cricket Level I and II coach, handling Kandy CC in addition to running a private coaching school in his hometown. He coached the Sri Lanka women's team in 2006 before quitting to take over as a Sri Lanka Cricket provincial coach.