Lakdasa Cooray: Sri Lanka’s true servant of squash who gave everything and took nothing | Sunday Observer

Lakdasa Cooray: Sri Lanka’s true servant of squash who gave everything and took nothing

Lakdasa Cooray
Lakdasa Cooray

Veteran squash coach and enthusiast Lakdasa Cooray (68) bid adieu to the Sri Lanka squash fraternity on April 19 when the country was in lock down.

Cooray had been the live wire of the sport under many administrative committees of the Sri Lanka Squash Federation that developed the game over the years. He was born with talent and excelled in squash with artistry playing a wide range of shots during his heydays in the 1980s and 90s.

Originally Cooray was a cricketer hailing from Prince of Wales’ College, Moratuwa and represented the Army team. In the Army he mastered the game of squash though fairly late in his mid-thirties and became a sensation among Defence Services players.

Holding the rank of a sergeant, Cooray with his signature smile and tactical maneuvering mesmerized many younger and fitter players and many top opponents were quite cautious playing with this veteran soldier. He maintained his superiority as the top ranked player in the Army as well as in Defence Services.

As a Level One coach with accreditation from the Asian Squash Federation, Cooray went on numerous overseas tours with the Sri Lanka squash team and was responsible for nurturing many youngsters from a larger cross section of National level players.

Though he was not keen on the written jargon of coaching, Cooray was blessed with in-born talent, sound technique and the knack to coach, especially beginners. His commitment and enthusiasm to this skilled job was outstanding and it was a well-known fact that he coached many good players with no remuneration and looked after them like their own parent.

Cooray had the distinct ability to pick up flaws and errors of any player and predict potential stars of the future. He was a known figure in the international squash arena especially among Asians.

With his quietly confident stance he could tame the players with arrogance and aggression and his fair and unbiased decision-making was admired by all who witnessed many such crunch games and was quite a revolutionary character that stood actively against favoritism.

He was a fearless fighter against Colombo squash hegemony which prevented raw talent emerging from average families and was most critical on coaches who showed low level skills and taught wrong techniques. Cooray was also a pioneer in forming the Sri Lanka Schools Squash Association and arranging the inter school tournament. He was a firm believer that emerging players from schools could represent at senior and national levels matching their international opponents. He even ran the tournament desk at club level single-handed when week-long local tournaments were organized by the Squash Federation and ensured the completion of all matches to return home by train late at night.

Cooray’s progress as a leading coach was halted abruptly due to the untimely death of his only son and promising player Kavinda a decade ago. Nonetheless, Cooray continued with Sri Lanka Squash doing what he is capable of and lived a quiet life. In one of his last tasks, Cooray assisted Navy squash to raise their level of game and though illness got in the way he was always inquisitive about how the game was progressing.

The true calibre and role of Lakdasa Cooray was constantly overlooked but it is fair to rate him as one of the legends of Sri Lanka Squash who deserves a valuable chapter when the Progress and the Development of Sri Lanka Squash is documented in the future.

The Squash Fraternity will miss him sadly and dearly.

(Rear Admiral Palitha Weerasinghe, Past President - Sri Lanka Squash)