Cricket was a great escape for me

Bishop Andrew Asbil poses with a couple
Ranil Mendis and his wife Chandanie greet Bishop Andrew Asbil at the Bishop’s Levee in January.
 on April 1, 2019
Michael Hudson

Ranil Mendis is a member of the Anglican Church Cricket Festival’s organizing committee and a parishioner of St. Thomas a Becket, Erin Mills South. This year’s tournament will be held on June 15 at Creditview Sandalwood Park in Brampton.

The Anglican Church Cricket Festival (ACCF) provides an opportunity for parishioners of Anglican churches across the GTA to get to know each other and to build relationships with our community at large. ACCF uses cricket to give our parishioners an enjoyable day out, with food, fun and good Christian fellowship. Women, men, children of all ages, seasoned cricket players as well as absolute beginners are given the opportunity to try this sport. Bishop Jenny Andison described the event beautifully in a thank-you letter to the committee: “The event builds community amongst the parishes and creates a space for the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of young and old, churched and unchurched, skilled cricketers and enthusiastic amateurs.”

Cities in the GTA have experienced growth as a direct result of immigration, and it is important to recognize the implications of these settlement patterns and how they shape local needs and desires with respect to recreation. Cricket is a regular topic of conversation when Peter Marshall, an avid cricket fan from Yorkshire, England, and I meet during the coffee time at St. Thomas’s. Apart from teasing Peter about how the Brits invented cricket but the South Asians perfected it, Peter and I first talked about the idea of a friendly cricket encounter back in 2015. I had taken part in a number of inter-church cricket tournaments in Sri Lanka, and we knew that cricket, being a globally popular sport, was a common thread that could bind our diverse church communities together.

The best part about holding the festival is that it’s an opportunity to meet and bring together Anglicans from across the GTA, and also to receive the support of Bishop Jenny and the Diocesan Centre. The worst is that we have no control over one of the key factors for a successful event – the weather! This reminds me of what my mother used to say: “Man proposes, God disposes.”

I have served on the boards of a number of government agencies that deliver social services in the GTA and currently serve on the board of Toronto Grace Health Centre, a public hospital run by the Salvation Army. As a board member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), I have had the great privilege of leading the CIMA Mayor’s School Cricket Program, providing over 6,000 school children in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area with opportunities to play cricket. I also led CIMA’s cricket scholarship program, where young cricketers were given the opportunity to represent Toronto overseas as part of the Toronto Mayor’s Youth Cricket Team.

I was born in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka and am the third in my family of seven. Moratuwa is a city that has produced some of Sri Lanka’s top national cricket stars. My father worked for the Gal Oya Development Board, one of the largest rural irrigation projects in Sri Lanka, and I have fond memories of living and going to school up to Grade 5 in a village amidst thick jungle. Moving back to our hometown of Moratuwa as a 10-year-old, I was fascinated by the activities going on next to my ancestral home, “Mendis Villa,” where a group of youth had built a clubhouse for their community cricket club. I used to join them as a young kid and be on the cricket field watching and admiring the big boys play cricket. Thus the seeds were planted in my mind to follow this fascinating sport for a lifetime.

With the death of my father when I was 12, cricket – played with friends under coconut trees – was a great escape for me throughout my childhood; it was part of my routine practically every day after school. I went on to play cricket for my school. I played club cricket and represented my employers during my 10-year working career in Sri Lanka. Moving to Canada in 1987, a country where I had no close friends or family, it was a cricket match that I attended in Mississauga, the day after arriving in Canada, that helped me build my network of friends here. Five months later, my future wife Chandanie migrated to Canada and we got married at Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton. Accompanying the Toronto Mayor’s Youth Cricket Team on tours annually for over a decade to England, Sri Lanka and Trinidad, and being invited to ring the starting bell at the home of cricket – the Lord’s Cricket Grounds in London, England during our visit in 2011 – are the highlights of my cricket career.

My siblings and I were lucky to have parents who instilled in us the importance of daily family prayers during our formative years, and my mother, having to raise seven children on her own, made sure that the Sunday service followed by Sunday School became part of our lives growing up. The great Sunday School program at Holy Emmanuel Church in the Diocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka is where we were rooted in the Word of God. We were altar servers and members of the choir, and my younger brother, the Rev. Nirmal Mendis, served in the Diocese of Colombo; he is now with the Diocese of Niagara. My wife and I made sure that we passed on our faith to our children and that they understood the values and virtues of scripture.

My favourite passage is Isiah 40: 28-31. I have had to face more than my share of storms in life, all the way back to my childhood. This passage speaks to the importance of waiting on the Lord when your faith is challenged in the face of adversity. Those experiences have shown me, and continue to teach me, the promise of renewing and regaining new strength through Him.


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