28 May 2017

Leandro Jayarajah - cricketer

Father was a pioneer of game in Italy

Leandro Jayarajah
Leandro Jayarajah
Leandro Jayarajah, the captain and head coach of Roma Capannelle Cricket Club, was born on this day in 1987 in Rome.

His father, Francis Alphonsus Jayarajah, usually known as Alfonso, is a Sri Lankan national who founded what became the Capannelle club in 1978 and was one of the pioneers of organised cricket in Italy.

Alfonso was co-founder in 1980 of the Federazione Cricket Italiana, under whose auspices an Italian cricket championship has been played since 1983.

Capannelle, which takes its name from the racecourse in Rome, the Ippodromo Capannelle, where the club plays its home matches, have been Serie A champions on five occasions, most recently under Leandro’s leadership in 2013. 

The club began life as the Commonwealth Wandering Giants Cricket Club, changing its name when the chance to use the green space in the middle of the racecourse as a permanent home presented itself in 1983.

Alfonso Jayarajah, founder of Roma Capannelle Cricket Club
Alfonso Jayarajah, founder of Roma
Capannelle Cricket Club
Leandro, a right-handed batsman who bowls off spin and occasionally keeps wicket has followed his father into international cricket as a member of the Italy team, which is currently 28th in the world rankings. In club cricket he made a top score of 80 not out during Capannelle's 2013 title-winning season. He has also played club cricket in England and Australia.

His Italian mother, Franca Maria Beranger, who died in 2015, was president of Capannelle from 1988 to 2014, having helped her husband with the running of the club since its inception.

Leandro – nicknamed Mati – made his debut for Italy in 2010 and, as a qualified coach, is part of the national team’s coaching staff, looking after specifically the Under-17s.

His father arrived in Italy in 1968 to study at the Sapienza University of Rome and remained in the city, working for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He played for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cricket Club against British and Australian Embassies in 1975 for what was dubbed the Rome Ashes.

He became captain of the Italian national cricket team in 1984 and was the first captain to lead the cricketing Azzurri on an international tour when they visited England the same year.

Cricket did not capture the imagination of Italians the same way that football did when British traders introduced the game in the early years of the 20th century but was revived in the 1960s when embassy teams began to play each other.

Recently, the popularity of the game has been boosted by immigrants from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, with more Italians taking up the game than at any stage.

The six teams in Serie A must have a quota of Italians but teams made up entirely of foreign-born players are allowed in the lower divisions.

Leandro is a delegate for Lazio on Italy’s national Olympic committee. A graduate in political science, away from cricket  he is a property manager.

Rome's Ippodromo Capannelle, home of the Derby Italiano
Rome's Ippodromo Capannelle, home of the Derby Italiano
Travel tip:

The Ippodromo Capannelle first staged horse racing in 1881 and was rebuilt in 1926 to a design by Paolo Vietti Violi, the notable architect whose speciality was race tracks. Capannelle was among more than 33 circuits he designed, including tracks in Asia, South America and Africa. Situated about 15km (9 miles) south-east of Rome city centre close to Via Appia, it is currently the home of three Group 1 flat races – the Premio Presidente della Repubblica, the Premio Lydia Tesio and the Premio Roma. The track also hosts the most valuable flat race in Italy, the Derby Italiano.

The Baths of Caracalla in Rome
The Baths of Caracalla in Rome
Travel tip:

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Stations, where Leandro’s father, Alphonso worked after arriving in Rome from Sri Lanka, is a modern building on the busy Via delle Terme di Caracalla, which links the Circus Maximus with the Baths of Caracalla, two of the city’s foremost Roman ruins. The Baths of Caracalla were thermal baths built  between AD 211/212 and 216/217, during the reigns of emperors Septimius Severus and Caracalla. A year-round tourist attraction, the ruins have been the venue for a number of music concerts, notably including the historic Three Tenors concert, featuring Luciano Pavarotti, José  Carreras and Plácido Domingo, staged during the 1990 World Cup finals, hosted by Italy.

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