The Tamil Union Cricket & Athletic Club was founded on the 2nd of December 1899, and had its initial grounds and pavilion at the Campbell Park, in Borella, which was leased out from the Colombo Municipal Council. Prior to that a few Tamil men in Colombo, mostly students, formed a Sports Club on the 2nd of November 1895, and named it Lanka Sports Club. It had Price Park as its grounds. The name of this Club was later changed to Tamil Sports Club. By this time, another Club had already been formed by a different group of young Tamil men, bearing the name The Tamil Cricket Club, which had its home at Campbell Park.
Thereafter, through the good offices of Mr. G. N. C. Ponnambalam, these two clubs, which were strong rivals, were persuaded to amalgamate, giving rise to the birth of the Tamil Union Cricket & Athletic Club. The first President and Hony Secretary of the TUC & AC were Mr T. Thirunavakarasu and Mr J. Rockwood respectively.
Subsequently, through the good offices of personalities, such as Messers Arumugam Sellamuttu, Paikiasothy Saravanmuttu and Mariappa Chandraraju, the Club was able to convince the Government of that time, and his Excellency Sir Reginald Edward Stubbs GCMG, the Governor of Ceylon in 1937, to assign to the Club the premises that it is currently located in.
The names given to social clubs in those days, such as Tamil Union, Burgher Recreation, Malays Sports, Moors Sports, Sinhalese Sports, Borahs Sports etc were merely an indication of the mutual respect that Ceylonese had for each other ’ s cultural and ethnic identities, and government leases to encourage such healthy pursuits were not uncommon.
Consequently, the land requested was handed over to the Club in May 1939, and thanks to the untiring efforts of Mr P. Saravanamuttu, ably assisted by an enthusiastic committee and membership, a ground and pavilion capable of hosting international sport in general and cricket in particular, came into being in 1940 at a cost of Rs 400,000, an enormous sum of money at that time.
In fact it was Mr P.Saravanamuttu ’ s vision for the future of national cricket that led to the creation of such a vast ground and stadium, as the club ’s needs could well have been met by a far more modest outlay. The Colombo Oval, as the ground was then known, soon became the only venue in Sri Lanka for cricket against teams visiting from overseas. It was also the venue for International Hockey, Athletics (prior to the Sugathadasa Stadium and Sports Ministry facilities being built) and Greyhound Racing. The Sri Lanka Army also made use of this venue for their annual Army Tattoo.
In the mid-to-late Seventies, the Tamil Union Cricket Brains Trust headed by Messers Somasunderam Skandakumar and Selva Perumal, realised that if the Club was to survive as a serious cricket team, it would have to cast its net outside Colombo for new talent.
So, it went fishing to the Deep South − Galle, Matara and even beyond. Strangely enough the Southerners supported this endeavour, and boys from Mahinda College initially, and the other schools thereafter, began knocking on the Club’s doors for inclusion.
It certainly helped that the Club had the spare area to accommodate these lads, so they were bedded, fed and watered until they were ready to go out into the big, wild world, ie when they became professional cricketers in their own right or found gainful employment − mainly the latter.
Graduates of this programme − many of whom represented Sri Lanka and captained the Club − were Upul Sumathipala, Dileepa and Duminda Wickremasinghe, A J and Athula Samarasekera, Ajith Alwis, Upul Chandana, Champaka Ramanayake, Indika De Saram, Pramodaya Wickremasinghe and now, Suranga Lakmal, Isuru Udana, Gihan Rupesinghe and Ashan Priyanjan.
Apart from Muralitharan, the club is extremely proud to have nurtured the careers of Champaka Ramanayake, Chandika Hathurusinghe and Upul Chandana, all coming from very humble backgrounds, but overcoming this obstacle by playing exceptionally well for the National Team, and, better still, having now established themselves as superb coaches both abroad and here.
Following Sri Lanka’s admission as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 1981, the inaugural Test match vs. England was played at the Oval, which by then had been renamed appropriately enough as the P.Saravanamuttu Stadium. The task of hosting this prestigious match entailed building a stand to provide additional accommodation for press and media and was accomplished at short notice by a team of officials and members as enthusiastic and dedicated as their predecessors, in this instance spear-headed by Mr T. Murugaser (who was also, co-incidentally the Vice President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka at the time) , and Mr C.T.A Schaffter, another Club stalwart (Double International in Cricket and Hockey) and later National Cricket Administrator.
The event was a resounding success, even though Sri Lanka lost the match. Immediately thereafter the General Committee offered generous space within the club’s premises to the Cricket Board (BCCSL) to construct their own headquarters. The officials of that time opted instead to lease land from the Sinhalese Sports Club for this purpose and moved to 35 Maitland Place, Colombo 7.
The following year, in July 1983, the Club’s premises were burnt down during the communal riots a tragic set-back from which the Club took more than two decades to fully recover. In spite of this set-back, the Club continued to host international cricket and in September 1985, became the venue of Sri Lanka’s first ever Test win when India were defeated.
Special mention must be made of the Club’s Centenary Year 1999/2000, which, although celebrated on a modest scale at the club’s premises due to the prevailing conditions in the country, was nevertheless studded with achievements on the sporting fields that are worth recording.
In Cricket, the Club emerged Champions in three of the four major tournaments conducted by the BCCSL, while securing third place in the fourth. In the same year, five of the club’s cricketers, viz, Mutthiah Muralitharan, Upul Chandana, Niroshan Bandaratilleke, Indika De Saram and Mario Villavarayen, represented Sri Lanka, an unprecedented achievement. At Tennis, the Club annexed the all island over 45’s tournament conducted by the SLTA.
The President during the Centenary of the Club was Mr Skandakumar, who initiated a major fund-raising campaign world-wide, which enabled us to construct the modern Sports Complex and Swimming Pool we now have.
Mr Tryphon Mirando succeeded Mr Skandakumar as Club President in July 2000, and took untiring steps to commence work on the Sports Complex, while juggling his honorary role as the Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket. The Patron Mr. V.Balasubramaniam laid the foundation stone on the 14th of November 2000. The complex was declared open by Mutthiah Muralitharan on 9th of February 2002, in the presence of a very large and distinguished gathering.
A fully-equipped modern Club Kitchen was also been put into operation, to complement the enhanced facilities.
With these vastly improved facilities, the Club re-entered the arena as an international venue in 2002, after a lapse of 8 years restoring its previous eminent status as one of the premier Test Match venues in the country.
The Club continued to focus on further development, and in December 2007, opened two double-storeyed stands named after its giant stalwarts, Dr Ranjan Chanmugam/M.Sathasivam and Sathi Coomaraswamy, respectively. On 25th July 2008, a state-of- the-art Oval Taverners Bar Lounge was declared open and proved to be a resounding success facilitating Club Nights, family get-togethers and private socials.
The Dr Ranjan Chanmugam/ Sathasivam stand houses five air-conditioned corporate boxes equipped with all modern facilities, while the Sathi Coomaraswamy Upper, which can accommodate upto 300 people both for matches and private functions, has been fully air-conditioned.
The cutting-edge Media Centre (capable of housing 80 electronic and print journalists at a time) and the upgraded player ’ s dressing rooms has taken the Club to new heights by meeting the stringent requirements of the ICC Venue Selection Committee When one adds the modern Oval Gym, Oval Pool, Oval Tennis Courts, Oval Badminton and Squash Courts (home of the Sri Lanka Squash Federation) and the Oval Billiard Room, the Club affords its members a range of facilities rivalled by very few Clubs in Sri Lanka.
It is heartening to note that after a few years building up its Cricket teams, the Club emerged Champions in the Premier League Limited Overs Tournament in 2009/2010. In 2011, the Club has been further blessed with the advent of National Cricketers T.M.Dilshan (who has been named as the new National Cricket Captain), Rangana Herath and Chanaka Welagedera, so the prognosis for the future looks very encouraging.