Player Profile - Suranjith Dharmasena

In the build-up to the Over-50s Cricket World Cup, we have been looking at players who are likely to have an important impact for their team at the tournament.

In this, the 10th installment, we look at Sri Lankan batsman Suranjith Dharmasena.

If Sri Lanka were missing something at the last World Cup, it was probably one more solid middle-order batsmen. Their bowling was led admirably by the likes of Roshan Ismail, Jacob Rambukwella, Harry Nagendran and Max Labrooy, but the batting fell over a few times. But with the addition of Dharmasena, the team's batting suddenly looks a lot more solid.

Dharmasena played 28 first-class matches and five List-A matches in the late 1980s and early 90s for the Tamil Union Cricket Club (The Oval) Colombo Sri Lanka, alongside Muttiah Muralitharan, Upul Chandana and the like. He even captained the side when the international players were away.

He also made the Sri Lankan Under-19 side, which was led by Aravinda de Silva, and played against Australia in 1984.

He scored 47 on first-class debut, followed by 72 in his next match, and went on to perform solidly, averaging between 31 and 37 for most of the seasons he played. He hit his solitary first-class century in 1992. His best bowling season was 1990/91, when he took 13 wickets at 21.30.

However, in 1993, at the age of 27, Dharmasena was just reaching his peak when he finished playing high-level cricket. “I was a banker by profession,” he explains, “and in that era there was not much international cricket in Sri Lanka. So I decided to take up employment in Dubai.”

He ended up staying in Dubai from 1993 until March of 2019, when he returned home. He played competitive cricket while in the UAE, scoring over 4 000 runs and taking over 150 wickets, but never played first-class level again, although he did represent the UAE in a match against Pakistan A at Sharjah.

His final first-class record - 993 runs at 31.03 and 20 wickets at 29.70 - suggests a player who could well have gone on to bigger and better things.

Accordingly, Dharmasena jumped at the chance to play in the Over-50s World Cup 2020: “It’s a huge opportunity for me to play for Sri Lanka.”

The Sri Lankan side that competed in the 2018 Over-50s World Cup was largely made up of Australian-based players, due to the lack of an organised over-50s structure in Sri Lanka. This is changing now, with the Colombo Masters Cricket Association (CMCA) doing great things for veterans cricket there.

The CMCA spearheaded a recent 8-team national tournament with teams from across the country, bringing many older players back to competitive cricket. It’s only a T20 tournament, but it represents a good start.

The squad heading to South Africa is a combination of Sri Lanka-based players and several of the Australian-based Sri Lankans who almost reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

Dharmasena hopes that this trend will continue: “Over-50s cricket has just started in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Cricket Board must get involved in organising and sponsoring the game.”

Impact: Dharmasena is in good form, scoring runs for the CMCA in the national tournament. He describes his style as “an accumulating batsman and medium pace bowler”. This is probably exactly what Sri Lanka needs, and could give them the push they need to knock over some of the more fancied teams in their pool.

Sri Lanka's first match is against Canada at Western Province Cricket Club on March 11. All matches in the tournament will be live-streamed. For more information, please visit: www.over50scricket.com.

By Jim Morrison