'Best' can often go unrewarded
'A genuine wicket-keeper will always be an asset' - Gamini
By S.R. Pathiravithana
During his prime Gamini Dayanath Wickremasinghe was hailed as (arguably)the best wicket-keeper in the island, but he still believes that the job of a genuine wicket keeper is an unrewarding one. The rest of this story goes on to explain why he maintains this view .

" It was the 1989-90 season and the third and final trial game in preparation for the forthcoming Benson and Hedges Series in Australia. I was playing in Ravi Ratnayake's team and the other side was captained by Arjuna Ranatunge. Opening batting for the Ranatunge Xl was young Sanath Jayasuriya facing Ravi Ratnayake and he was all at sea with the swinging across his body. I noticed that he was batting yards away from the popping crease and then I walked upto my captain and explained my observations and requested for permission to move up to the wicket. Ravi was rather amused and asked me 'are you sure that you can move up and do what you intend doing,' I said yes and he asked me to go ahead. A few balls later I had Sanath stumped off the Sri Lankan opening bowler.

"I strongly feel that this deed opened the doors for me in the national squad" said the now busy banker. Wickremasinghe continued-" A few days later the Sri Lankan squad for the tour lasting almost three and a half months was announced and I was selected as the only specialist wicket-keeper.

During the tour I played more than thirty matches including one of the two Test matches which were played. I played in the first Test match and had five victims, but I had to make way for Hashan Tillekeratne to don gloves for the first time in his international career as the system had the feeling that it was better to have a batsman who could keep wickets rather than a specialist wicket-keeper so that they would have a sense of security."

The former Nalanda wicket-keeper added: " I played two more Test matches for the country that was against New Zealand in Sri Lanka and that was thus far I went where Test cricket was concerned. I am not blaming any individual. This is a fault of the system. I am not the only one who faced this situation. Prior to me, I remember Mahesh Gunatilleke faced a similar fate while there were quite a few even after me.
Even now we are groping in the dark in search of the best man to stand behind the stumps. What I feel is that it should be a genuine wicket-keeper who must do the job out there, rather than a batsman who could also keep wickets. A genuine wicket-keeper can be an asset to the side. A difficult chance that he could convert into a wicket can turn the fate of a game.

I must further add that especially in Test Cricket pressure is very much greater than in any other form of cricket and a person even if he is a genuine wicket-keeper may make mistakes that he may not do in a normal game. This is because Test Cricket is different. Let him go on for a few games so that it would help him to gain the much needed confidence that he needs at this level of the game.

This situation is not confined only to Sri Lanka. There are also other countries who are riddled with this problem. I do not know how they are going to get out of this situation, but, I know this happens when the top order batting fails to live up to expectations and the system has to look for other cures for the ailment".

"My first school captain was Kushan Weerasinghe with Thilanga Sumathipala as vice-captain. This side also had batsmen of the calibre of Roshan Mahanama and Asanka Gurusinghe. So, performing as a batsman was not my job and at the end of that season I was selected to tour with the Sri Lanka under- 19 team under Aravinda de Silva.

This team also comprised Mahanama, Gurusinghe, Don Anurasiri, Marlon Von Hagt, Jerome Jayaratne who later went on to represent Sri Lanka. The Australian under 19 team also had some players who went on to perform greater deeds later in their careers. They were, Steve and Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor, Craig McDermott, as I recall. Thereafter I toured Zimbabwe which was not a Test playing nation at that time with the Sri Lanka 'A' team under Roy Dias during this tour in one of the unofficial Test matches Hashan and I both got hundreds."

Gamini was drawn towards wicket-keeping after seeing the Australian legend Rodney Marsh in action on television. After this he worked towards his goal until his school coach Nelson Mendis discovered and drafted him into the junior team at Nalanda. At present Gamini Wickremasinghe is involved with cricket as a member of the 'Sri Lanka Cricket' Tournament Committee.

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