The achievements on the field of international cricket by the players who represented the tiny island of Sri Lanka during the first 25 years – after gaining Full Membership of the ICC in 1981 – is to say the least remarkable, and unmatched by any other Test-playing nation. For instance, it took New Zealand 26 [...]


We should be proud of our pioneering Test cricketers


Sri Lanka's first Test captain Bandula Warnapura (L) with the then BCCSL President Gamini Dissanayake and President of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardena at Sri Lanka's inaugural Test match against England in 1982

The achievements on the field of international cricket by the players who represented the tiny island of Sri Lanka during the first 25 years – after gaining Full Membership of the ICC in 1981 – is to say the least remarkable, and unmatched by any other Test-playing nation.

For instance, it took New Zealand 26 years to win their first Test match, incidentally, Sri Lanka had won 50 Test matches in a like period! India practically dawdled for almost two decades to come out of the woods while South Africa too registered their first win after a lapse of 17 years. Sri Lanka won her first Test 3 years after playing her inaugural Test against England – a game that Sri Lanka nearly won – and then to top it all, 11 years later, won the World Cup in the most convincing manner beating Australia in the finals by 7 wickets.

In 2003 and 2007 Sri Lanka, again came to the fore, though losing to eventual champions, Australia. Though Sri Lanka reached the semi-final and runner-up stage in 2003 and 2007 respectively.

This is not all.

At one stage to hold the unique distinction of simultaneously holding records for the highest totals in all forms of international cricket: Tests (952/6 decl.), ODIs (443/9), T20 (260/6), actually beggars the imagination. Interestingly, the swashbuckling left-hander, Sanath Jayasuriya, top-scored on all three occasions – 340 in Tests, 157 in ODIs and 88 in T20 cricket.

The editor of the prestigious Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack (2003) estimated, after taking into account, the rankings and strengths of all Test-playing nations, found that Australia, not surprisingly, emerged as the No.1 cricketing nation while Sri Lanka was placed at No.3 – all within our first 25 years. Establishing not less than 5 international records in the first-ever T20 World Cup in 2007 was another amazing achievement by Sri Lanka. Statisticians would confirm that Sri Lanka has established over 50 international records in one form or other during the first 25 years of coming onto the international cricketing stage despite limited facilities and administrators that one could not speak highly of.Credit should also be given to the many club cricketers who sacrificed their time and money to play the game – in the pre-Test era – helping to continue the sport, and finally handed the baton to those who became Test players to enjoy the sport now in more ways than one.

Just imagine, simultaneously holding the first Test partnership records (335 vs. Pakistan in June’00) the second (576 vs. India in May ’00) and finally the, highest of all records, for the third wicket (624 vs. South Africa in July ’06). Of course there are many more records which the writer would recount in the future.One must also place on record – where administrators are concerned –the achievements of former captain Ranjan Senarath Madugalle, a highly respected Match Referee. He would be completing 25 years in this role by the year end and is currently the Chief Match Referee of the ICC. He began his tenure as Referee from 1993-94. Currently, Madugalle holds the record of having officiated in most Test matches and has been the Referee in twice as many matches as anyone else. Roshan Mahanama too was a Match Referee of the ICC, though he retired prematurely.

Although he recorded only one Test hundred in his 21-Test career, Madugalle was the only player being a part of every one of the first 18 Tests Sri Lanka was associated in. Madugalle led Sri Lanka twice in his career – at Perth and Lords – though on the losing side. However he led Sri Lanka successfully against New Zealand and Pakistan, and was a member of the Sri Lankan side that beat India in the 1979 World Cup. It was the first occasion when a Test-playing nation was beaten in the World Cup by an Associate Member.

Still on the subject of Madugalle: in the inaugural Test played by Sri Lanka, vs. England, at the P. Sara stadium on 17 February 1982, Madugalle (65) and Arjuna Ranatunga (54) were associated in a 99-run partnership in a home side total of 218 runs – the highest partnership by a set of Sri Lankan debutants. Three years later at the SSC grounds, playing against India on 30 August 1985, the same pair put on a partnership – again for the fifth wicket – of 144 runs. Ranatunga scoring 111 runs and Madugalle, close on his heels with 103 runs. This is the first occasion in the history of Test cricket where the same pair – and for the same wicket – registered their half- centuries and centuries in the same innings.

During the famous (single) Test played at Lord’s, against England in 1984, Man of the match, Sidath Wettimuny (190 +13) and Duleep Mendis (111 +94) scored in each innings. This is the first occasion when two members of the same team registered over 200 runs in the same Test.

Now for another unusual record: 

The former wicket-keeper batsman, Brendon Kuruppu, opening the batting on his Test debut – against New Zealand at the CCC grounds – scored 201* runs. Thereby he became the holder of many a record:

1. He was the first to keep wickets – though previously wicket-keepers have played but others have taken on the gloves – and make a debut 3-figures score in Test cricket.

2. First Sri Lankan Test cricketer to make a double century on debut.

3. Slowest (777 minutes) first-class and Test double century.

4. Not only as mentioned earlier, on Test debut, he is the only Test player to have been continuously on the field on all FIVE days on the field with either his batting pads or his wicket-keeping pads on as well.

He must have been a very tired man!


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