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DateLine Sunday, 27 April 2008





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Kumar Dharmasena - the schoolboy star 1989 figured prominently in World Cup win 1996

CRICKET: World Cup winning Sri Lanka team member Kumar Dharmasena of Nalanda College who won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1989 and also became runner-up in 1988 and 1990 contests, has taken up to a umpiring career in a big way.

Dharmasena played for Nalanda before getting into the big league of players for Sri Lanka One-day internationals and later Test cricket.

His invaluable contribution to Sri Lanka’s greatest achievement to date, the World Cup win in 1996 can be considered as the pinnacle of his one-day international career spanning 13 years.

April 24th 1971 was the day that Kumar Dharmasena came into this world and from his young days he took a liking for cricket. A gifted high-class allrounder, widely known for his fighting qualities and never say die attitude, played for Nalanda from 1984.

He had the distinction of playing in four ‘Big Matches’ - Battle of the Maroons from 1987 to 1990. He was first coached by former Sri Lanka opening batsman C. H. Gunasekera (jnr) and later by Jayantha Seneviratne, Sri Lanka cricketer who is now a national selector.

The 37-year-old Dharmasena, right-handed batsman and a right-arm off-break bowler, played for NCC. Moratuwa SC and finally for Bloomfield Cricket Club after leaving school.

His quickish off-spinners delivered with a slightly unorthodox action, are invariably accurate, making him an ideal one-day bowler especially in Sri Lankan conditions. With the passing of time, he developed into a useful middle-order batsman which guaranteed him a regular place in the Sri Lanka one-day squad.

His career however, came to a temporary halt after the Oval Test in 1998 against England when the International Cricket Council questioned his bowling action.

However, he was cleared to play again by the Sri Lanka Cricket Board in July 2000. Since then, he has frequently played for the one-day team, especially during home matches but had only played Test cricket sporadically. He retired from competitive cricket in November 2006 to pursue a career in umpiring.

Dharmasena’s performance in the Tests and one-day internationals are 31 Tests, 868 runs, at an average of 19.72 three half centuries best score of 62 not out, delivered 6,939 balls claimed 69 wickets, bowling average 42.31, best bowling figures 6 for 72 and held 14 catches.

In the one day internationals played 141 matches scored 1,222 runs at an average of 22.62, four half centuries, highest score of 69 not out, bowled 7009 balls, captured 138 wickets, average of 36.21, 4 for 37 being the best figures and held 34 catches.

31 Tests

Dharmasena came into the international scene in 1994 against South Africa in the Test match played at the SSC grounds. Dharmasena played in 31 Tests and 141 one-day internationals for Sri Lanka between 1993 and 2004. His talents as an allrounder were better suited to the one-day game and he was a key member of Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning team in 1996.

Dharmasena always bowled in Muttiah Muralitharan’s attacking style and contributed to Sri Lanka winning several one-day tournaments. He finished with 69 Test wickets and 138 one-day scalps and averaged 20 with the bat in both versions of the game.

Dharmasena’s career suffered a mild setback during the one-off Test Against England at the Oval in 1998 when his bowling action was reported. He was not as effective when he returned to international cricket two years later.

Sri Lanka stunned the world when they overcame all odds to lift the World Cup under the leadership of Arjuna Ranatunga when they beat Australia in the final by seven wickets at Lahore.

But for Dharmasena, the most important moment of the tournament was capturing - the wicket of Indian Mohamed Azharuddin for a ‘duck’ in the sem-final at Eden Gardens.

The match was eventually awarded to Sri Lanka on default after spectators began pelting objects onto the field, forcing the match to be abandoned as India slid towards an inevitable defeat.

Aravinda de Silva told me to keep Azharuddin quiet and I did so. In desperation to retain the strike, Azharuddin tried to force a ball for single and ended up giving me a ‘return’ catch. That was the most memorable moment of my career. That wicket is treasured most by Dharmasena as it turned the game in Sri Lanka’s favour.

Dharmasena - an umpire

Dharmasena’s last Test match was against Australia in 2004 in Galle and the last One-Day International was also in 2004 against Australia in Colombo.

Dharmasena quit first-class cricket having being a loyal member of Bloomfield for over a decade on 14th November 2006 and he took to umpiring. “I chose umpiring because it gives a chance to be very close to the game which I love so dearly”, he said.

The decision to become an umpire was something that Dharmasena decided overnight. He was already a qualified cricket coach, having got levels one and two in England.

“Nobody forced me to take to umpiring, it was my own decision. After my cricket was over I thought of taking to umpiring because it was in my mind for the past few years. Because “I love cricket, I sat for the umpiring exams and got through them easily.

I believe that whatever one does, he or she must enjoy and it was this thought that induced me to take to umpiring,” Dharmasena said. Dharmasena has been officiating in several Premier League matches and he wants to end up as an umpire in the Elite Panel-Test Umpire.

Married to Dushanthi, Dharmasena now a father of three children - son Kavishka (10), daughters Ashalya (8) and Amanya (6), says he finds time between his job as Marketing Manager at Hatton National Bank and umpiring to devote time to the family. He has served Bank for 16 years.

Speaking about cricket in general, Dharmasena appreciated much of the efforts of the organisers of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest as this contest gave the boys much needed enthusiasm to do well and be recognised.

The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Contest proved to be the best in the country.

“I am indeed happy that this contest had continued for many years.”There is a lot of encouragement for players in the outstation towns due to a sectional contest for then too.” added Dharmasena.


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