Born on August 14, 1971, Pramodya Wickramasinghe was a resourceful Sri Lankan medium pacer who played through the 90s. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at his career.
Pramodya Wickramasinghe shared his birth place with one of the most devastating batsmen in the annals of Sri Lankan cricket — Sanath Jayasuriya. Born in the South coast city of Matara, Wickramasinghe carved for himself a 10-year long international career with the help of his impeccable line and length bowling and the knack of getting the ball to swing.
His first tryst at the international level came when he was put on the plane to Bangladesh after the Youth Asia Cup Championships in 1989. He made his senior debut against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup on 31st December, 1990, amid the hustling and bustling crowd at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He had a decent start and finished with figures of one for 23 from six overs in Sri Lanka’s 71-run win. A year later in 1991, he got the opportunity to travel beyond Asia and play for Sri Lanka ‘B’ in England. In the same year, he made his Test debut against the Pakistan at Sialkot. However, that was not his biggest achievement that year.
Historic achievement for SSC
Wickramasinghe played his club cricket for the famous Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC). In November 1991, he achieved the feat of picking up 10 wickets in an innings during a three-day match between SSC and Kalutara PCC. It was played in the SSC Ground in Colombo where Wickramasinghe finished with figures of 10 for 41 in the first innings and picked up three more wickets in the second as his side took the game by five wickets.
Sri Lanka in the early 90s
The early 90s was the period when some of the greats of Sri Lankan cricket walked into the national side for the first time. Chaminda Vaas, who went on to be Sri Lanka’s lead bowler for the next 15 years, made his debut in 1994. The spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan began his trickery at the highest level in 1992. Sri Lanka also saw a couple of more bit-part players making their way into the side. The likes of Ravindra Pushpakumara, Ruwan Kalpage and Kumar Dharmasena also got to start their careers during the early 90s. Wickramasinghe arrived before them but couldn’t offer as much as some of the names above did. He was still around, but not as the top bowler.
World Cup 1996
After a decent start to his career, Wickramasinghe was included in the 1996 World Cup squad. The title-winning Sri Lankan side were at their very best under the leadership of Arjuna Ranatunga. Jayasuriya bagged the man-of-the-series award while Muralitharan scalped seven wickets in six matches. In this successful campaign, Wickramasinghe got the opportunity to feature in four occasions but failed to pick up a wicket. Yet, he was given a spot in the playing XI that took on the mighty Australians in the final. He walked out with a winners’ medal despite not making any impact during the tournament.
Wickramasinghe’s conversion rate is a bit underwhelming. He featured in 134 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) but could only manage 109 wickets. In the early stages of his career, one could observe that he was more about discipline and economy than the ability to take wickets. In 1999, he managed his best bowling effort in coloured clothing during the Pepsi Cup. He finished with outstanding figures of four for 48 from his 10 overs against Australia in Jamshedpur. Later in the day when he walked out to bat as the last man, his side needed 10 runs to win from three deliveries with a fiery Wasim Akram taking his run up. Wickramasinghe couldn’t put in an all-round effort to secure a win as he was cleaned up in the first ball he faced and Sri Lanka fell short by 9 runs.
In Tests, Wickramasinghe managed three five-wicket hauls. In an intense encounter at Faisalabad in 1992, Wickramasinghe’s five wickets in the first innings helped Sri Lanka in gaining a measly first innings lead despite being bowled out for 240. However, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram bowled in tandem and destroyed the visitors in the second essay by skittling them for 165 and winning the game by a comfortable three-wicket margin. Seven years later in 1999, he picked up six wickets in Pakistan. This time the action took place in the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore. After the hosts won the toss and elected to bat, Wickramasinghe put them in a spot of bother by dismissing Saeed Anwar in the very first over. However, a big partnership between Wajahatullah Wasti and Imran Nazir kept the visitors at bay. Wickramasinghe then dismissed Nazir and also got the important wicket of Inzamam-ul Haq. He returned later to wipe out the tail and finish with figures of six for 103.
Wickramasinghe had another six-for in the same year. This feat, which came against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, went on to be his career-best bowling figures in an innings and match. After Jayasuriya won the toss and put Zimbabwe in to bat, the hosts suffered regular jolts from Wickramasinghe. By the time they were bowled out for 286, he had finished with figures of six for 60. The game ended in a tame draw.
100th ODI wicket
Wickramasinghe’s 100th scalp in ODIs was erstwhile Zimbabwe skipper Andy Flower. He achieved this feat in 1999 at the Harare Sports Club. Zimbabwe went on to win the game but Wickramasinghe will fondly remember it for his milestone.
In a career span of 10 years, he featured in 40 Tests and picked up 85 wickets at an average of 41.87. In the shorter format of the game, he played 134 matches and picked up 109 wickets at an average of 39.64. Despite the ordinary average, it was his economy rate (4.53 in ODIs) that was the stand out feature of his bowling.
Shoulder injury and the eventual exit
Wickramasinghe enjoyed a glorious year in 1999 but had to undergo a crucial shoulder surgery in the following year. After fully recovering, it had become tough for the medium pacer to cement his place in the side again. He was picked sporadically in the following years and played his final ODI in Manchester against England in July 2002. While the 90s was kind to him, the turn of the new millennium toppled his fortunes as an international career.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)