Suwanji Madanayake, left arm spinner cum coach keen to perform on to the fourth decade soon to Guinness Book
By Sunil Thenabadu
The Sri Lankan cricketer Suwanji Madanayake who commenced his first class cricket career in 1991 is currently onto the fourth decade keen to play on for a few more years, as clubs here and overseas need his bowling skilfulness with coaching experience.Master statistician Andrew Samson has revealed to The Guardian that Suwanji Madanayake, ‘Madey to his friends is still going muscular at the age of 48. He had confessed that he is determined, would continue beyond his fiftieth year and into the fourth decade of playing first class club cricket in Sri Lanka and league cricket in England and Australia having debuted in year 1991. Andrew Samson had reiterated that Madanayake is still at it, particularly fitness wise with the demand for his left arm spin and coaching aptitudes. It is pertinent to state that Madanayake is the first cricketer since Eddie Hemmings to have an uninterpreted first class career – extending beyond 28 years, who had been playing from 1966 to 1995. In November 1991 while playing for a Kandy x1 he was bowling to Aravinda de Silva with many dreams ahead in his career. If not for Muttiah Muralitharan who’s long flourishing period at the top finally ending in 2008, Madanayake would have had a chance. Rangana Herath, another left-arm tweet, got the nod as the younger of the pair during that transition. Many club mates of Madanayake had asked why he was not selected to the national side. He had lamented: “Rangana had got the nod ahead, I was unlucky.” Madanayake for been so long extends his immense gratitude to his employer, the Sampath Bank that had let him opt for cricket first, granting leave over the past 24 years of his employment sans much of a scuffle. Madanayake has played First-Class or List A cricket for some 14 teams in Sri Lanka across those 29 years. Adding clubs in England and Australia, where he has been a much welcome import, that number swells to about 30. “It is demand,” he had confessed in the best traditions of a touring professional. When you are performing well, the clubs invite you. They are good offers. That is why he had been accepted. Madanayake’s most productive spell as an overseas player came in England, from 2007 to 2011. Across those five seasons, primarily in the Liverpool league, he claimed a unique 335 league wickets while scoring more than 2,700 runs for a notable all round measurement. For teams Ormskirk, Maghull, Wigan, Ipswich and Barlaston, he absolutely dominated. Madanayake had not opted to remain in one team had opted to accept offers as age was becoming a barrier. Why not stay put at one place? “I was getting old, so I had to take the offers,” he remarked. He bamboozled the first-class club batsmen here, just as he did the English clubs a decade earlier, with his “magic ball”. Yes, after decades in the nets, he has a mystery delivery – like every wily twirler. “It comes into the batsman to hit their pads or bowl them. It looks like a leg spin but it’s not. It’s a surprise.” Madanayake’s celebrations remain as enthusiastic as a pup, for there is nothing he enjoys more than duping a batsman not even half his age. “They look fit but don’t use their brains. Without a brain, you can’t play the game,” Madanayake stated. Andrew Samson the master statistician confesses the last player to play into their 50s was another Sri Lankan, Somachandra de Silva, quitting at 52 years in 1995. The most recent regular Englishman had been Ray Illingworth when returning to captain Yorkshire in 1982 and 1983. Madanayake believes he can “easily” join this club in 2022 after breaking the 30-year barrier next November in his fourth decade of playing first class cricket. When questioned as to why the ‘old dog’ is continuing, the answer he gives is the clubs need his experience and expertise. Madanayake, ‘Madey”to his pals is not finished either. In fact, he wants me to tell prospective clubs that he is ready to serve, both as a bowler and a coach ,having earned his level two coaching ECB badge in the past. He confesses he has immense experience .He adds there is a huge lack of spin in England as they don’t know how to spin and grip the ball in those conditions, he had done and proved with statistics. As a coach he is booming with confidence to teach the kids very enthusiastically. Madanayake is the first cricketer since Eddie Hemmings whose career extended for more than 28 years to have won first class caps in four separate decades. Since commencing his first-class career in 1991 Suwanji Madanayake born on 28th August 1972,has played in 133 first class matches in Sri Lanka had excelled as an all-rounder. Has captured 371 wickets at an average of 21.90 with best figures of 8/45. with 18 five wicket and 3 ten wicket hauls. As a batsman had scored one century and 14 fifties at an average of 19.20.Apart from playing in league cricket in England in particular and Australia Madanayake had played for many clubs like BRC, NCC, Moors SC, Ragama CC etc. in Sri Lanka. In a recent interview Madanayake had with a television channel he had confessed how a spinner should grip the ball between the forefinger and the middle finger. Some spinners have been called for throwing as they had attempted to turn the ball in huge proportions. Several cricketers all over the world had paid the price for this fault. This is experience of Madanayake who is accepted as a coach for developing youngsters. As Suwanji Madanayake is determined to prod on into his fifties would become the first-class cricketer to have played the longest, to go then into the Guinness Book.