12

One and Done

A forklift driver with a Test cap

Fast bowler Indika Gallage went wicketless in his only Test for Sri Lanka, in 1999, but he remains active as a club cricketer in Melbourne

Brydon Coverdale |

"I'm 40 years old. I will still play" Brydon Coverdale / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

When Tillakaratne Dilshan played his final international matches this month, special attention was being paid by a forklift driver in Melbourne's western suburbs. It drew his interest not because he was Australian and Dilshan was playing against Australia, but because he was a Sri Lankan for whom the moment had personal significance.

His name is Indika Gallage, and last century he and Dilshan shared an international debut.

The year was 1999. Sri Lanka had just completed a historic series win over Australia. Gallage and Dilshan had both played against the Australians in tour games that year - in one match Michael Slater was caught Dilshan bowled Gallage - but neither of the Sri Lankans was called on to play in a Test.

The following month, the Sri Lankans headed to Zimbabwe without Aravinda de Silva, who withdrew for personal reasons, nor Arjuna Ranatunga, who was not selected. And when fast bowler Nuwan Zoysa was ruled out of the first Test, in Bulawayo, due to illness, it meant three men would make their Test debuts: Dilshan, Gallage and Indika de Saram.

The trio would go on to very different international careers. Dilshan played 497 games for Sri Lanka across all formats, including 87 Tests. De Saram played only 20 internationals, including four Tests, and was picked out of the blue for one T20 against India in 2009, nearly eight years after he last played for Sri Lanka. Gallage had to settle for four internationals, three of which were ODIs.

Bulawayo would be his solitary Test cap. He felt he bowled well there, albeit without taking a wicket, but by the second Test, in Harare, Zoysa was well enough to resume his place in the side and duly claimed a hat-trick with his first three deliveries, in the second over of the match. Zoysa missed the third Test with a groin strain, but Ravindra Pushpakumara was preferred there to Gallage.

"I bowled well in my last one-dayer, nine overs, 42 for two wickets. I don't know why I didn't get picked again"

But Gallage remains the 81st man to play Test cricket for Sri Lanka, and hanging on a shelf of cricket trophies and memorabilia in his Melbourne home is his Sri Lanka Test cap. A right-arm fast-medium bowler who was good enough to claim 293 first-class wickets at 22.19 in a 113-match career, Gallage still plays the game, although now he's perhaps more medium than fast-medium.

He will turn 41 in November, but looks younger than his age. He is about to enter his 11th consecutive season with the Sunshine Druids Cricket Club in Melbourne, and hopes there are a couple more years left in him. He smiles when asked if he still loves cricket.

"Yes - too much," he says. "I'm 40 years old. I will still play, they still have a contract for me. This is my 11th year with the same club, Sunshine Druids ... I have to maintain my body. I have a short run-up now."

He remains in touch with Dilshan, who is a year younger. It frustrates Gallage to see a player such as Dilshan moved on from international cricket to make room for younger men. After Dilshan's last ODI, in Dambulla in August, he was replaced by the 18-year-old opener Avishka Fernando, who had not played so much as a single first-class or List A game.

"Dilshan could continue playing... what is too old?" Gallage says. "All the time in Sri Lankan school cricket, guys get two or three centuries and get picked in a Sri Lanka A team, and no first-class cricket. It's not good. You've got to play first-class cricket."

By the time of his Test debut, Gallage himself had played 55 first-class matches. He did his chances of selection for the Bulawayo Test a world of good by claiming 6 for 60 in a tour match against the Zimbabwe Cricket Union President's XI. At a team meeting in the lead-up to the Test, Gallage was told he was in the XI, and he later received his cap from the captain, Sanath Jayasuriya.

But in the first innings of the Test, Gallage bowled 14 overs for 53 without a wicket, and in the second innings he took 0 for 24 off 11 overs. Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan did the bulk of the bowling, and Pramodya Wickramasinghe took the lion's share of the wickets.

Gallage bowls for Sri Lanka A in 1999

Gallage bowls for Sri Lanka A in 1999 © PA Photos

"I had the performances in first-class cricket and in the three-day [tour] game," Gallage says. "I bowled well in the Test but didn't get a wicket. Then I didn't get picked for the second Test. It was my one chance, that's it. It was almost the same in one-dayers. I played my first one-dayer in Zimbabwe, in Harare. I did well. Then two games in New Zealand, then never got picked again.

"I bowled well in my last one-dayer - nine overs, 42 for two wickets. I don't know why I didn't get picked again. In my first game in New Zealand I bowled seven overs, thirty-something for one wicket. I got Nathan Astle out. Then in my last game, I got [Adam] Parore and [Craig] Spearman out. Then I don't know what happened."

What happened was that Gallage's international career was over, and he ended up signing a contract to play league cricket in England. Then he joined Sunshine Druids and moved with his wife and young daughter to Melbourne. Eleven years and two more children later - his two sons were born in Australia - Gallage is still in Melbourne. He has permanent residency, and intends to stay.

He remains in touch with some of his former team-mates, men like Zoysa and Rangana Herath, as well as Dilshan. But he is far from alone in Melbourne, which is now home to numerous former Sri Lanka cricketers. The likes of Asanka Gurusinha, Ravi Ratnayeke and Saliya Ahangama have lived in Melbourne for decades, but others such as Chanaka Welegedara, Rumesh Ratnayake and Dulip Liyanage are more relatively recent arrivals.

"It's a good country," Gallage says of Australia. "Now I work as a forklift driver full-time, part-time cricketer... but I have still got the Test cap."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

 

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LOGIN TO POST YOUR COMMENTS

  • POSTED BY Absar on | October 4, 2016, 7:51 GMT

    nice article, never even knew about him before reading this... would like to see more such articles

  • POSTED BY David on | October 2, 2016, 22:29 GMT

    A question for the statistician, how many players have represented their respective countries in only one test? Only a very small percentage of players go on to represent their national teams, that's why it's quite an achievement regardless of number of matches played. So he is right...he still got the test cap!

  • POSTED BY John on | October 2, 2016, 13:46 GMT

    We need more of this type of articles about the personal lives of cricketers. It is interesting to know about their lives outside cricket during their playing career and after.

  • POSTED BY Milroy on | October 2, 2016, 11:21 GMT

    No one can take away the fact he was good enough to represent his country. 1 test or 100 tests irrelevant. not sure why he didn't try to become a grade level coach. There are so many district level players turn cricket coaches I think Indika would have much better credentials than a district level player to call himself a coach.

  • POSTED BY Peter on | October 2, 2016, 9:58 GMT

    Interesting to read these stories of one cap players. It really works on the imagination. What type of player he was, how many more games he could have played with perhaps more fortune, or if he had been born in a different generation, perhaps he'd have seen more international cricket. The 'maybes', 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' that make cricket the greatest game in the world. It will always leave you pondering.

  • POSTED BY Sanjay on | October 1, 2016, 15:08 GMT

    Each country should have a historian from within the board that tracks the whereabouts of all its international cricketers. Often, it's left to a cricket crazy fan to do all the research. Even in a country like England, rich counties with Test grounds don't have a complete record on all the players who represented them, their sequence # let alone their whereabouts. At least in England, there's the PCA which does a fabulous job, even for overseas professionals who represented the county. As for the Asian countries, there's a complete lack of care for former players. Hopefully, it changes sooner than later.

  • POSTED BY Mark on | October 1, 2016, 14:45 GMT

    @Izzidole why wouldn't many test cricketers from the West Indies, South Africa, England, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka who have either permanently lost their place in the team or retired from the game eventually call Australia home. Why not it is one of the best places in the world to live in. I don't blame the many former international cricketers from other countries in moving there.

  • POSTED BY Deepanjan Datta on | October 1, 2016, 6:13 GMT

    Love these little tales. Some day, he'd be able to tell his grandchildren, he was good enough to stand beneath that Sri Lanka flag, share a dressing room with the likes of Jayasuriya, Murali, Vaas, and Dilshan - and point to that cap with the lion crest in his mantelpiece. Such is the love for the game.

  • POSTED BY Izmi on | October 1, 2016, 1:25 GMT

    Many test cricketers from the West Indies, South Africa, England, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka who have either permanently lost their place in the team or retired from the game eventually call Australia home. While only Kepler Wessels the former South African test cricket has represented Australia the rest have not made it beyond Australian District Grade Cricket.

  • POSTED BY udendra on | September 28, 2016, 12:16 GMT

    It's called fortune (or rather unfortune).

  • POSTED BY a on | September 28, 2016, 8:15 GMT

    Selection can be tough sometimes - no real reason why they should not have continued with you in ODIs and, if you had performed well, given you opportunities in the test squad/team

  • POSTED BY Ron on | September 28, 2016, 8:10 GMT

    It is rather melancholic to learn of the cruelty of fate and of missed opportunities, leaving us-all to conjecture on what might or could have been -- Indika Gallage, sadly, is a classic example.