How the stars aligned for Nishan Madushka

Ireland Tour of Sri Lanka 2023

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Saying Nishan Madushka is in a purple patch, is looking more and more like an understatement. In the last 12 months, he has made 4 200+ scores, three against International opposition, showing an insatiable appetite, not just for runs but big runs.

After quietly building a reputation in domestic and age group cricket, the first time Madushka really caught everyone’s attention was when he toured England with the Sri Lanka Development squad. While there, the right-hander finished as top run-scorer in the 3 match 4-day series, with 326 runs, including 269 against Kent, which is incidentally the highest score by a Sri Lankan on English shores. The record was quite significant in that it surpassed the mark set by one Aravinda de Silva (255 FOR Kent vs Derbyshire), who is widely considered the greatest batter produced by Sri Lanka.

It’s true that Madushka was picked for the Development side based on his form domestically, but now, with the record in England, particularly whose record he broke, all eyes were suddenly more focused on him at Ragama CC. As if to prove that it was no flash in the pan, he came up with 1229 runs in the 2022 Major League Tournament, including a triple hundred against the Sebastianites CAC and 4 other centuries and 6 half centuries.

A century and a double, his 3rd 200+ score in 8 months, came against the touring England Lions in Galle and the cries to bring him into the Test team just kept growing.

But there was one problem – Sri Lanka had a pretty settled batting line-up, particularly in the top 3, where Madushka had made most of his runs in first class cricket. The Sri Lankan leadership had made it clear in the past that Pathum Nissanka and Oshada Fernando were the two who they were looking to partner Dimuth Karunaratne at the top of the order and Kusal Mendis had made himself a permanent fixture at No. 3.

However, with limited overs cricket taking over the schedule, Nissanka slowly found himself being overlooked for Tests. His case wasn’t helped by a recurring back injury and he missed out on the Pakistan Tests in July 2022. He was expected to make it to the next tour, when Sri Lanka travelled to New Zealand, but was surprisingly left out of the squad – whether this was injury management or a dropping, Madushka got his call-up.

He still had to occupy the bench, with Oshada Fernando picked to open with Karunaratne, but this was just another little blessing in disguise on his journey. His opportunity came thanks to his second skill, wicket-keeping, with Niroshan Dickwella being dropped in the 2nd game. Making your debut can be nerve-wracking, but it helped that Madushka came in at No.7, especially with the conditions and attack Sri Lanka were up against in New Zealand. He made 19 and 39 in the game, not outstanding numbers but apparently enough to convince the leadership to give him a shot at the top of the oder.

Whether by luck or fate, Sri Lanka’s next series happened to be against Ireland, who alongside Afghanistan, were the latest addition to Test playing nations. Since gaining Test status in 2018, they had played just 4 Tests leading up to the series and hadn’t played any first class cricket in Ireland since a covid enforced break in 2020. So, in terms of opponents, with due respect to the Irish, it wouldn’t get much easier than this, particularly as the series would be played in Galle – a ground Madushka is more than familiar with.

He missed out in the 1st game, hit a century in the 2nd and converted it into his maiden double century, becoming the 2nd youngest Sri Lankan to make a double-century and the 2nd player after Brendon Kuruppu to convert his maiden ton to a double ton.

When Andy Balbirnie dropped him at slip off Andy McBrine when he was on 131, you just knew this was meant to be, the stars had aligned.