Sri Lanka news August 2, 2011

Former Sri Lanka captain Gamini Goonesena dies at 80

Gamini Goonesena, the former Sri Lanka captain and allrounder who also played for Cambridge University and Nottinghamshire, has died at the age of 80 in Canberra.

Goonesena played for Sri Lanka in the country's pre-Test era and captained them against India in the unofficial Test played at the P Sara Oval in 1956. He captured 7 for 69 with his legspin and top-scored for his side with 48 in the drawn game.

In a career spanning 194 first-class matches, Goonesena scored 5751 runs at an average of 21.53 and captured 674 wickets at 24.37. He also held 108 catches.

Goonesena studied at the Royal College, Colombo, and played in the annual Royal-Thomian encounter. Following his retirement from competitive cricket, he was appointed Sri Lanka's representative at the ICC and subsequently managed the Test side on a tour of India in 1982. He also worked as a Test commentator before retiring in 2004 and settling down in Australia.

Goonesena is best remembered for his contribution as an an allrounder for Cambridge University, a team he represented between 1954 and 1957. He became the first Asian to captain the university in 1957 and scored 211 against arch-rivals Oxford at Lord's - it remains the highest score by a Cambridge player in the annual university fixture. He also took four wickets for 40 in the second innings to beat Oxford by an innings and 86 runs.

Goonesena played for Nottinghamshire from 1953 to 1964 and also in seven consecutive games for Gentlemen v Players between 1954 and 1958, a record for an overseas player.

Goonesena first represented Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) against Pakistan in 1950 and went on to play for international sides led by Joe Lister and EW Swanton and toured the West Indies twice. He also played for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield between 1961 and 1964, while employed with the Ceylon Tea Board in Australia.

Bertie Wijesinghe, the oldest living Sri Lanka cricketer who played with Goonesena, said, "It's a pity that Gamini was lost to Sri Lanka cricket and could not spend time at home to coach and inspire the younger generation with his vast knowledge of the game.

"I've never known a cricketer apart from the late FC de Saram who was so clean about the game. He was an outstanding bowler and his record at Cambridge speaks for itself."

Chandra Sandrasagara, a close associate of Goonesena who played district cricket with him said, "Richie Benaud the former Australian captain and famed legspinner would always inquire about Gamini whenever I met him. Gamini was the back-up spin bowler to Benaud in the New South Wales side whenever Benaud was away on Test duty."

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