After four years with Glen Iris CC, Buddika Sandaruwan – ‘Buddy’ to everyone at the club – is familiar to all as a wonderful player, valued teammate and good friend.
But even for those who have been fortunate to get to know Buddy well, it is worth considering what he has endured and sacrificed to make his mark at our club and in a new country.
Buddy hails from Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, a city once renowned for its ancient fort and picturesque cricket ground but now forever known as the scene of the catastrophic Boxing Day tsunami that killed 40,000 people.
“Not my family, just friends,” says Buddy when asked the obvious question about how the tsunami impacted his life.
However, even if Buddy counts himself as one of the lucky ones, it is not difficult to imagine how the tragic event would affect the then 14 year-old school student.
While he was not from a cricketing family, Buddy’s left-arm orthodox bowling at his school Vidyaloka College – the school attended by famed Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga – attracted the attention of the Sri Lanka Air Force Sport Club.
As is the case in other South Asian nations, First Class cricket teams are often affiliated with public service institutions which employ the talented players in their teams.
Although, the way Buddy tells it, he spent far more time in the nets than the cockpit or the hangar during his air force career.
“Sport!” he says when asked his major duty with the Sri Lankan Airforce.
After his First Class debut aged just 19, Buddy went on to play 36 games taking 112 wickets at 24.03 with three bags of five and one ten wicket haul, an amazing career in a league boasting “a lot of talented players”.
However if the cricket in Sri Lanka was good the pay was modest compared to the lucrative standards of First Class, or even club cricket, in Australia.
“Financial problems,” is Buddy’s succinct reply when asked what attracted him to Australia, and his fateful decision to join Glen Iris CC after being recommended by Sudesh Umayan long-term ECA Bulleen pro.
No doubt the transition from a coastal Sri Lankan town to our prosperous eastern suburb was something of a culture shock for Buddy, who had little English when he arrived.
But, as is often the case, cricket has proven a common language and Buddy’s amazing performances on the field have been matched by his enthusiasm for the club itself.
Buddy GI Career Stats –
• Debut 2018/2019
• 1XI Cap Number 106
• 48 games
• 591 runs, 2 x 50’s, highest score 59*
• 76 wickets 1 x 5wi, 1 x 7wi BB 7/10
• 2019/2020 – 1st XI Bowling Award (Average)
• 2020/2021 1st XI Bowling Award (Average)
• 2020/21 1st XI (Wright Shield) Premiership Player
This has not come without personal sacrifices. Buddy has worked hard away from cricket at various jobs (he now installs solar panels) and COVID has created a heart-wrenching dilemma.
Two years ago Buddy left his wife Anusha and son Seth in Sri Lanka to return to play for Glen Iris. Then COVID struck and border closures mean he has not seen them since. Buddy had hoped to return to Sri Lanka at Christmas but new border closures mean he might have to wait until July for the long overdue reunion.
No wonder there is a long pause when you ask Buddy about what it is like to be away from his family for so long, and how he is missing the early stages of his son’s life.
Once source of consolation is the sense of belonging Buddy feels at Glen Iris CC. He mentions the “very talented” young players the club is nurturing and warmth of the environment he has entered.
As a club, Glen Iris CC has been enriched by the skill and enthusiasm Buddy has brought, and by knowing what he has endured to be part of our cricketing family.
We are proud to have played a positive part in his continuing cricket career and his life in a new country.