The Spin Wizard
Elmo Tafeeq, Daily News
@ 11.07.03

We have all undoubtedly heard of the dashing and dynamic feats of our grinning assassin, the duke of the doosra, feared the world over named: Muralitharan, Muttiah Muralitharan. But if I were to say the name Pradeep Mathew, you would frown in perplexed stupor.

A spinner of quixotic wizardry, a bowler of daring and devilish talents, alas, discarded by the national side after 10 years of lean service, many saw Pradeep Mathew as Sri Lanka’s greatest cricketer who never was. My late good friend Mr WG Karunasena, formerly of the Observer, was known to have been writing a book about the life of Mathew and his wondrous feats. Alas Karunasena’s untimely death, halted its completion. His widow reveals that the book requires heavy editing before it is published.

I met Karunasena once and he told me that Mathew had taken more wickets per game than anyone in history. According to Karuna, had he played a full career of 100 tests and say 300 ODIs, he would have finished with well over 700 and 500 wickets respectively. While I do not acquiesce with my learned friend’s fanciful speculations, I must concur that Mathew was indeed a talent worth reckoning with.

I observed this uncut diamond, this rare flower in bloom in action for Bloomfield on many a moon. By the late 80s, Mathew was one of the most feared bowlers on the local club circuit, having added a flipper, a darter, a skidder, a floater and the infamous double bounce ball to his varied repertoire of deliveries. But sadly, Mathew’s temperament proved erratic, impetuous and dastardly, many accused him of not being a team player.

He did in fact play 4 tests for Sri Lanka, but was rotated along with the likes of Anurasiri, Wijesuriya, Kalpage, Madurusinghe and de Silva. While Mathew was an effective wicket-taker, he could also prove very expensive. This coupled with his frequent clashes with management over disciplinary issues, resulted in him being sidelined.

With the world praising wunderkinds like Warne, Murali and Saqlain, one wonders what they would’ve said, had Mathew reached his full potential.