When Sudesh Wickramasekara walked in at No. 5, the score was 107 for 3. For long, the 37-year-old, named Batsman of the Year in the domestic 40-over league three times, has been considered the Czech team’s most destructive batsman. Hopes of a high total rested on him and he didn’t disappoint. Against a young Turkey attack, Wickramasekara struck ten sixes and eight fours in the final nine overs of the innings to make 106 in 36 balls. He equalled the T20I record for the fastest hundred and helped Czech Republic make the joint-highest T20I total.
The first time the Czech team had any idea that they were close to setting international records was from discussion among fans watching the match on Facebook Live.
Czech Republic’s former captain and current manager, Vojta Hasa, was on commentary for the game. “We knew Turkey were affected by visa issues, so their best players weren’t around,” he recalled later. “And since Romania had beaten Turkey by a record margin, we knew we could emulate something similar.
“Wickramasekara has been our star for the last three or four years in the international stage. If we had to turn to anyone to do something like this, it was him. We played a tri-nation tournament last year, and even though we came last, he was adjudged the best batsman. He hits a very long ball. He’s very powerful, but he can wait for the bad ball.
“When the second innings started, we first learnt about the T20I total record. Everyone was a bit giddy entering the chase because Wickramasekara had also got the country’s first T20I hundred, but we didn’t know about his individual record yet.”
For Wickramasekara it was a culmination of a dream fulfilled. A decade ago, the allrounder used to play tennis-ball cricket in the coastal town of Galle in Sri Lanka. Such was his success that he went on to briefly spend time alongside current stars Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal and Lasith Malinga in the country’s fast-bowling academy.
But in 2012 when there came a chance to move westward for work, he took it. After the South Asian community in Prague directed him to the local cricket club, Prague CC, Wickramasekara’s rise up to the national team was rapid.
“I am a hitter, you know, so how I played against Turkey is how I always play. Even in club cricket,” says Wickramasekara, nicknamed the “Beast” by his team-mates. “My family in Sri Lanka and my wife, who I married here, were very happy after hearing about the achievement, but I feel I have more to show to the world.
“Although the level of cricket in Czech Republic is getting better, it’s still not so good. How great would it be to earn from cricket full time? That won’t happen here.
“If the opportunity comes, I want to leave my job and play in the T20 leagues or maybe T10. I am well suited for that. I hope that day comes soon.”