Don Bradman at Cricket in Ceylon in 1930 …. Yes, 1930

Rex Clementine in The Island, 5 March 2023, where the title reads  “New book says Bradman played at CCC in 1930”

All of us cricket nerds have heard stories of Sir Don Bradman’s visit to P. Sara Oval. There are a couple of images too; one where he strides out to bat and another where he walks alongside Ceylon skipper Mahadevan Sathasivam for the toss.


There are other famous stories as well about how the greatest batsman the game has seen appreciating the scoreboard at The Oval and him finding out the inadequacies of the pitch. Some even believed that P. Sara Oval was the only ground in Asia where Bradman had played.

However a new book ‘An Island’s Eleven’ by British writer Nicholas Brookes reveals that Bradman had played at Maitland Place in 1930 en route to England for the first time. Brookes’ book is a well researched document on Sri Lankan cricket and gives a vivid description of cricket in the island in the pre- Test era. The writer has spoken to many stalwarts of Sri Lankan cricket from S. Skandakumar to Kumar Sangakkara and elaborates how the game evolved.

“The whistle stops came thick and fast and 1930’s match was a momentous occasion. None present could have realized the history they were witnessing. On 3 April, at Colombo Cricket Club, Donald Bradman played his first game of cricket outside Australia. He treated the crowd to plenty of shots and had reached 40 when something remarkable happened. With his very first ball in international cricket, debutant Neil Joseph had Bradman hit-wicket.”

The book is a fascinating read, but there are those who contest some of its content. Mahendra Ratnaweera, a cricket historian, believes that the game took place not at Maitland Place but at the Nomads Grounds, the property owned by Colombo Municipal Council. Currently this location is the home for Nelum Pokuna where dramas, musical shows and functions take place.

Veteran journalist Palitha Perera disputes the date of the game.

Bradman’s 1948 visit to Colombo attracted a  lot of attention as he was not only the captain of Australia but by that stage had broken every batting record. In 1930 when he visited Colombo, he was still a rookie finding his feet in the game at the age of 22.

Also compared to 1930, in 1948 the game had been fairly established in the island, the newspaper industry was thriving and Ceylon itself had a proper cricket team.  The book is not just about Bradman’s visit to Colombo. But it’s a comprehensive study on history of Sri Lankan cricket and you come across men and women who nurtured the game, the visionaries who saw the potential and the generous individuals who kept finances coming.

Cricket became popular as European planters went beyond Kandy for tea cultivation and apparently the game was quite healthy over there; but gradually Colombo became the central location for cricket with most clubs being based in Colombo. Even bigger clubs in places like Galle and Matara have found it tough to maintain the sport. So many of their home grown talents have moved to Colombo.

In that context, you’ve got to take your hat off to Sumith Perera, who [has] fought a lone battle for Badureliya. You may not agree with his politics, but you’ve got to give the devil his due. He’s not a very wealthy man but he’s got a knack as to how to run a cricket team.

The book states that there  were some rivalries between Europeans and locals in the early days and certain clubs were out of bounds for local cricketers.** As a result there was no fair representation of Ceylon and some deserving cases missed out. The writer Nicholas Brookes was based at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia during his research for the book that stretched for several years.

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** The C CC was open to Whites only up to the 1960s [just like the Fraser Nursing Home and the Colombo Swimming Club]. When the CCC began to relax its racist principles and Panadura CC was playing a match there in the 1960s, Dhanasiri Weerasinghe went to the nets before the match and started practising — whereupon Arenhold stormed over and gave him an earful for his ‘arrogance’! (related to me in Melbourne by Dhanasiri… who, alas, is no longer with us). Michael Roberts

Dhanasiri in batsman pose



Martin Chandler: The Captivating ‘Story of Sri Lankan Cricket’ by Nicholas Brookes,”

Nicholas Brookes: “Notes From a Small Island,” 6 Feb 2o20,

Notes from a small island

The Captivating “Story of Sri Lankan Cricket” by Nicholas Brookes

The Captivating “Story of Sri Lankan Cricket” by Nicholas Brookes

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