Almanac Cricket: The Prodigal Son

Ormond’s Harish Salwathura, with younger brother Leith, and the SECA under-12 A’s shield they helped bring back to the club in 2019.



It’s a delightful moment when admiring eyes first set on a prodigy. The observer may well conjure, “If he’s not hopelessly waylaid by a steepling career, girls, or addiction to Cyber Punk or Super Smash Bros, this kid could be anything.”


Harish Salwathura is already something!


I was umpiring at Princes Park, Caulfield, as an opening batsman collared the Hampton Central attack. His own collar may as well have been a cravat, his wrists clasped with Gucci cufflinks, as he stroked 51, every shot borrowed from a coaching manual of the classical kind.


A bigger influence has been his dad Nishen whose Colombo, Sri Lanka, school coach instilled in him a preference for a straight bat over the horizontal. Three decades later, his sons, Harish, 12, Leith, 10, and Thivi, 16, are seedlings drawn from the same willow.


For all the sons, including MacKinnon PS grade sixer Harish, backyard Test matches have intertwined with taking on the Hills Hoist.


Hitting a ball in a stocking hung from the clothesline also fell under Nishen’s influence. A raised elbow and straight bat connived to teach patience; unwinding the stretched stocking after its rapid orbits around clothesline wire does take time.


Harish’s stylish 51 not out two weeks ago and his solemn demeanour reminded me of Raoul Dravid, the Indian batsman known as The Wall, who never seemed hurried into inelegance.


Even Harish’s single slog to cow corner had style, beginning with a bent left elbow as he began his swivel and ending with a straightened forearm as though swatting a wasp.


Like Harish, the few spectators present may have rued the South East Cricket Association rule that compels batsmen to retire at 50 so someone else can get a bat.


Soon after Harish took his early leave, I did, too.


After more than 30 years umpiring and managing to miss the impact of a fiercely struck orb of cowhide leather, cork and string, weighing 156 grams, my luck ran out.


Sometimes the struck ball is halfway down the pitch before you realise it has your number on it. If you’re lucky, you duck or weave, brace for the pain, and begin your grace of gratitude as the ball rockets past.


There’s a distinct difference between fast (Lillee) and express (Thommo). Many years ago, the latter was the ball I heard and felt (displaced air) as a vicious hook propelled it past my head at square leg as I crouched, negligently, to admire a bee over a dandelion.



In December 2021, the straight-driven ball cannoned from the bowler’s hand, veering its last five metres to a spot below my right knee. The swelling, known by medics as a hematoma, produced two right knees, an upper and lower.


One of the players called an ambulance, which, we were told, might take an hour to arrive, so I did a hobbling test-walk and drove to the nearest public hospital, The Alfred.


Apart from Harish’s batting — his team’s 1/197 was too good for Hampton Central’s 5/85 — the thing that also struck me was the price of free medicine: time. The four hours I waited for an X-ray on a busy Saturday was, I knew, the blink of an eye compared to the waiting, often for nothing, borne by most of the world’s medical casualties.


At one point, I had to laugh. Limping across Commercial Road to move my metered car, I, with three others, was blocked from returning by a security guy in a green vest. An air ambulance (helicopter) was incoming, he told us.


After 20 minutes’ waiting and getting to know each other, just west of the helipad, we four noticed the vest had left. And no helicopter had landed, although we all swore we’d heard one in the distance. I wondered: Hospital ambulance bypasses are notorious in the world of understaffed front-line medicine . . . Do choppers bypass, too?


You can read more from John Gascoigne Here.



To return to the  home page click HERE


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.


Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE





  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Well done young Harish! I’ll look out for your name in the coming years.

Leave a Comment