WHEN former Sri Lankan first-class cricketer Navin Perera made a century soon after joining Mt Waverley in 2010, he thought the standard of the Victorian Sub District Cricket Association may not be as good as he had expected.
But three years on, Perera has a strong respect for the competition in which he has played while completing a master's degree in advanced marketing.
The Mt Waverley star played his last game for the club on Saturday and plans to return home to Sri Lanka before the next season begins.
Although Perera scored 1027 runs in 26 matches, he considers this season a disappointment despite posting 443 runs at an average of 44.
"I think I could have done better; I would have loved to perform better before Christmas," he said.
"I scored too many 40s this season. If I had converted them to bigger scores we would have done much better."
Perera will nonetheless leave a large hole in the Mt Waverley side as he throws in some key bowling stints along with batting in the difficult No. 3 position.
Perera was recruited for Mt Waverley by former Sri Lankan Test bowler Saliya Ahangama, who was coaching the side at the time.
"I joined in 2010 and played until December, then went back for the Sri Lankan season," Perera said.
"I came back here in 2011 and played with them. I would just get in contact with the president each year and come back.
"It's a very multicultural club. I really enjoy mixing with people from different ethnicities, although this year there is a lot of Sri Lankans around, so it's almost like playing at home."
Over the course of his career in the VSDCA, the 27-year-old said he had come to respect the patience needed to make runs against experienced bowlers and tight fields.
"In my first season I managed to get a century and I thought the standard was pretty average.
"But after that I realised it was not easy to score runs. You had to work a lot for the runs.
"After my second year I understood how to get runs. It was a big change with the conditions and wickets. If you get settled you're all right, but it's quite tough to get settled in."
Perera said playing against older, hardened sub-district bowlers had made him a smarter batsman.
"A lot of the guys who play subbies are very experienced. They don't bowl fast but know how to get wickets.
"They restrict your runs and make you play a bad shot. It's like a mind game and you have to be very cunning to make your runs."
Because Perera intends to take on a full-time job in Sri Lanka, he expects to play in the lower grades cricket there next season.
One thing he will miss from his time in Australia is the time-honoured "fines" meeting at the end of each day's play. Teammates nominate each other for humorously themed fines that go towards the team's end-of-season celebrations.
"I always tell people back home about the fines meetings. When I first got here I found it hilarious. It gets the team together and we all have a crack at each other — you hear some crazy fines.
"We definitely don't do that in Sri Lanka."
OAKLEIGH has claimed the minor premiership and will open its finals campaign against Preston at Warrawee Park this Saturday.
In the other qualifying finals, Plenty Valley will play Brunswick at AK Line Reserve, Plenty and Endeavour Hills faces Coburg at Sydney Pargeter Reserve, Endeavour Hills.
The VSDCA finals will be played this Saturday and Sunday.