Maheesh Theekshana: from rags to riches
by Rex Clementine
This year, we have seen the remarkable rise of two young players, who overcame poverty and several hardships to become household names of the game of cricket. Pathum Nissanka became the first Sri Lankan to make a hundred on debut overseas while Praveen Jayawickrama was quite a sensation picking up 11 wickets on his debut.
Maheesh Theekshana is the latest sensation having picked up a wicket on his first ball in international cricket and ending with four wickets as Sri Lanka beat South Africa on Tuesday to complete a rare series win. It is the first time in seven years that Sri Lanka have beaten a team ranked top five. Like Praveen and Pathum, Maheesh too has overcome many obstacles in life and he is ever thankful for the mentoring, support and the guidance he has received during his formative years.
Maheesh grew up with his grandmother and hailed from the little heard Siddhartha Vidyalaya, Sedawatta. Two old boys of St. Benedict’s College, who are actively involved with school’s cricket; Shanthilal Silva and Vivian Saverymuthapulle, approached Maheesha’s guardian to make the shift to Kotahena where he could play cricket at a very competitive level. St. Benedict’s with a lot of goodwill and support from the old boys have the capability to look after promising sportsmen and students.
Once the recommendation was made by St. Benedict’s Cricket Wing to Sports Coordinator Rev. Br. Pravin Vaz (FSC), he approached the school’s Director Rev. Br. Janaka Fonseka (FSC) to recruit the player to St. Benedict’s, one of the leading cricket-playing schools in the country. Being top sports enthusiasts, the brothers needed little convincing to bring Maheesha to Kotahena.
The Cricket Wing of St. Benedict’s looked after his expenses for the first two years and then the College offered him a full scholarship. It was a smart move. St. Benedict’s had not produced a Sri Lanka cricketer since 1979 and the drought ended with Maheesh making his debut having joined Bens at under-15 level.
Maheesh won the All-Island Best All-Rounder award in his final year at school. Then he joined Sri Lanka Army to play cricket. There he was lucky to come under the wings of two former Sri Lanka captains; Dinesh Chandimal and Thisara Perera, two guys who are ideal for mentoring young players.
When the first Lanka Premier League (LPL) came around, Maheesh wasn’t among the players in the draft. He was in a supplementary category which made him ineligible to play. But then Thisara told Jaffna Stallions about this guy with a unique ability. His specialty was being able to bowl like Ajantha Mendis. Jaffna owners listened to their captain and requested SLC to shift him from Supplementary to Emerging category. Then, they bid him for US$ 10,000.
That Jaffna deal changed Maheesh’s career. We have often seen players with too much of talent ruining things for themselves once they get a bit of fame and money.
But as for Maheesh, he has a good head above his shoulder. The first thing he did with the money he received from Jaffna is to inform St. Benedict’s current sports in-charge Rev. Br. Dilshan Vimukthi (FSC) that he will be giving a portion of his contract fee from the LPL to St. Benedict’s to help up and coming young cricketers. Players who do not forget their past should prosper.
Jadeja’s nerveless hitting gifts Chennai Super Kings fifth IPL title
Chennai Super Kings became IPL champions for the fifth time in a game befitting a title clash. With 10 needed off the last two deliveries, Ravindra Jadeja smacked a six down the ground and a four to fine leg off Mohit Sharma to seal one of the most dramatic finales in the history the tournament.
Gujarat Titans 214/4 in 20 overs (Sai Sudharsan 96, Wriddhiman Saha 54; Matheesha Pathirana 2-44) lost to Chennai Super Kings 171/5 in 20 overs (Devon Conway 47, Shivam Dube 32*) by 5 wickets (DLS method)
Chameera returns after surgery but no place for KJP
Fast bowler Dushmanta Chameera returns to the side after a seven month layoff having undergone ankle surgery as the selectors picked a balanced squad for the three-match series against Afghanistan starting later this week at Suriyawewa.
Although Chameera has been named in the squad, there was no place for top order batsman Kusal Janith Perera, who had returned to 20 side in New Zealand two months ago. KJP on that occasion had only been picked for T-20s and there are question marks about his fitness for the 50 over format.
Fans will be hoping that by the time the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe begin next month, KJP will be cleared to feature in the 50 over format as well. One of the most destructive batters in the side, KJP has been in and out of the team due to injuries.
Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne also makes a comeback to the ODI outfit having been axed from the 50 over format two years ago. Sri Lanka’s problems of not being able to bat out 50 overs in recent times is seen as the reason for Dimuth’s return to the side.
Uncapped leg-spinner Dushan Hemantha has also been named in the squad but now that Wanindu Hasaranga has recovered from an injury, he’s expected to play ahead of the 29-year-old.
There’s no place for left-arm quick Dilshan Madushanka either although there was lot of excitement when he first made an impact during last year’s Asia Cup. Young all-rounder Dunith Wellalage has also been overlooked for the three-match series.
The selectors are not expected to do too many changes from the 16-member squad chosen for the Afghanistan series for the World Cup qualifiers.
The first ODI gets underway Friday (2nd June) followed by games on June 4th and 7th. The series was drafted in to give the Sri Lankan team some competitive games ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.
Sri Lanka Squad:
Dasun Shanaka (Captain), Kusal Mendis (Vice-Captain), Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Charith Asalanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Dushan Hemantha, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Matheesha Pathirana, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha
Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Rahmat Shah (Vice-Captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhail (wk), Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujib ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Abdul Rahman, Fazal Haq Farooqi, Farid Ahmad Malik.
Yupun out of competitions for few weeks due to injury
by Reemus Fernando
Sprinter Yupun Abeykoon who suffered an injury during last week’s 100 metres final of the Savona International Meet will ‘stay away from competitions for few weeks.’
“After the MRI test which I took after my race in Savona, it is unfortunate that I have to inform you all that due to a minor hamstring injury I have to stay away from competitions for a few weeks due to medical advice given by experts,” said the Italy based sprinter in a statement yesterday.
Abeykoon was placed second behind Reece Prescod of Britain in the final of the Savona International Meet last week. The national record holder returned a wind-assisted 10.01 seconds (+2.7) performance to open his season in the 100metres. However, despite placing second in the final, he was seen struggling during the last few metres of the race. The injury means he must skip one of the major 100 metres events this week.
The first South Asian Sprinter to break the ten seconds barrier in the men’s 100 metres, Abeykoon was expected to compete against a star-studded lineup at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in Florence later this week.
The world-class lineup includes world champion Fred Kerley and Kenyan world leader in the 100 metres this season, Ferdinand Omanyala.
“I have already started my rehab process with my physio, doctors and the rest of the staff and I am looking forward to coming back stronger than I was in the upcoming competitions,” he further stated.
The highest-ranked Sri Lankan male athlete, Abeykoon is the prime medal hopeful at this year’s Asian Games. Sri Lanka Athletics is relying heavily on Abeykoon to end the country’s medal drought in track and field at the quadrennial event.
He is also the only male athlete to be in the required range in the world rankings to be eligible for selection for this year’s World Championships.
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