He survived the nightmare that was the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 – now Thilan Walallawita is dreaming of his debut in first-class cricket.
Middlesex’s Sri Lankan-born left-arm spinner may be the unfamiliar name in the Seaxes’ squad for their opening Bob Willis Trophy encounter with Surrey at the Oval starting on Saturday, after Middlesex applied to the ECB to register him as an ‘un-qualified’ player earlier this week.
It’s another huge step on his eventful journey, which but for his father Ajith’s instinct and fleetness of foot would have ended, aged just six, that fateful Boxing Day 16 years ago when more than 30,000 Sri Lankan lives were lost.
The family were enjoying a meal at a beach-side restaurant when the disaster struck.
“Dad heard a noise and went outside to check,” said Walallawita.
“He saw the waves going back and building up. He said it was like the end of the world was coming. He was shouting ‘Get out, get out, a tsunami is happening’.
“The bridge we needed to get across was gone by the time we reached it, so we had to park our car in front of a house and run.
“There was a church on top of a hill we had to reach to escape the second more deadly wave, so my dad had to carry me and run.
“I could see the wave coming behind us. If he hadn’t carried me I wouldn’t be here now.”
Life spared, Walallawita soon inherited his father’s love of cricket, Ajith having the foresight to encourage him to switch from right to left-handed to make himself more distinctive, not to say marketable, as a bowler.
Arriving in England aged 12, he joined Potters Bar CC and was soon sent for Middlesex trials.
Walallawita progressed through the county’s age-groups and academy, becoming their leading wicket taker in Second XI cricket last season and earning his first professional contract in January.
“This is a dream, there are no words to describe how grateful I am to the Middlesex staff for having my back and showing faith in me,” Walallawita said.
“I’m known for my consistency as I can get onto a line and length very quickly. I wasn’t able to turn the ball as much in the early days, but now I get turn, bounce, everything.
“I now have to work on my tactical side, such as getting all the fielders in the right place for every ball.
“Batting-wise it’s about being patient. The coaches call me Jayasuriya as I’ve got some lovely cover drives, but in four-day stuff you have to be patient and put some shots away in the locker.”
Should Walallawita get the call-up for the Oval, he’s already had a dress-rehearsal thanks to the friendly between the two sides earlier this week – a game where the 22-year-old picked up a couple of good scalps.
And with Radlett, Middlesex’s second XI base, hosting their home matches, Walallawita is itching to get in on the action.
“The practice match was lovely, and it was great to be out there in front of 1000 people,” he added.
“Even though it was a friendly, getting my first two wickets was memorable and I dedicate them to my family and all those who’ve helped me out on this journey so far.
“The wicket we’re going to play on this Saturday is apparently spin friendly and there was a lot of bounce on the practice match pitch too. Turn and bounce is perfect – a dream for a spinner. I only need to get one ball to turn and I’m in the batsman’s head.
“Radlett is good for me too because it turns late in the game. So, if the batsmen can put runs on the board the spin twins, Nathan (Sowter) and I could get the job done.”
Dilshi stamps her class with national record
Shanika qualifies for World Junior Championships
by Reemus Fernando
Former Ratnayake Central Walala athlete Dilshi Kumarasinghe stamped her class with a new Sri Lanka record performance in the 800 metres while emerging 800 metres runner Shanika Lakshani reached qualifying standards for the World Under 20 Championships and sprinter Mohamed Safan broke shackles to win the 200 metres as the first Selection Trial produced its best on the final day at the Sugathadasa Stadium on Friday.
Kumarasinghe who registered her maiden 400 metres triumph at national level on Wednesday bagged the 800 metres win as well in style on Friday when she clocked the fastest time for the distance by a Sri Lankan in history. Her time of two minutes and 2.55 seconds erased the four year-old national record held by experienced Gayanthika Abeyratne who finished third(3rd 2:03.64 secs) yesterday. Asia’s third ranked 800 metres runner Nimali Liyanarachchi was placed second in a time of 2:03.15 seconds. Former record holder Abeyratne is ranked fifth in Asia.
The 21-year-old athlete trained by Susantha Fernando maintained a steady pace right throughout to win the event for the second time within months. She won her first 800 meters title at senior level at the last National Championships in December. “I am happy to have broken the record. We planned for the record but I am not satisfied with the time,” Kumarasinghe told The Island. Her coach Fernando expressed similar sentiments. “We were planning to produced a far better timing as she has the potential to reach international level,” said Fernando.
Kumarasinghe who is currently ranked sixth in Asia behind local counterparts Liyanarachchi and Aberatne is set to improve her ranking when the World Athletics update statistics next week.
Holy Cross College, Gampaha athlete Shanika Lakshani became the second junior runner at this championships to earn qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next August. Her coach Madura Perera said that it was a huge relief to witness his trainee accomplish the target after missing it by a whisker at the National Championships in December. Lakshani, running alongside the veterans clocked 2:07.02 seconds (Qualifying mark: 2:08.70 seconds).
On Wednesday Isuru Kawshalya Abewardana of Ananda Sastralaya Matugama reached qualifying standards for the World Under-20 Championship when he returned a time of 47.24 seconds in the Junior Men’s 400 metres final.
In the men’s 200 metres, Mohamed Safan turned tables on National Champion Kalinga Kumarage as both clocked sub 21 seconds, a rarity at local athletics. Safan was playing second fiddle to Kumarage at the last National Championships where he clocked 21.41 seconds. Yesterday Safan returned a time of 20.81 seconds, while Kumarage clocked 20.85 seconds.
In the women’s 200 metres, Nadeesha Ramanayake was the winner. She clocked 24.28 seconds.
The men’s 800 metres, conspicuous by the absence of national record holder Indunil Herath, was won by the Asian Championship participant Rusiru Chathuranga, who clocked 1:49.82 seconds.
Herath was not the only leading athlete who was absent at the First Selection Trial which was organized by Sri Lanka Athletics to provide much needed competition opportunity to top athletes vying to reach Olympic qualifying standards.
The next track and field competition for top athletes will be the next month’s National Championship.
COPE; a toothless tiger?
by Rex Clementine
Parliamentary watchdog COPE – Committee on Public Enterprises has made a scathing attack on some of the corrupt practices at Sri Lanka Cricket. COPE Chief, Professor Charith Herath has gone onto claim that by fighting out certain legal battles and writing off money that companies and member club owed SLC, insiders may have been receiving kickbacks. This is a very serious allegation by the legislature.
Professor Herath wants legal action taken against SLC officials. It remains to be seen whether any culprits can be hauled up before courts or whether COPE is just a toothless tiger.
In the absence of SLC bigwigs, CEO Ashley de Silva bore the brunt of the criticism. In January this year, in these pages we wrote that Ashley’s time was up. While there are many questions about his efficiency and decision making abilities, it can be safely said that Ashley is no crook. The real crooks are hiding behind the CEO.
There have been some decent men as well at SLC like Mohan de Silva, who was President in 2004. De Silva had warned his colleagues that their excesses could tarnish the reputation of the institution, but his concerns fell on deaf ears.
Not only the guardians of SLC but even those who let them enter into these corrupt deals need to be probed. While most of these allegations will take time to prove, certain things can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. For example fixing a domestic match in 2017 by some prominent members of SLC.
However, four successive Sports Ministers – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Faizer Mustapaha, Harin Fernando and Namal Rajapaksa – failed to take action. All four turned a blind eye despite having overwhelming evidence in front of them. Ravin Wickramaratne, the number one suspect, went places in cricket circles. He is now SLC’s alternate ICC Director.
At a time when the game has been so badly managed, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa’s decision to backdate a gazette notification extending the term of SLC’s Executive Committee has not gone down well with many. Rather than giving a clean bill of health to SLC hierarchy, he should have perhaps taken the bad eggs out.
The ball is back on Namal’s court. It is his Ministry that has to now decide which deals need to be proved and against which officials’ action needs to be taken in courts of law. From the start, Namal has treated SLC hierarchy with kids’ gloves. Now that their deficiencies have been exposed well and truly, he needs to watch his steps. If he continues to play politics with cricket governance, his popularity is going to wane, fast.
Saha wins U12 boys’ singles title
Saha Kapilasena beat Sasen Premaratne to win the Under-12 boys’ singles title of the Clay Court Nationals conducted at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association courts on Friday.
Kapilasena scored 6-3, 6-1 to win the title. Kapikasena ousted third seed Aahil Kaleel in the semi-final, Premaratne eliminated number one seed Methika Wickramasinghe in the semi-final.
In the mixed doubles final Anika Seneviratne and Thangaraja Dineshkanthan were the winners as they beat Sanka Athukorale and Neyara Weerawansa 7-5, 6-4.
Sanka Athukorale and Yasita de Silva beat Rajeev Rajapakse and Renouk Wijemanne 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the men’s doubles title.
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