Whatever happened to Lokuarachchi? | Sunday Observer

Whatever happened to Lokuarachchi?

 Kaushal Lokuarachchi – Observer Schoolboy Cricketer  of the Year 2001
Kaushal Lokuarachchi – Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2001

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest reached new horizons with the dawn of the new millennium. After 21 consecutive shows, Trinity’s Kaushalya Weeraratne won the top honours at the first Observer Cricketer of the Year in 2000.

Kaushal Lokuarachchi became only the second cricketer from St. Peter’s College to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 2001 after Weeraratne won it the previous year.

It was a memorable year for St. Peter’s after a long lapse – having produced the first Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year way back in 1981 when Rohan Buultjens became the third to win the title after Ranjan Madugalle (1978-1979) and Arjuna Ranatunga (1980) and the first Peterite to do so.

In 1981 Buultjens not only created history but also shattered the dreams of World Cup winning captain Ranatunga who if not for Buultjens would have won the title three times in a row, a record which is yet to be established. Ranatunga also won the title in 1982 after bagging it in 1980.

Born on May 20, 1982, Kaushal Samaraweera Lokuarachchi is a former Sri Lankan cricketer, who played in all formats. He is a right-handed batsman and a leg-break bowler. Unfortunately, he was banned by the Bangladesh Premier League anti-corruption tribunal for 18 months and was not involved in cricket since then.

Having made an exceptional start to his career as an all-rounder when he was a schoolboy, Lokuarachchi was made part of the Sri Lankan squad after the disastrous 2003 Cricket World Cup. He is primarily a leg-spinner, and it was thought that he would be able to cement a regular place in the team. However, having suffered injury after a car crash in August 2003 which killed a woman, he was given a four-month disciplinary ban by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).

Having steadily made his return during the 2004 Provincial Tournament, he drifted back into the team and having seen Muttiah Muralitharan suffer from a shoulder injury he won a place in the team for the one-day series against South Africa in the Champions Trophy.

Lokuarachchi made his Sri Lanka debut in less than two years after winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title. His maiden appearance for Sri Lanka was a One Day International on April 6, 2003 against Kenya in Sharjah in a triangular tournament.

Nineteen days later, Lokuarachchi made his Test debut for Sri Lanka in the drawn first Test against New Zealand at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo scoring 28 not out batting at number nine. His last match for Sri Lanka was on October 13, 2007, an ODI against England at the Premadasa Stadium won by the home team by 107 runs.

Unfortunately, Loukaracchchi belonged to an era where there was two other right-arm leg spinners also vying for a berth in the Sri Lanka national team. The presence of Upul Chandana and Malinga Bandara meant that ‘Loku’, as he was affectionately called by his team-mates, had no place in the national team which also had magical off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who remains Test cricket’s highest wicket taker with 800 scalps.

In late November 2007, leg spinner Lokuarachchi was forced out of action for two months after undergoing surgery on his dislocated right index finger. He sustained the injury while attempting a return catch off Ravi Bopara during England’s first innings of their match against a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI in Colombo. Initially it was feared he had sustained a break, but it was later known that the blow had dislocated a knuckle without severing the surrounding tendons.

A thrilling unbeaten stand of 139 in 18 overs between Lokuarachchi and Chamara Kapugedera powered Sri Lanka ‘A’ to a five-wicket win against Bangladesh ‘A’ at the Colts ground in Colombo. They were in trouble having lost half their side for 146 in pursuit of 285, but the sixth-wicket pair was so dominant that the winning runs came with 39 balls to spare.

After a superb batting effort from Bangladesh, guided by half-centuries from Jahurul Islam and the captain Tushar Imran, Sri Lanka needed a strong start to their chase. Michael Vandort and Dilruwan Perera added 62 for the first wicket in decent time and the total raced to 105 for 1 in the 16th over.

Bangladesh then fought back through Farhad Reza, the medium-pacer, who claimed three quick wickets - all leg-before wicket and produced the run out of Perera for 56. Suddenly the momentum had swung, but as quickly as the visitors had gained a foothold they lost it again. Young Lokuarachchi slammed 11 fours in his 56-ball innings - including four in one over off Reza - while Kapugedera, who missed out on a World Cup place, was slightly more sedate in his vital 63.

It had been a day dominated from the start by the bat as the Bangladesh top order set the early running. Islam’s 70 came off 82 balls and Tushar hit four sixes in his run-a-ball 68. But Lokuarachchi claimed three useful wickets with his leg spin to keep Sri Lanka in the game. His batting then finished the job in style.

In July 31, 2007, Lokuarachchi played a stellar role in a Sri Lanka ‘A’ win. Dhammika Prasad held his nerve to edge Sri Lanka ‘A’ to a thrilling one-wicket win over Yorkshire at Leeds.

Sri Lanka reached their target of 240 with 10 balls to spare - a relatively comfortable victory in the end, having been in the perilous position of 73 for 6 at one stage.

The win was set up by a superbly controlled yet aggressive partnership between Thilina Kandamby and Kaushal Lokuarachchi who put on 128 for the seventh wicket, hauling Sri Lanka out of the depths and into a position from which they could genuinely attack the target.

Lokuarachchi, who has enjoyed an excellent tour with the bat in particular, smacked 77 from 55 balls with seven fours and two sixes, while Kandamby was no less efficient in his 77-ball 66. Both fell in quick succession.

However once Lokuarachchi was dismissed by Ajmal Shahzad, they slipped to 210 for 9 - still requiring a further 30 to win.That was when Dhammika Prasad came in handy with the bat.