Wellalage lives up to his image | Sunday Observer

Wellalage lives up to his image

2 October, 2022
Farveez Maharoof of Wesley won the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award 2003 and also won the Best Batsman All-Island award
Farveez Maharoof of Wesley won the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award 2003 and also won the Best Batsman All-Island award

Promising Dunith Wellalage seems to be the next rich contribution to Sri Lanka cricket from St. Joseph’s College, Colombo after former Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews.

Wellalage emerged the Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2022. Having completed a superb final season for St. Joseph’s, he climbed to the top most level, while still being a 19-plus schoolboy.

Prior to making his Test debut for Sri Lanka in July this year, young Wellalage captained Sri Lanka Under-19 with distension. When the voting for the most popular contests concluded a fortnight ago, Wellalage and Chushadi Kaushalya of Dharmapala College, Pannipitiya headed the respective Observer SLT Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Cricketers of the Year 2022 with convincing margins.

Dunith Nethmika Wellalage was born on January 9, 2003 in Colombo. After having his initial junior career at St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, he played his junior and first X1 cricket at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo.

A penetrative left-arm leg spinner and a useful left-hand batsman Wellalage is widely considered as future Sri Lanka captain material though he has only played in just a solitary Test. But he has already proved his credentials at Sri Lanka Under-19 level.

He made his Test debut in July 2022, in the second Test against Pakistan at the Galle International Stadium, scoring 11 and 18. Wellalage went wicketless but Sri Lanka won the match by 246 runs.

He has already played five One Day Internationals and six T20 Internationals for Sri Lanka, showing early promise. He has captured nine wickets in ODIs with a career best 3 for 42. In six T20Is, he has five scalps with a top spell of 2 for 32.

The 19-year-old bowling all-rounder proved his potential at the recently concluded tournaments as well as Internationals. He first proved his talent at school level and later became the Sri Lanka Under-19 captain at the under 19 World Cup in the West Indies.

In next to no time after the Youth World Cup, the national selectors considered the young cricketer for the National Super League cricket tournament after which he conveniently booked his place in the Sri Lanka Emerging team for the England tour. He then represented Sri Lanka ‘A ‘ against Australia ‘A’ during their two ODIs at the SSC ground.

After representing the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team, Wellalage was called for national duty - to play for Sri Lanka and made his debut ODI at Pallekele.

His father - Suranga Wellalage, captained Prince of Wales in 1991 and later turned out for Moratuwa SC, Sebastianites and Kurunegala YCC.

Going down memory lane on past Observer Schoolboy Cricketers, we find one of the rare Wesley cricketers who has made his school proud - Farveez Maharoof. He won the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award 2003 and also won the Best Batsman All-Island award.

The former Wesley star all-rounder has gone through a great cricket career. While playing for Wesley College, he captained the Sri Lanka Under-19 in the World Cup, opening the bowling and batting middle-order.

Mohamed Farveez Maharoof, born on September 7, 1984, in Colombo, made his first impression in the 2004 Under-19 World Cup, captaining the Sri Lankan team.

He enjoyed a prolific school career for Wesley College, with a highest score of 243 and best bowling figures of 8 for 20. An all-rounder, he made his Test debut in 2004. He has featured more frequently in ODIs and has played for Sri Lanka since 2004.

The Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest has produced a group of elite cricketers who have engraved their names in Sri Lanka cricket history in letters of gold. The first recipient of the coveted title, Ranjan Senerath Madugalle not only reached the pinnacle of his career as a cricketer but also progressed to captain Sri Lanka and also reached the very top as an official by becoming the Chief ICC Match Referee.

The contest, which began as an unofficial one in 1978, was made official the following year and is getting bigger and broader yearly as it has explored the talent in the rural areas which has given those cricketers the opportunities to be on par, or even become better than the players representing Colombo schools judging by the number of players emerging from the rural schools who have stamped their class as top players.

The 1978 Sunday Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of The Year Contest was a significant one, though it was held in the outstation and not counted in the series.

The contest was held at the Galle Esplanade for the first time with a view to promoting the game in the outstation. It was quite appropriate in having the show in Galle as the Outstation Schoolboy Cricketer of that year was Upul Sumathipala from Mahinda College, Galle.

Madugalle, now the ICC’s chief match referee and hailing from Royal College, Colombo won the 1978 contest and was also adjudged the winner in the following year (1979) from which the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year show formally started at Nawarangahala.

In both the years St. Sebastian’s College cricketer Roger Wijesuriya was the runner-up. Madugalle and Wijesuriya had prolific records representing their respective schools which resulted in them finding places in the Sri Lanka World Cup team in 1979 in England.

Madugalle who led an unbeaten Royal team, in addition to winning the main award (Schoolboy Cricketer), was also picked as the Best Captain and Best Batsman and runner-up in the Best Fielder category after a highly successful season.

A panel of umpires comprising Camillus Perera (Chairman), Vernon Tissera, Gilbert Perera, Allan Felsinger and KT Ponnabalam picked the winners at the Colombo Cricket Club (CCC) pavilion in 1978.

The shortlisted contestants for the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 1978 were Prasanna Amarasinghe (Ananda), Ranjan Madugalle (Royal), Shammy Rajendra (Wesley), Roger Wijesuriya (St.Sebastian’s) and Selvaraj Dinesh (Trinity).

Ananda captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who won the title after Madugalle in 1980, is another great Sri Lanka cricketer who steered the Sri Lanka national team to conquer cricket’s ‘Mount Everest’ in world cricket.

Ranatunga, who became the First Schoolboy Cricketer to win the Mega Award twice, captained Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning team in 1996.

The galaxy of stars who have illuminated Lankan cricket skies and most of them emerged through the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer contest include the world’s highest Test wicket taker Muttiah Muralitharan, the Most Valuable Player award winner in the 1996 World Cup tournament Sanath Jayasuriya (outstation title), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-national coach Marvan Atapattu (1990), former Sri Lanka captain and ex-ICC Match Referee Roshan Mahanama, former Sri Lanka player cum 1996 World Cup star Asanka Gurusinha, former Sri Lanka player turned ICC Elite Panel Umpire Kumara Dharmasena and ex Sri Lanka Test batsman Thilan Samaraweera (1994 and 1995).

Former captain Dinesh Chandimal (Ananda - 2009), Bhanuka Rajapakse (Royal – 2010 and 2011), Niroshan Dickwella, (Trinity – 2012), Kusal Mendis (Prince of Wales - 2013) and Charith Asalanka (Richmond – 2015 and 2016) are some of the recent past Observer SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketers winners who have sported the Sri Lankan cap.

Roshan Jurangpathy was the second Royalist to win the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title and play Test cricket after Madugalle.

As a teenager, Jurangpathy had shown great promise but the then selectors gave him only a couple of chances which was not fair considering his immense talent. Days before his 18th birthday, Jurangpathy became the youngest Sri Lankan player to score a first-class century.