Dunith Wellalage, a rare breed in school cricket | Sunday Observer

Dunith Wellalage, a rare breed in school cricket

8 January, 2023
Dunith Wellalage
Dunith Wellalage

Promising young cricketer cum all rounder Dunith Wellalage seems to be the next rich contribution to Sri Lanka cricket from St. Joseph’s College, Colombo after former Sri Lanka cricket captains Angelo Mathews, Dimuth Karunaratne and Thisara Perera.

Dunith emerged Observer-SLT Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year 2022 and also 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-year-old schoolboy.

Prior to making his Test debut for Sri Lanka in July last year, young Dunith captained the Sri Lanka Under-19 team with distinction.

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, Dunith is widely considered as future Sri Lanka captain material though he has only played in a solitary Test. But he has already proved his credentials at Sri Lanka Under-19 Junior 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 took 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 grounds.

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 the cricket team of Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa in 1991.

Cricket is more than a game for Dunith Wellalage; it is a passion and a passionate pastime in his life. He still cherishes the lessons he learned as an outstanding cricket captain for his alma mater, St. Joseph’s College, Maradana.

Perhaps cricket was the reason for his enormous popularity in his birth country of Sri Lanka.

He recalls how a successful cricket career can help build one’s character.

Dunith definitely believes in teamwork. It should be one of the most important lessons that his favourite sport, cricket, has taught him over the years.

Sports has assisted him in the development of skills such as leadership, teamwork, character development, delegation, determination, and trust in his teammates.

School, like many others, was the best time in Dunith’s life. He will undoubtedly owe everything to St. Joseph’s. Actually, it is more than a school; it is an institution that cultivates students’ characters with dignity and honesty.

Under his captaincy, after winning the previous game, they were defeated by his old school, St. Sebastian College Moratuwa, in St. Joseph’s home ground at Darley Road.

This loss would have caused him mental agony, which he might have experienced. In any case, it would have motivated him to return and win the Cup for St. Joseph’s because he finally led his school to defeat the favorites, Royal College, in the finals of the inter-school limited-overs championship at NCC grounds. Under his own captaincy, it had to be one of Dunith’s best moments in his school cricket career.

In an interview with the media, Dunith’s father, Suranga Wellalage, stated, “My son has always been devoted to cricket.” His ambition is to play for the National Team, but we didn’t think he’d be able to do so at this early stage and at such a young age.

Dunith had followed my footsteps. He’s my eldest son, and he’s never been forced to play cricket. This is his choice, and he enjoys playing cricket.

“We were overjoyed as parents to see Dunith play his first ODI for Sri Lanka; it was a childhood dream come true. Dunith had the same dream, and we were all very happy and enjoyed his first ODI at Pallekele against Australia.

“My family and I went to the Pallekele debut game, which was a fantastic experience. My son got a happy and morale-boosting boost from Australia’s most experienced cricketer, former captain Steve Smith, when he received his median ODI wicket,” Suranga said.

Dunith started his cricket career at St. Sebastian’s Moratuwa before coming to St. Joseph’s College for the sole purpose of playing cricket.

“I believe we must exercise extreme caution when selecting a school for young cricketers. We all respect and appreciate the quality instructions provided by Dunith’s schools, teachers, and coaches.

“As parents, I believe we should guide our children, but coaches have a greater responsibility to use their services to develop players. We do not participate in the coach’s activities, but we do keep track of our son’s performance on the field. We never persuaded anyone or the media to support my son,” said Suranga.