New Delhi: Son of a carpenter, life was never easy for Sri Lanka’s spin sensation Akila Dananjaya, who is the latest from Sri Lanka’s stable of mystery spinners. He has been one of the bright spots in the national team over the past couple of years when Sri Lankan cricket has been on bit of a decline.
He came to prominence after a breathtaking spell against India, when he dismantled the famed batting line-up, picking up 6-54 in Pallekele. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Axar Patel were among the victims with no one being able to read him.
MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar later on helped India win the game, but Dananjaya’s performance didn’t go unnoticed as he became the only Sri Lankan to be bought in the auction, when Mumbai Indians picked him for Rs 50 lakh.
There, he is reunited with Mahela Jayawardene – the former Sri Lankan skipper who played a big role in Dananjaya’s rise.
He made his debut in the 2012 T20 World Cup, under Jayawardene, at the age of 18 without playing much first class cricket.
A lot of controversy was created and accusations were thrown at him that he had used money power and political influence to get into the team.
The 24-year-old had only played tier-three school cricket for Mahanama Vidyalaya when he was called up to bowl in the nets for Sri Lanka ahead of Pakistan tour in 2011.
There, Jayawardene and then coach Graham Ford were left stunned by what they saw. He had seven variations and could bowl the leg- spinner, googly, doosra and the off-spinner.
His first professional match was for Wayamba United in the Sri Lanka Premier League, where he played under Jayawardene’s captaincy.
Wayamba’s coach Trevor Bayliss was mighty impressed by what he saw. “What’s been really good to see is his temperament, for a guy who hasn’t played at this level before. The control with which he bowls his various deliveries is impressive, but he’s also shown a lot of poise at the big moments, and a tendency to ignore what’s going on around him and do what he does,” he was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
“The challenge for him will come when batsmen get a better look at him and begin to work him out,” Bayliss added.
“But he has the basics there to make him a good bowler regardless, and maybe in future his focus might be on the more orthodox aspects of spin bowling.”
In 19 ODIs so far for Sri Lanka, he has picked up 21 wickets at an economy of just below 5. His T20I record isn’t the most impressive as he has 12 wickets in 15 games at an economy of just below 8.
Dananjaya didn’t have the best of debuts in the IPL, where he ended with figures of 0/47 in 4 overs but this will surely be a learning curve for him.
You can’t help but feel that this is only the beginning of the Dananjaya story!