Dinesh Chandimal has earned quite a reputation and is spoken of highly in discussions about the next generation of Sri Lankan players. A highly talented top-order batsman and wicketkeeper, Chandimal rose into prominence with a string of impressive performances on the local school cricket circuit. Since then he has hardly looked back, having a consistent run with Ananda College, being elevated to Sri Lanka's Under-19 vice-captaincy, and turning out for an SLC Development XI and Sri Lanka A - all before playing his first club match.
Coming from the small coastal town of Ambalangoda to Colombo was a necessary and seminal move forward in Chandimal s career. Chandimal s family, victims of the tsunami in 2004, could not sustain his sporting ambitions. He did not belong to a prosperous cricketing school. He had been rejected by Dharmasoka College s Under-13 team due to an unorthodox bowling action. But he worked hard, kept his spirits high, churned out runs, and his fortunes took an upswing when he was drafted down from Dharmasoka in Ambalangoda to Ananda College for the 2006-07 season.
Suddenly he was in the city, at a prestigious Buddhist college with a rich history of churning out international cricketers: Arjuna Ranatunga; Siddath Wettimuny; Brendon Kuruppu; Marvan Atapattu; Thilan Samaraweera are just some of the names to have come out of Ananda. It was a big move for me, coming from the outside, says Chandimal, And I was determined to do well.
He immediately left a mark, starting off with a double hundred in a limited-overs fixture, and then churning out runs in a two-day tournament. Chandimal s heavy contribution with the bat carried Ananda s fortunes all season. He lists the achievements bestowed upon him like a ticker tape reel: I was awarded Schoolboy Cricketer, Best Batsman, Best Fielder, Best Captain I really enjoyed myself at Ananda College.
And then came the Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia, where he first came under the international radar. With matches being televised around the world, Chandimal felt that would be a big chance to showcase his ability, but instead he ran into a bad phase. I didn t score too many runs there, which was disappointing, but the chance to be at that level was exciting, he says. There was the match against Australia in which I didn t get to do much with the bat, but I took seven dismissals while keeping wickets and that helped us win, and I was adjudged the Man of the Match. It was a very special day. I felt I had achieved something.
But the biggest opportunity, says Chandimal, was the practice match against the touring New Zealanders in August. Having walked in during the third over, Chandimal soaked up the pressure for a 234-ball 109, adding 127 for the sixth wicket with Dammika Prasad to take the SLC Development XI into the lead.
Playing with international players, especially some very good bowlers, was a good chance for me, he says. There was pressure on me but you need to have it to play well. That century was slow, something I am not naturally prone to doing, but such was the situation. I looked at that match as a stepping stone to bigger things. I had of course watched many of those New Zealanders play on television, then in the nets. It was a big match for me.
That match was just his second first-class match, his debut coming in the first match against the New Zealanders a week earlier, and his first innings yielded a score of 64. He has joined the Nondescripts Cricket Club, another big step forward in his fledgling career. Chandimal s heroes are Romesh Kaluwitharana and Kumar Sangakkara, with whom he had the chance to speak and ask questions about the trade they share in common wicketkeeping. Sangakkara told me I could come over to join NCC whenever I felt, he says. That felt good. He said just some and join us, nobody will ask any questions. He said I am a good talent and that I should make contacts here at NCC. I am looking forward to scoring runs even more now.