For a player whom it was a guessing game of playing for his country, today, Dimuth Karunaratne finds the world before his feet. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s 2016 Man of the Test Series versus England for whom realizing his dream of playing for Sri Lanka once upon a time looked so remote is all smiles. At 28 years, Frank Dimuth Madushanka Karunaratne finds himself manning the batting of Sri Lanka’s Test team. A tally of 1751 runs from 28 matches and 54 innings with a highest of 186 and modest average of 34.33 for an opening batsman are his Test match credentials since debuting against England in 2012. As Dimuth recalls, “I thought my dream of playing for Sri Lanka was over because it was so tough getting in to the national Test team. Competition was so stiff. I was a wicket-keeper batsman and some years ago Prasanna Jayawardena was firmly insulated as the No.1 keeper in the side.”
The rest is history. In 2012 an injury to Jayawardena saw Dimuth get a call up. “It came at a time I least expected. My debut innings was a duck, but then I stroked a solid unbeaten 60 second time around to give Sri Lanka a 10-wicket triumph over New Zealand at home,” he recalls. That was a memorable start to Karunaratne’s career. Sri Lanka went on to win the series 2-nil. Interestingly, for a player whose career has made a mark through batting, the former St. Joseph’s College, Colombo product flaunted his career as a bowler. “It was at Asoka Vidyalaya where I first schooled that I started my cricket career as a fast bowler. It was after I joined St. Joseph’s that my coach told me to concentrate on my batting. It proved to be eventful, the turning point in my career,” he says.
Dimuth reminisces that ‘I did not come from a rich family as such. My father was employed in the State transport sector and did not draw a big salary, but supported my cricket journey. It was just a 2 kilo meter walk for me to school home being close by.
What do you consider your best Test knock?
“My 189 against the West Indies in 2015. It was a concentrated knock,” he chips going on to touch on his early days. Like most youngsters Dimuth loved playing softball cricket with ‘my friends.’ It was common habit to cut school classes and play softball cricket. It was fun and great cutting classes and playing with my schoolmates.’
“Our cricket escapades used to end in the night. I got caught a couple of times cutting school, and my mom was informed by the school authorities. Of course, mom knew me very well,that my first love was to play cricket,” he goes on.
Any role models?
“Yes, Aravinda de Silva and Kumar Sangakkara. I used to love to watch Aravinda. He was so meticulous in his stroke play. I admired Sangakkara for the tremendous game plan he put in to his batting. ”
Karunaratne regards South Africa’s Greame Smith and Australia’s Mike Hussey as exemplary overseas players. He remembers running out Hussey in his last match for Australia in Sydney in 2012. “It was poignant for me because I ran out a batsman I looked upon as a star. At the same time, the run out was something to be cherished.”
He makes out that ‘I’ve worked tremendously on concentration at the crease and translating the fifties into bigger scores. I see the responsibility as a team man where temperament becomes so essential in a sport no quarter is given or taken.’
Teaming up with Kaushal Silva upfront its a twosome copybook specialist openers in several decades for Sri Lanka where the new dimension of pinch hitting created by Sri Lanka in world cricket saw pinch hitters man the positions effectively?
“Yeah, it’s nice to give good starts needed for the team and look forward to continuing in a good vein.”
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-