‘I was a kid, no one knew me. Dhoni trained me, taught me how to play T20 cricket’: A Rising pacer
Matheesha Pathiranawas was 19 years old when the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) signed him to replace injured New Zealand bowler Adam Milne in the IPL 2022.
The young Sri Lankan right-arm bowler had not even played first-class cricket at the time. But MS Dhoni recognised something special in the teenager who had turned heads at the U19 World Cup in South Africa a couple of years back.
In a match against the Gujarat Titans, he gave him the CSK cap. Pahirana, whose bowling movement is uncannily similar to that of the renowned Lasith Malinga, took two wickets but CSK lost the match. The right-arm pacer only played one more match that year, but he was an important cog in CSK's wheel in the next season.
Pathirana was deployed as a death-over specialist by Dhoni in IPL 2023, and the young guy from Kandy delivered more often than not. Pathirana took 19 wickets in the 12 matches he played in this year's IPL, and with most of his overs coming in the latter half of the innings, his economy rate of 8.01 was also rather impressive.
Pathirana has steadily risen since then. He made his ODI and T20I debuts and performed admirably. The 'baby Malinga' is now playing in the Lanka Premier League for the Colombo Strikers, where he has 12 wickets in 8 games. Pathirana reflected on his time with Dhoni and stated it was a valuable learning experience for him.
"As a young person, it helps your career if someone gives you confidence like that." A player of that calibre trusted in me, and I believed I could achieve anything at the time. Dhoni instilled confidence in all of us, not just me. There were 4-5 key players injured, and he showed great faith in the youth," Pathirana stated.
'I learned a lot from Dhoni,' Pathirana says.
Dhoni, according to the 20-year-old, encouraged him to focus on his fitness if he wanted to achieve more for his side. "Dhoni taught me a lot." The first is humility, which is why he is so successful. He is 42 years old and yet the fittest cricketer, which is truly inspirational.
I was a kid when I went there, and no one knew who I was, but they trained and taught me a lot. Now I know how to play any T20 game and balance my four overs in a match. Dhoni told me that if I keep my body well, I can accomplish a lot for the team and the country."
The bowler is also influenced by another sports celebrity, Cristiano Ronaldo. "We all know Cristiano Ronaldo, and I am a fan of the footballer," he said. So I was inspired by his unique celebration and am now participating in it as well.
Pathirana also spoke about meeting Lasith Malinga, one of his idols, for the first time. "I'm always trying to improve my action and bowling." Malinga was overjoyed when he saw me because he recognised someone who resembled him."
Colombo Strikers is led by Niroshan Dickwella, while the other LPL teams are Dambulla Aura led by Kusal Mendis, Galle Titans led by Dasun Shanaka, B-Love Kandy led by Wanindu Hasaranga, and Jaffna Kings led by veteran Sri Lankan allrounder Thisara Perera.