Left-arm spinner Sri Lanka Dunith Wellalage produced a magical spell against India in the Super 4 clash in Asia Cup 2023. The young spinner spun his web around the star-studded India’s batting line-up and claimed a fifer to put the visitors on the mat. Wellalage was too good with the ball and dismantled the Indian batting order on his own. Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka spin trio of Wellalage, Charith Asalanka, and Maheesh Theekshana took all the 10 wickets as India lost all 10 wickets to spinners for the first time in ODIs. Also, it was the 14th match in a row where Sri Lanka bowled out their opposition in a 50-over format.
WHO IS DUNITH WELLALAGE?
The 20-year-old was born in Colombo and completed his education from St. Joseph’s College in the same city. He made his List A debut for Lankan Cricket Club in the 2019–20 Invitation Limited Over Tournament. He impressed the SLC selectors with his impressive performances and was named the skipper of Sri Lanka U-19 team for the 2022 Under-19 World Cup.
Wellalage first made waves as a 13-year-old, when an impressive showing as a spinner for his school St. Sebastian’s helped him earn a place in the under-15 team. He represented the under-15 Division 1 team for three years and helped St. Sebastian’s reach the finals on two consecutive years, in 2015 and 2016. Though his team ended as runners-up on both occasions, he was named the best bowler of the tournament in both years and was also appointed as the Sri Lanka U15 captain.
He moved to St Joseph’s in 2017, where he not only sharpened his bowling skills but also blossomed as a batter. His biggest contribution with the bat was in January 2018, when he made 85 runs against his former school.
In 2017-18, Wellalage also ended as the top wicket-taker for St. Joseph’s, picking up 72 wickets in 18 games. The following season, his batting overshadowed his bowling, ending with over 700 runs in 15 games, with a top score of 197 (in 179 balls). He also picked up 50 wickets and was given a call-up to the under-19 team for the home series against Bangladesh.
However, Wellalage declined, in order to concentrate on his education. He finally made his youth Test debut in July 2018.
He made a statement during the junior ICC showpiece event with both bat and the ball as he claimed 17 wickets and finished the tournament as the highest wicket-taker. Meanwhile, he also shone with the bat and was the highest scorer for Sri Lanka with 264 runs in 6 matches.
Wellalage made his ODI debut last year against Australia and he took the big wicket of Steve Smith to open his account. He finished the match with 2/49.
He also registered his name for the 2023 IPL auction last December but failed to find any buyer and went unsold. However, he plays in the Lanka Premier League for Jaffna Kings. The left-arm spinner was also part of Lanka’s squad for India tour earlier this year but remained wicketless in the three-match ODI series.
The 20-year-old started with a wicket of Shubman Gill (19) and then went on to take big wickets of Virat Kohli (3), Rohit Sharma (53), KL Rahul (39) and Hardik Pandya (4). The Indian batters failed to read him and lost their wickets at regular intervals against him.
Wellalage has played 13 ODIs thus far in his career and claimed 18 scalps. He scored 33 runs with the bat in the limited opportunities he got. Meanwhile, he played just 1 Test so far and remained wicketless in that but scored 18 runs.
However, Wellalage continues to shine in the ODI format, already taking 10 wickets in four games in the ongoing Asia Cup, picking up his career-best figures against India. He also has three 30-plus scores in nine innings with the bat and seems to be destined for greater things. He will be one of the players to watch at this year’s World Cup in India.