Always with a big smile on his face, he hardly hits the headlines, he doesn’t look like he puts in any effort while bowling and of course teams don’t really plan for him with Rangana Herath around, but Mahawaduge Dilruwan Kamalaneth Perera has traumatized some top cricketing nations with his wily off-spin.
Sri Lanka annihilated South Africa by a massive 278 runs in the opening Test of their two-match series and there were no surprises as to who walked away with the Man of the Match award; Dimuth Karunaratne, for his magnificent batting in the match (158* & 60).
Dilruwan didn’t do much with the bat, but was outstanding with the ball, picking up 10 wickets in the match as the Proteas had no answer against his consistency and accuracy. Though his performance went almost unnoticed, he definitely is not an underachiever when he turns up for Sri Lanka in the longest format. His only other ten wicket haul also came at the same venue, against the Australians back in 2016.
When asked about how to bowl on the Galle surface, Dilruwan told ThePapare.com that “On this wicket I was trying to bowl a bit faster and get bounce. We were trying not to let the batsmen settle. You have to keep changing. Keep changing angles and Herath even changed ends. If the wicket is turning, I tend to change those angles.”
There is no mystery involved with Dilruwan’s bowling; which isn’t the most common thing when it comes to Sri Lankan spinners. But he has 119 scalps in 30 Tests; a staggering record considering he plays second fiddle to Herath.
It was not too long ago in the 2nd Test against West Indies that the selectors decided to drop him and play Akila Dananjaya, and at the age of 35 there were doubts as to if his career is coming to an end. He returned for the 3rd Test and picked up a wicket apiece in both innings on a fast bowler’s paradise, but more importantly showed his all-round skills. He made an unbeaten 11* in the 1st innings before putting on a match winning partnership of 63* with Kusal Perera in the 2nd, remaining unbeaten on 23* to help Sri Lanka square the series.
This wasn’t his only contribution with the bat for Sri Lanka. He had a memorable debut making 95 against a more than decent Pakistani attack in the UAE and has made five other half centuries since.
Dilruwan started off as an opener for Sri Lanka in white ball cricket with less success. But his fortunes changed rapidly as he focused more on his bowling at the Colts Cricket Club. He was always knocking on the door and pushing his case for selection when his breakthrough eventually came in 2014 to make a Test debut at the age of 32, which is quite late for a Sri Lankan cricketer – considering most of them decide to go overseas citing financial reasons.
Believe it or not; he is Sri Lanka’s all time 4th highest wicket taker in Test cricket at present. The three men ahead of him are considered legends in Sri Lankan cricket; Chaminda Vaas, Rangana Herath and of course the highest wicket taker of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan.
South Africa are probably having nightmares about Dilruwan ahead of the 2nd and final Test already, while the Englishmen who will tour Sri Lanka later this year, will give him plenty more respect for sure.
With Herath considering retirement after the England series, don’t be surprised if Dilruwan takes over the baton of carrying the Sri Lankan spin brigade forward in the years to come.