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Rediff.com  » Cricket » 'India's gain, Sri Lanka's loss': Meet Seneviratne - India's left-arm throwdown specialist

'India's gain, Sri Lanka's loss': Meet Seneviratne - India's left-arm throwdown specialist

Source: PTI
Last updated on: September 11, 2023 17:01 IST
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IMAGE: Nuwan’s journey to India’s nets hasn’t been an easy one. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nuwan Seneviratne/Facebook

As Rohit Sharma effortlessly flicked left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi for a six over backward square leg during the Asia Cup Super 4 match in Colombo, the cameras zoomed in on a person standing on the Indian dressing room balcony.

Even hardcore cricket buffs would have found it tough to identify him, or fathom why he was shown on TV.

Meet Nuwan Seneviratne, the left-arm throwdown specialist of the Indian team.

So how did Seneviratne, whose cricketing career ended in obscurity having played just two First-Class matches in Sri Lanka, became a prominent part of the Indian cricket team?

 

The answer is quite simple. Senior India batters Rohit and Virat Kohli believe that Seneviratne's ability to generate extreme pace and acute angles with his left-arm throwdowns helps them tackle left-arm pacers better in a match situation.

IMAGE: Nuwan caught Virat Kohli’s eye in 2017. Photograph: BCCI

But the journey of Seneviratne was not so simple. There was a time when he did not know about his future, and tried to earn his livelihood as a school van driver in Colombo.

In his free time, Seneviratne came back to his old club -- the Nondescripts Cricket Club, Maitland.

During one of the trips to the NCC in 2015, he met former Sri Lankan batsman Charith Senanayake and his life turned the curve for the better.

“Nuwan is a hard-working boy from a humble background, and I saw him first when he was assisting the Sri Lanka ‘A' side with their fielding drills.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Nuwan Seneviratne/Facebook

“He was doing some bowling and throwdowns to them, and I was immediately impressed with his skills and work ethics. He was first to enter the field and last to leave,” Senanayake, who was the team's manager then, told PTI.

He said Seneviratne's ability to trouble batters with pace at nets caught his eye.

“He was excellent with throwdowns, especially while recreating the angles of a left-arm pacer at nets. It helped our batsmen, especially (Danushka) Gunathilaka, a lot in the subsequent ‘A' tours,” said Senanayake.

“I thought this boy should be helped not just to earn his livelihood but he has genuine skill, so I recommended him to Roy (Dias), and he was glad to take him on board,” said Senanayake.

Dias, a former stylish Lankan batsman, accommodated Seneviratne in the support staff of Sri Lanka ‘A' team in 2016 that toured India.

Seneviratne then returned to the senior team later that year to help them on the tour to England.

“I had recommended him to then Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford, who then watched him at the nets. Ford was immediately impressed with the brutal force Bavuwa (pet name of Seneviratne) generated against players like Dimuth (Karunaratne) and Angelo (Mathews).

Photograph: Kind courtesy Nuwan Seneviratne/Facebook

“Ford then rather jokingly asked me: ‘Is he a human?' He had no hesitation to take him with the team to England,” said Senanayake, who accompanied the team on that tour as manager.

But fate had something bigger in store for Seneviratne. Under no regular contract with the Sri Lanka side, he was called to assist the Indian team at nets on its tour to these shores in 2017.

“At nets, Bavuwa hit Kohli on the body and also troubled him a bit with his pace and angles.

“After the training, the Indian team manager approached me and asked for details about the local throwdown specialist,” said Senanayake.

A brief interview followed, and after a few months Seneviratne was on a flight to India to be the team's left-arm throwdown specialist.

Photograph: BCCI

“Bavuwa called me and said: ‘Sir, I am going to India to be with their cricket team.' I was so happy, as finally he found the recognition that he deserves.

“People often only sees his success. But he worked hard at nets to improve his skillsets, and spent countless hours at gym to strengthen his throwing arm.

“I think that work ethic and dedication to his job impressed Kohli and the India management,” said Senanayake.

Seneviratne can have a smile of satisfaction when Indian batsmen nullify the threat of a left-arm pacer.

“I told Bavuwa that India's gain is Sri Lanka's loss. He just laughs,” Senanayake chuckled.

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