Frank Dimuth Madushanka Karunaratne, widely known as Dimuth Karunaratne, stands as a prominent figure in the world of professional cricket, representing Sri Lanka as the captain of the Sri Lanka Test cricket team, and having formerly led the team in ODIs. His reputation as one of the finest Test openers globally is well-deserved, and he holds a pivotal role as an opening batter for Sri Lanka in both Test cricket and ODIs. His association with the Sinhalese Sports Club in first-class cricket further solidifies his status as a cricketing stalwart.
Dimuth Karunaratne’s journey to cricketing stardom began with his prowess in the second innings of Test matches, earning him the title of a second-innings specialist in the eyes of many cricket pundits. Out of the six centuries he has scored until October 2017, an impressive four have been achieved in the second innings, a testament to his exceptional skills under pressure. In October 2017, Karunaratne etched his name in history by becoming the second Sri Lankan opener, following Tillakaratne Dilshan, to notch up three Test centuries in a single calendar year.
His ascendancy continued, and in February 2019, he was entrusted with the captaincy of Sri Lanka’s Test squad for their series against South Africa, marking a significant milestone in his career. In April 2019, he took on additional responsibilities as he was appointed the One Day International (ODI) captain for the Sri Lankan team ahead of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, succeeding Lasith Malinga. Notably, he became only the second batsman, after Ridley Jacobs, to carry his bat in a Cricket World Cup.
Karunaratne’s roots in the sport trace back to his time at St Joseph’s College Colombo, an institution known for producing several notable Sri Lankan Test cricketers. His breakthrough came when he earned a place in Sri Lanka’s senior ODI team, making appearances in matches against England and Scotland in 2011. Subsequently, he was part of Sri Lanka’s Test squad for their tour of South Africa at the close of 2011, setting the stage for his Test career.
In March 2018, he assumed the role of captain for Dambulla’s squad in the 2017–18 Super Four Provincial Tournament. His leadership abilities were once again acknowledged in the following month when he was named in Dambulla’s squad for the 2018 Super Provincial One Day Tournament.
August 2018 saw Karunaratne’s appointment as the vice-captain of Galle’s squad for the 2018 SLC T20 League, further underlining his versatility as a cricketer. The year 2019 brought a new chapter in his career when he joined Hampshire County Cricket Club as their overseas player for the first half of the season.
March 25, 2021, witnessed a significant milestone in Karunaratne’s career as he scored his 44th First Class Century during the National Super Provincial 4-Day Tournament. His remarkable unbeaten innings of 125 runs, punctuated by 15 boundaries and one six, played a pivotal role in securing an eight-wicket victory for the Colombo team, successfully chasing down a target of 218 runs.
Karunaratne’s international career has been dotted with highs and lows. He made his Test debut against New Zealand in 2012, and although he encountered initial struggles, he gradually made a name for himself. His first Test century arrived against New Zealand in December 2014 when he scored 152 runs, demonstrating his ability to perform under pressure.
Despite a promising start, Karunaratne faced setbacks, including missing out on the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup due to injury. Nevertheless, he bounced back and earned his second Test century against Pakistan, scoring 133 runs in the third match of the series.
He further solidified his place as a consistent Test opener with notable performances, including his highest score of 186 runs against West Indies in 2015, and impressive displays against Australia, albeit with mixed results.
Karunaratne’s career continued to gain momentum, with consistent performances making him a permanent fixture in the Sri Lankan Test squad. His maiden Test century against Zimbabwe in 2016, along with strong contributions in other matches, earned him the Player of the Series award.
In 2017, Karunaratne became the first Sri Lankan to score 50, 100, and 150 in a day-night Test, underlining his adaptability to different conditions. His performances earned him the Player of the Match and Player of the Series titles.
Karunaratne’s impressive run continued in 2017, as he achieved the milestone of 1,000 Test runs in a calendar year. He was the second batsman to reach this feat in 2017, solidifying his reputation as one of the top openers.
In May 2018, he was awarded a national contract by Sri Lanka Cricket, signifying his status as a key player in the team. He continued to deliver consistently, including his exceptional unbeaten 158 runs during his 50th Test match.
In 2019, Karunaratne took on the role of Test captain for Sri Lanka, leading the team to a memorable win against South Africa. His leadership was marked by an unfortunate DRS timing error that sparked debate during the series.
Karunaratne also captained Sri Lanka in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, where he showcased his batting prowess, including his maiden ODI half-century against Scotland.
During the tournament, he achieved the distinction of becoming the second cricketer to carry his bat in a World Cup match. Sri Lanka finished the World Cup in sixth place.
In August 2019, Karunaratne led Sri Lanka to a historic Test victory against New Zealand, successfully chasing down a target of 267 runs, marking a significant achievement for Sri Lankan cricket.
In 2020, Karunaratne continued to excel, leading Sri Lanka to an ODI whitewash against West Indies. This success was followed by further Test performances, including his 10th Test century in early 2021.
Karunaratne’s captaincy was marked by a challenging moment when he suffered a blow to the back of the neck from a Pat Cummins bouncer during a Test match in Australia. Despite the injury, he displayed resilience by returning to bat.
Under Karunaratne’s captaincy, Sri Lanka achieved several milestones, including their first-ever Test series win in South Africa, marking a historic moment for Asian cricket.
In March 2021, Karunaratne reached his 22nd Test half-century, highlighting his consistency as a top-order batsman. His performance in the series against India in 2021 earned him a nomination for the ICC’s Test Cricketer of the Year award.
Karunaratne’s career continued to flourish in 2022, with standout performances against Australia, India, and Bangladesh. Notably, he played a key role in Sri Lanka’s first-ever innings victory against Australia.
In July 2022, he reached the milestone of 6,000 Test runs and led Sri Lanka to victory against Pakistan. Karunaratne’s exceptional form earned him a place in Wisden’s World Test Championship XI for 2021-2023.
In April 2023, during a Test match against Ireland, Karunaratne scored his 15th Test century, becoming the first Sri Lankan to achieve this feat against Ireland. His remarkable innings played a vital role in Sri Lanka’s victory by an innings and 280 runs.
During his career, Karunaratne also showcased his skills in ODIs. He was recalled to Sri Lanka’s ODI squad after more than two years and performed consistently against Afghanistan.
In June 2023, Karunaratne scored his maiden ODI century against Ireland, further emphasizing his versatility as a cricketer.
Karunaratne’s remarkable journey in cricket, characterized by unwavering determination and consistent performances, has solidified his place as one of Sri Lanka’s cricketing legends. His contributions to both Test and ODI formats, as a dependable opener and a capable leader, continue to be celebrated by cricket enthusiasts around the world.