Maheesh Theekshana: Sri Lanka’s Cricket Prodigy

Morawakage Maheesh Theekshana, born on August 1, 2000, has taken the cricketing world by storm with his exceptional talent. This young cricketer from Sri Lanka has rapidly risen through the ranks to become a vital asset to the Sri Lanka national cricket team. From his early days playing school cricket to achieving success in domestic and international cricket, Theekshana’s journey is nothing short of inspiring.

Early Life and Schooling

Hailing from Siddhartha Vidyalaya, Sedawatta, Theekshana’s cricketing journey began to flourish when two former students of St. Benedict’s College, Colombo, recognized his potential. They persuaded Theekshana’s guardian to relocate him to Kotahena, enabling him to represent St. Benedict’s College in school cricket. The school’s Cricket Wing took charge of his financial support during his initial years, and he later earned a scholarship from St. Benedict’s College.

Theekshana repaid the faith shown in him by winning the coveted All Island Best All Rounder Award during his final year at St. Benedict’s College—a testament to his burgeoning cricketing skills.

Military Career and Transformation

Theekshana’s journey took a unique turn when he joined the Sri Lanka Army, embarking on a parallel career path as a cricketer and a soldier. Initially serving as a Private in the Gajaba Regiment, he soon found himself donning the Sri Lanka Army cricket team’s uniform. His journey to becoming a cricketer of international repute was further shaped by his military career.

Following the Asia Cup Championship in 2022, Theekshana was promoted to the rank of Sergeant—a recognition of his outstanding contributions on the cricket field.

Domestic and T20 Franchise Success

Theekshana’s prowess as a spinner did not go unnoticed. He was called for trials by the National Cricket Academy at R. Premadasa Stadium, where he impressed the spin bowling coaches and the director of cricket, Simon Willis. His control, accuracy, variations, and a bowling action reminiscent of Ajantha Mendis caught the eye of cricketing experts.

Despite his bowling talent, Theekshana faced challenges related to his body weight and fitness. At one point, he weighed 105 kilograms and struggled to pass fitness tests. These challenges even led to his omission from the Sri Lankan U-19 squad for the 2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup. Reports indicate that his weight exceeded 117 kilograms during his U-19 days.

However, Theekshana’s determination to pursue his cricketing ambitions led to a remarkable transformation. Joining the Sri Lanka Army in 2020, he committed to strict dietary regimes and fitness regimens. By 2020, he had shed 22 kilograms and improved his fitness levels significantly. His two-kilometer run time dropped below 10 minutes, and he enhanced his YOYO test performance from 16.1 to 19.2.

Ajantha Mendis, his first coach at Sri Lanka Army, played a pivotal role in shaping his cricketing journey. Theekshana’s impressive performances at the 2020 Army Commander’s Cup drew attention, eventually leading to his inclusion in the 2020 Lanka Premier League (LPL). Initially placed in the supplementary category, he was promoted to the emerging category in the Jaffna Stallions squad for the 2020 LPL season upon the recommendation of Thisara Perera.

His journey continued as he joined the SLC Blues team for the 2021 SLC Invitational T20 League. In November 2021, Theekshana was chosen to represent the Jaffna Kings in the 2021 Lanka Premier League, ending the tournament as the highest wicket-taker—an impressive feat.

The year 2022 marked a significant milestone when he was picked up by the Chennai Super Kings in the auction for the 2022 Indian Premier League (IPL). During the 2022 IPL edition, Theekshana created history by becoming the youngest bowler to take a four-wicket haul in an IPL match at the age of 21 years and 255 days, surpassing Rohit Sharma’s record. His exceptional talent drew attention in the cricketing world.

Theekshana’s success transcended national borders as he was signed by the Jaffna Kings for the third edition of the Lanka Premier League in July 2022. Subsequently, he joined the Trinbago Knight Riders for the 2022 Caribbean Premier League, further enhancing his reputation as a sought-after T20 talent.

International Stardom

Theekshana’s performances in the SLC Invitational T20 league earned him a place in Sri Lanka’s One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) squads for their series against South Africa. He made his ODI debut on September 7, 2021, against South Africa, making an immediate impact by taking a wicket with his very first ball in ODI cricket. He continued to excel, claiming four wickets for 37 runs and contributing to Sri Lanka’s series victory.

Notably, Theekshana became the first Sri Lankan international cricketer born in the 21st century—a testament to his youth and potential.

His T20I debut followed shortly after on September 10, 2021, also against South Africa. Theekshana’s impressive performances earned him a place in Sri Lanka’s squad for the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. He ended the tournament as the second-highest wicket-taker for Sri Lanka, underlining his significance to the team.

In June 2022, Theekshana reached a career-high eighth ranking in ICC Men’s T20I Player Rankings for bowlers, reaffirming his status as a premier spin bowler in the shortest format of the game.

July 2022 brought another exciting opportunity as he was added to Sri Lanka’s Test squad for the second match against Australia. Making his Test debut on July 8, 2022, against Australia, Theekshana showcased his versatility and adaptability to different formats of the game.

International Success and Controversy

In August 2022, Theekshana was included in Sri Lanka’s squad for the 2022 Asia Cup. Alongside Wanindu Hasaranga, he played a pivotal role in the spin bowling department, contributing to Sri Lanka’s victory in the tournament. Theekshana’s consistent wicket-taking ability and economical bowling proved invaluable.

Despite his cricketing success, his association with the Sri Lankan army led to controversy when the Chennai Super Kings acquired him during the 2022 IPL auction. Some fans expressed their concerns, trending hashtags such as #Boycott_ChennaiSuperKings and #DontNormalizeTamilGenocide on social media platforms. Theekshana’s involvement in the military raised debates and discussions among cricket enthusiasts.

In conclusion, Morawakage Maheesh Theekshana’s cricketing journey is one of dedication, transformation, and exceptional talent. From his early days as a promising spinner to becoming a vital asset to the Sri Lankan national team and earning recognition in T20 franchise leagues worldwide, Theekshana’s story is an inspiration to aspiring cricketers. His success, combined with his association with the military, has made him a notable figure in Sri Lankan cricket, sparking conversations beyond the boundary ropes.

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