A journeyman Sri Lankan who was playing club cricket in suburban Melbourne only 18 months ago has been signed by Big Bash battlers Melbourne Renegades for the forthcoming season.
Ruwantha Kellapotha has capped an unlikely ascension from the Dandenong District Cricket Association, the competition he played eight seasons in before joining Premier Cricket outfit Casey-South Melbourne last summer, to a Big Bash deal.
The 31-year-old has played in Australia for nearly a decade but has been signed as an overseas player having played 20 first-class games in Sri Lanka, the last coming in 2013.
A leg-spinning allrounder, Kellapotha proved a hit in his first season of Premier Cricket, topping the competition’s wicket tally with 37 scalps at 15.6 to fire Casey to a grand final appearance in March.
Cricket Victoria had already shown it was keeping a close eye on him, picking him to play at the MCG in a domestic second XI four-day game in November despite him having featured in just a single Premier match to that point.
The Kandy-born spinner then clinched a spot with the ‘Gades after impressing in last month’s Top End T20 series in Darwin.
“My journey to here has been a bit different,” Kellapotha said. “I played first-class cricket back in Sri Lanka, came to Melbourne in 2013 to play local cricket and then last year went to Premier Cricket.
“I’d achieved what I wanted to achieve in local cricket, so I wanted to see what I could do in Premier Cricket. Now I want to see what I can do at the highest level.
“I really appreciate this opportunity the Renegades have given me to be involved this year. It is a huge privilege and something I do not take lightly.
“This is going to be a great experience for me, playing with and against some of the best players in the world. I want to be a team player and whatever my team needs, I’ll give it 100 per cent.”
The inaugural BBL overseas player draft was held last month, but the Renegades were able to sign Kellapotha as an overseas replacement player.
The Renegades, who have finished bottom of the BBL standings for the past three seasons, had the No.1 pick and took English power hitter Liam Livingstone.
Spinners Mujeeb ur Rahman and Akeal Hossain were their other selections in the draft.
All three of those players will depart in January for rival T20 leagues – Mujeeb and Hosein to the UAE, Livingstone to South Africa – which could open the door for Kellapotha to debut.
The Renegades have flagged further additions to their list of overseas players.
“We were impressed by what we saw from Ruwantha up in Darwin as part of the Renegades Academy and his performances in Premier Cricket last year showed he can match it with Victoria’s best,” Renegades general manager James Rosengarten said.
“He’s had a unique cricketing journey to get to this level. We’re confident he can come in and have an impact for us this season.
“We’ve got multiple overseas replacement player spots to work with to complement the players we selected in the Draft and their availability, and will announce some more additions in the lead-up to BBL|12.”
The Renegades also have a further three spots for local players on their roster for BBL12.
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