South Asian silver medallist Nalin Priyadarshana tries out his cricket skills
When Nalin Priyadarshana, a South Asian Games high jump silver medallist, left for United States three years ago to further his athletic career, he never thought of playing professional cricket in the United States, even though he was a good soft-ball player. But today, he is in Sri Lanka, bowling his right arm fast balls to Sri Lanka’s cricketing great Sanath Jayasuriya in nets, in an attempt to convince the cricket hierarchy of his new found flair.
Facilitated by high jump great Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam, Nalin arrived here a fortnight ago on an invitation extended by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) CEO Duleep Mendis, to get first class coaching experience with the SLC’s fast bowling academy.
“It’s quite a feeling to be among some of the best bowlers in Sri Lanka and to bowl to an icon like Sanath Jayasuriya,” Priyadarshana says of his newest experience.
Though the lanky high jumper has played tennis ball cricket right through his life, just as any boy would do in Sri Lanka, he had never played hard ball cricket until last year when he was asked to represent Victoria Cricket Club by a club official having seen him playing tennis-ball cricket at a park in Arcadia.
Twenty-five year old Nalin is a high jump coach at East Los Angeles Community College where he is also studying physical education and will be going back to USA in August to continue his studies and work if his cricketing aspiration in Sri Lanka does not materialize.
“It gave me a new hope and I am here now working with the specialized coaches to see where I stand,” he said.
Nalin never had professional coaching of any sort, even though Ethirveerasingam has undertaken that responsibility lately to help him unearth his hidden talent in cricket while in the United States, but having realized that the youngster has more to offer than what he saw, Ethirveerasingam was quick to direct him to Sri Lanka Cricket, guardian of local cricketers.
Even then Nalin can bowl at a speed of 130kmph which he thinks could easily be 140 with little more hard work in the gymnasium.
“I am quite capable of doing that. May be no body will believe me when I say that because I am just 60kg of weight and 5’9 of height. But my arms and thighs are very strong which is why I can bowl at this speed now,” he added.
“He is fast but not extraordinary,” said fast bowling coach Anusha Samaranayake, who very closely scrutinizes the youngster’s ability in the nets last week.
“It’s not easy to bowl at 130kmph within one year of cricket. Obviously he is talented, but we should closely monitor his development during the next few weeks to see where he fits in this great game,” Samaranayake said.
Samaranayake also said that being a high jumper was also an advantage for him.
“We have many in the squad who could bowl at this speed, what matters is how well and soon he develops,” he asserted.
Samaranayake said that once the screening is over, it’s best for him to play club cricket in Sri Lanka if he intends to continue a career in cricket. Nalin has been granted permission to use the gymnasium at Keththarama exclusive for national cricketers during his stay and could attend training session exclusive for national poolists without any hindrance, a chance many cricketers are waiting for.
“I was almost selected to the USA national team but because of the legal restrictions I wasn’t selected.
“I am pretty confident of playing for USA next year as some of the foreign nationals on working visa would retire,” he said.
According to low only four foreign players are allowed in the USA national team.
So, the next few weeks would be very crucial for the athlete turned cricketer, who will make firm decision on his future based on the advice he gets from the cricket officials here. Does it mean that the number two ranked Sri Lanka high jumper is retiring from his first love? ‘No’ he says.
“I will continue to train and improve on my performances but will also continue to play cricket,” he added
In addition to his silver at South Asian Games in 2004, Nalin has won many titles at Junior and Senior levels at home and was adjudged the best athlete at the Peace Games in South Korea where he won high jump and triple jump gold medals.
Though he has not gone to the kindergarten of cricket, coaches believe he is at the upper senior level almost equal to many in the fast bowling academy who have gone through the ladder but he needs to complete his degree which is no easy task given the competitiveness and the high physical and mental demand. If Nalin can get through this he would be the second athlete turned cricketer in recent times after young fast-bowler Isuru Udana.
Source : LakbimaNews