Battling odds to make it big

Humble beginnings : Kaushal following in the footsteps of his illustrious relative Malinga

Battling odds to make it big

 Tharindu Kaushal’s last name means talent in Sinhalese. The young off-spinner is certainly living up to it, overcoming all the odds with a steely resolve but sporting a genial smile all the while.

The 22-year-old Kaushal has played four Test matches, is building a house of his own, cleared the loans his mother had taken up to foster his ambition of becoming an international cricketer, making sure his 50-year-old father leads a comfortable life and is emerging as the next biggest star after Lasith Malinga from his village Rathgama but not without overcoming a life dotted with struggles.

The youngest of the three children, Kaushal first started off as a wicketkeeper before switching to pace on the streets of Rathgama and carried that passion while doing his school. Kaushal then decided to completely overhaul himself when the school announced that it would be sending three spinners for the national under-13 selection trials in Colombo.

Sensing a great opportunity, he quickly converted himself into an off-spinner with school coach Ranjana Lasantha playing a huge role in his remodelling. The teenager put his heart and soul and even before he could realise, the decision to change to spin proved to be a master stroke as he got picked into the spinners’ lot for the national team.

Just when things started to look bright for Kaushal, financial constraints seemed to peg him back. His father, PH Dhanapala, who started working with the State Timber Corporation before switching to sell fish and vegetables to make both ends meet, found it extremely difficult to give wings to his son’s ambitions. With two daughters, whose dowry money he had to foot, Dhanapala just couldn’t find a way to finance his son’s stay in Colombo.

Mother Deepthi Hemalatha then started to sell sweets but that didn’t seem enough. She even borrowed money but it was inadequate for Kaushal to study and play in the capital, where most of Sri Lanka’s cricketing action is concentrated. Things started to look bleak for Kaushal when Kushil Gunasekara stepped in. His charitable trust, the Foundation of Goodness, decided to take care of the teenager’s needs.

Kaushal then started to build his career brick by brick, hardly looking back after that. He made it to the Sri Lanka under-19 side for the World Cup in Australia, graduated to the ‘A’ team before making his dream Test debut against New Zealand last December in Christchurch.

That moment, which his entire family was looking forward to, however, was laced with sadness when their near 100-year ancestral home collapsed, albeit in parts. Nobody was hurt and Kaushal’s parents had enough time to shift all the trophies that he had won to an adjacent wooden storehouse. They now live in Dhanapala’s sister house.

Trophies apart, Kaushal’s parents and his aunt PH Induvati have maintained newspaper cuttings — all neatly laminated — whenever he has been featured.

Interestingly, there is even a Telugu newspaper cutting when he visited India for an under-19 quadrangular tournament.

“Sometimes we feel, we haven’t done much for our son,” said Dhanapala, who drives an auto rickshaw now, although seldom for hire. “In order to get Kaushal’s sisters married we had to save money for them from a very young age.

“But he has made us proud. What brought tears to my eyes was when Kaushal decided to build a new house when he could have bought something else with the money he had earned. He has taken care of us better than we have of him.”

The family tries to watch Kaushal play in Sri Lanka. During internationals, they all gather around the TV hoping he gets as many wickets as possible, cheering every action of his with great pride.

The happiest the family felt was when most of the Sri Lankan team, including skipper Angelo Mathews, visited their house following the team’s first Test against Pakistan last month. A small crowd assembled as the players chatted and enjoyed a sumptuous lunch.
The family today gets instant recognition in their neighbourhood. But what they desire is their son getting international recognition and emerge a champion bowler, just like their distant relative Malinga.

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