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Jaleel’s passion for cricket pays off

By M Naushad Amit
Following his role models in cricket and the ardent support of his parents has paid dividends for Rushan Jaleel who has become a successful all-rounder at the age of 18. “As a young kid I’ve heard much of Murali and Sangakkara who happen to hail from my hometown of Kandy. But I’ve never seen them play as schoolboy cricketers. People talk about them with much pride and respect. I’ve seen them on TV many times that it became a dream of mine to become the next international cricketer from Kandy,” said young Jaleel who earned the rare distinction of captaining his school, Trinity College, Kandy.

Jaleel began his cricket career at the age of 11 as a medium pace bowler but circumstances changed his fate to become an off-spinner. “I had a naturally bent arm and my then coach Mr. Julian Arnolda advised me to change my bowling action which enabled me to be more successful at the end. After all, bowling pace with a bent arm would not help me and I would not be as successful as at present,” he recalled.

In a school which is very famous for its rugby, Jaleel took the bold decision to play cricket which he said was insisted on by his parents. “During 2002 cricket dominated more than rugby at Trinity. But I had a passion for cricket which was greatly supported by my parents and my sisters. Initially I had the ambition of playing for the ‘A’ side of our first XI teams and to play in a ‘big match’. Today I have achieved all these,” Jaleed said.

Jaleel who played in all age groups at his school had to go through all the good times and bad that any cricketer would go through as a youngster. The success rate of his first few years was quite enough for him to be considered to play in the ‘C’ side in first XI cricket. But according to Jaleel, he has worked even harder than usual after getting into the ‘C’ side to become a more useful player for Trinity.

“My first few years were not that satisfactory. But I always had the feeling that I could become what I wanted. From the ‘C’ side I managed to move to the ‘B’ side and for the past 3 years I am a regular member of the senior team,” he stressed.

At the beginning Jaleel came in to bat at No.7 and he never had the opportunities to make any big scores. According to Jaleel his batting flourished under the captaincy of Sachith Pathirana, two years back. His then skipper had insisted that he bats at No.3 against Wesley where he scored double figures and from then onwards Jaleel became a versatile all-rounder. “Sachith’s decision to send me as the one-down batsman changed the cricketer in me. I gained the momentum and started scoring runs freely like never before,” he added.

Since then Jaleel has taken the responsibility as a top order batsman and has often become a successful run-getter. This season as Jaleel points out is his best as an all-rounder after having the extra pressure of leading the side. So far he has scored nearly 430 runs and has claimed 96 wickets which is a successful feat in addition of leading the side. Both his best in batting and bowling has come against Isipathana which are 41 not out and 7/55. “My first 80 wickets came in 10 matches. With four matches to go in the season I think I can get around 120 wickets. If I reach that mark I will surpass the record of 107 set by Sachith Pathirana in 2006/07 season for Trinity. With one more season to go I will try my best to achieve the national school’s record of 129 wickets set by Nimesh Perera,” said Jaleel whose name has been included for the Under-19 National Squad.

Achieving 100 wickets in a season according to the young spinner is a job well done and that feat will reflect on his future career as a spinner. “The last few seasons I was not this successful as a bowler. Our coach Sampath Perera did the trick by teaching me the new methods in bowling and batting. Today he is one of the reasons for my accomplishments. I have dreams as a cricketer and like the others my ultimate goal is to represent the country as a top spin bowler. With what I’ve gained so far I think I made the correct decision by taking up cricket,” Jaleel concluded.