Bucks snare ex-Sri Lankan batter

Ex-Sri Lankan batter Mahela Udawatte has signed at Buckley Ridges.

By Nick Creely

The competition keeps going from strength to strength.

Yet another high-profile name has joined the ranks of the Dandenong District Cricket Association Turf 1 competition, with former Sri Lankan Test batter Mahela Udawatte signing on for Buckley Ridges.

The 35-year-old has moved to Australia, arriving in late September and has linked up with the DDCA powerhouses in a major coup, with the left-handed top-order batter having permanent residency.

While Udawatte has been in bubbles with the Sri Lankan international set-up in recent months, he has retired professionally from the game.

Udawatte played two Test matches for Sri Lanka – his last coming in June, 2018 against the West Indies – as well as nine ODIs and eight Twenty20 international matches.

At First Class level, Udawatte has notched up close to 10,000 runs with 14 centuries, eight List A centuries and a Twenty20 century, and in the recent 2020/21 Sri Lankan one-day competition he scored the most runs for Moors Sports Club with 354 at 50.57 with a century and three half-centuries.

Buckley recruiter Chris Rattle said the club was delighted about the signing, believing that the aggressive opener will be a massive addition both on and off the field.

“It’s good for the club, and we see him as a long-term player for Buckley Ridges, he’s moved to the area,” he said.

“It’ll make a huge difference, and with Manjula (Munasinghe) coming on as coach we really hope he sticks around.

“We believe he can be really similar to what David White did for us, so we see him as a bit of a replacement for him.”

Rattle added that the club just “got lucky” in securing the Sri Lankan star, with the batter related to club president Sonny De Silva through marriage.

The Bucks have also previously announced that former Glamorgan batsman and England Under 19 player Ben Wright has signed on at the club, with the pair expected to open the batting in what should provide bowlers with a few sleepless Friday night. Wright has also been announced as Buckley’s Turf 1 skipper this season.

“Ben and him will open if DJ doesn’t come back – from everything we’ve seen on Youtube he’s really attacking,” Rattle said.

“So he should definitely like our ground – he’s going to fit in well and is keen to get here.”

Rattle also confirmed that champion Bucks all-rounder Daniel ‘DJ’ Watson is still weighing up his future in the association but wouldn’t come back until after Christmas if he was to return, while West Indian Jerome Jones’ hopes of returning this season has been dashed, but was hoping to return for the following season.

Buckley have also snared experienced Berwick batsman Josh Holden where he will add plenty of depth to the club, while impressive seamer Nimesh Kariyawasam has crossed over from North Dandenong and will be a crucial part of the bowling attack.The Bucks have also lost a few, with Chanaka Welegedara returning to Strathmore, while overseas pair Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell won’t return, with Cockbain joining Mornington Peninsula powerhouses Langwarrin. Club stalwart Susa Pradeep has departed for Endeavour Hills.

“We are thrilled to have Mahela playing for us,” Buckley president Sonny De Silva said.

“I had been watching him for a while given our family links (his uncle is married to Sonny’s first cousin) but didn’t realise he wanted to leave the Sri Lankan set-up.

“I got on the phone as soon as Richie (Hope) got wind of his availability, and convinced Mahela to (come to Melbourne) and play for Bucks.

“He will no doubt dominate in the DDCA.

“We welcome Mahela, his lovely wife and three kids to the Buckley family,” Sonny said.

It’s been a massive off-season for one of Victoria’s most well-regarded local competitions, with the likes of former Tasmanian quick Andrew Perrin (Berwick), ex-Victorian quick Jayde Herrick (Springvale South), former Premier Cricket gun Blade Baxter (Springvale South) and ex-Casey South Melbourne paceman Josh Dowling (Springvale South), as well as Mordialloc champion Damith Mapa Ralage (Berwick) all confirmed for 2021/22 in what is going to be once again a fiercely competitive Turf 1 grade.

Keep your eyes peeled in coming weeks for Star News’ full DDCA Turf 1 season preview.