Vikum Sanjaya: From partnering Lasith Malinga for Sri Lanka to starting again in the UAE

The bowler is chasing an ILT20 contract and a call-up for his adopted country six years after playing T20 international cricket for Sri Lanka

Vikum Sanjaya, second right, is keen to get on the UAE selectors' radar while competing for Dynamos in the ILT20 Development tournament. Courtesy ECB
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Had life worked out a little differently for Vikum Sanjaya, he might have been preparing to play for Sri Lanka at the World Cup in India this week.

Instead, the Colombo-born bowler is one of a number of hopefuls chasing a contract in the DP World International League T20 in Dubai.

Back in 2017, he was plucked from Sri Lankan domestic cricket to tour South Africa and then Australia with the national team.

Opening the bowling with Lasith Malinga in a tour match in Canberra, he took three wickets and was player of the match.

He proceeded to play eight T20 internationals that year, including two against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

And yet he departed the scene as quickly as he had emerged. That set of games in 2017 represents his entire national career for his home country.

Now aged 31, he is targeting a second crack at the international game having relocated to the UAE.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t get chances in Sri Lanka, even though I was in very good form,” Sanjaya said.

“I was also drafted in the Lanka Premier League, but unfortunately no one picked me. I tried for two or three years to get back into the Sri Lanka national side, and after it didn’t happen my head went down.

“I decided I had to leave. I don’t know why I was dropped.”

Frustrated at his diminishing opportunities in his homeland, Sanjaya accepted an invitation to play in the Bukhatir League in Sharjah.

He impressed with a seven-wicket haul in the country’s premier 50-over competition and was welcomed into the fold of UAE domestic cricket.

Now he aspires to represent the national team once he is eligible under the ICC’s three-year residency criteria.

“All the time I was updating my Facebook but no one was giving me an answer,” he said.

“I was uploading my videos, showing I was available, and speaking to my coaches in Sri Lanka. I was also speaking to our captain, Dasun Shanaka, who is a friend of mine, but no one was responding to me.

“I was really fit, and bowling at a nice pace at that time, but the selectors did not think of me.

Mentally my head went down with Sri Lanka, now I am playing here and I want to represent UAE when I qualify
Vikum Sanjaya

“Because mentally my head went down with Sri Lanka, now I am playing here and I want to represent UAE when I qualify.”

A handful of Sri Lanka caps does not guarantee anything for Sanjaya in his adopted country.

Getting one of the remaining available contracts to play in the full ILT20 competition will be tough enough, let alone forcing his way into the national team, judged by the standard of the ongoing development tournament in Dubai.

The six-team event is a chance for players to advertise their capabilities to the six franchises ahead of the new season, which will take place in January and February 2024.

Sanjaya, who is playing for Dynamos in the development tournament at the ICC Academy in Dubai, says the standard of competition is high.

“I want to play in the ILT20 tournament and this [development event] provides us with a good opportunity,” he said.

“I am working hard in this tournament. This opportunity is also really good because you get to play against UAE players.

“There are four or five fast bowlers I have seen bowling well, and this surface is good for fast bowlers.”

Updated: October 04, 2023, 8:10 AM