'Get vaccinated and join CSK:' This is how Dhoni spotted this rare 17-year-old talent
MS Dhoni's eye for talent has never been in doubt. The man has had a Midas touch with youngsters, extracting their best out on the field, be it for India or the Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
The legendary skipper has been the one credited by multiple players for establishing their careers and helping them expand their wings at the international stage and in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The latest young talent that seems to have earned the Dhoni nod of approval is Sri Lanka's unorthodox seamer Matheesha Pathirana, who emerged in the public eye through the Asia Cup U-19 that was held early last year before he played the youth World Cup in the Caribbean and turned up for CSK in the IPL 2022.
Pathirana, who helped CSK beat their famed rivals Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) this week with a superlative performance at the death, played just two matches last season for the four-time champions. But not many know that his big breakthrough was a byproduct of Dhoni's excellent understanding of talent and promise.
Bilal Fassy, the lead protagonist behind setting up of the cricketing structure at the Lankan-based Trinity College, revealed in an interaction with the Indian Express how Dhoni spotted Pathirana as early as 2020 and wanted the speedster with the extravagantly slingy action to join the franchise for the postponed edition of the IPL that year in UAE.
How Dhoni's eye for talent earned Pathirana the CSK ticket
"He was only 17 or 18 then, and it was peak of the pandemic when Dhoni wrote a letter asking Pathirana to get vaccinated and join the team in the UAE," Fassy revealed during his interview with the newspaper, telling how the Indian legend earmarked Pathirana for CSK job through the junior World Cup held in 2020.
"He had already played the U-19 World Cup by then (2020) and was featuring in Bangladesh leagues. One of his videos of him demolishing the batsmen with yorkers had gone viral then and that’s when even the Super Kings showed interest in him."
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Dhoni, who isn't known for going through too many pre-game footages or holding lengthy dressing room chats and analytics, went through a clip of Pathirana bowling during a school tournament held in the Island nation and urged the CSK think-tank to bring him in.
"In the last three years, he has developed a lot. The video that Dhoni saw was not from a first-class game or something, but from a school tournament against (Sanath) Jayasuriya’s school."
"And very soon even Malinga, who has been coaching few boys with similar action, started showing interest in Pathirana too. Unlike others in the group, what impressed Malinga was Pathirana’s speed and the accuracy he was able to get. He still has work about his consistency in gaining accuracy, but you can see him gaining confidence," Fassy added.