Sri Lankan cricketer Ruwantha Kellapotha's rise in Australia

From school cricket in Sri Lanka to the Big Bash League in Melbourne.

Ruwantha Kellapotha

Ruwantha Kellapotha. Image Source: Supplied/Cricket Australia

When Ruwantha Kellapotha moved to Australia from Sri Lanka in 2013, he was uncertain of what his future held. In his early twenties and fresh from a stint in first-class cricket in his home country, his budding sporting career could go two ways once on Aussie soil. 

Besides already having a high level of experience in the sport, cricket was a way for him to connect with the local community and feel a sense of belonging. After all, his love for the game began at a very early age.

“[In] my first school game, I made 26 runs and took a couple of wickets,” he reflects fondly on his first memory of playing cricket, in a new 'Local Heroes' video from Cricket Australia.

After making his professional debut in 2011 in Sri Lanka at the age of just 19, he relocated to Australia two years later and managed to play eight seasons with the Dandenong District Cricket Association. He then made the transition to Premier Cricket with the Casey-South Melbourne Cricket Club. He also secured a contract with Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades in 2022, a proud achievement he says, as he was “a non-citizen person to play for Victoria” – ie an overseas replacement player for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash. 

Being able to return to high-level cricket was a huge feat, and his coach and mentor Bathiya Perera has been there to witness Kellapotha’s career rise in Australia. 

“He was a 19-year-old finishing school cricket who was looking to break into the first class system back in Sri Lanka,” says Perera. “He was keen to try to get into that next phase of his cricket.” 

While sport is universal, and the love for cricket transcends seas, it’s not necessarily easy to rebuild a career in a new country. But Perera believes that Kellapotha’s talent, “sheer determination” and a local sporting system that nurtured his abilities helped him get to where he is today. 

“Coming from Sri Lanka and playing in a different system [and then] achieving so much in such a good system [in Australia] was a phenomenal feat,” says Perera. 

It’s no secret that cricket has a cult following in the South Asian diaspora, particularly from Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepalese communities. Growing up playing backyard cricket or watching the sport on TV or in grandstands is almost a rite of passage for many. The dream to one day pursue a professional cricket career like Usman Khawaja, Alana King, Jason Sangha and now Ruwantha Kellapotha, is the next level. 

“I think what he [Kellapotha] has done in a way has really encouraged all the budding cricketers coming up the ranks to really pursue cricket and then dream about the next step which is to play for your state and Australia,” says Perera. 

“Cricket is my passion,” says Kellapotha, “and I feel myself fortunate that after Sri Lanka, my skills are being recognised in Australia now.”

Kellapotha and Perera’s comments are part of a new video featured in Cricket Australia’s recently-launched second season of the ‘Local Heroes’ video series which is aimed at highlighting the extraordinary journeys of players and enthusiasts enriching Australian cricket. The initiative is part of Cricket Australia’s multicultural action plan – in which the governing body has announced 10 key actions including funding and support to increase multicultural representation in the sport, including South Asian representation.

For more of the must-read news stories about South Asians, subscribe to Draw Your Box's newsletter here.