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Sri Lanka-born spinner escaped Boxing Day tsunami before moving to England as child

Thilan Walallawita, Middlesex’s Sri Lanka-born left-arm spinner, will be able to compete during the 2022 county season as a home-registered player, after finally being granted British Citizenship.
As a child Walallawita, now 23, escaped the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which decimated large parts of his home country and claimed the lives of over 30,000 Sri Lankans, before moving to England at the age of 12.

After developing his game at Potters Bar Cricket Club, Walallawita entered the Middlesex Academy via their age-group set-up, and earned his first professional contract in 2020 after finishing the 2019 season as the club’s leading wicket taker in the Second Eleven Championship.

He made both his first-class and T20 debuts later that summer and his List A debut in 2021, all while registered as an overseas player with his citizenship application still pending. Now, however, that status has been resolved and Middlesex confirmed that they will soon be able to register him as a local cricketer.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time and it feels like today a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Walallawita said. “I’ve been a part of this county for ten years and since I first started it’s been my ambition to play as a local player – at last that day has come. I can now concentrate fully on trying to cement my place in the side in all formats and lo longer worry about things off the field that have been out of my control.

“I would like to thanks the club for all their support through this process and am looking forward to repaying their faith in me by delivering for them on the pitch. Hopefully I can play my part in what we all hope will be a successful period for the club on the field.

Alan Coleman, Middlesex’s head of men’s performance cricket, added: “We are absolutely thrilled that Thilan is now in a position to be registered as a local cricketer and his career with the club can continue to thrive.

“He is a hugely popular member of the dressing room here, and he has had quite the journey to reach this point. It’s great to see his patience and hard work rewarded in this way and he can now focus on developing and improving his game.

“As a left-arm spinner with immense talent, Thilan is a rare breed in modern day cricket, and is someone that we have high hopes for in the game. We look forward to supporting him through the next phase of his career.”

Middlesex have also announced the appointment of Jade Dernbach as fast bowling consultant, following the former Surrey and England seamer’s retirement. Dernbach played for Middlesex’s London rivals for 19 seasons before being released last year.

“We are thrilled that Jade has agreed to become the club’s consultant batting coach,” Coleman said. “He is a master of his skills, will be a huge asset to the coaching group here and will be of enormous benefit to the pace bowlers we have in our ranks.

“Our plan as a coaching group is to bring in specialist consultant coaches to work with the group and the players, to add expertise where we feel it is needed, and in Jade we couldn’t have our fast bowlers in better hands.

“We’ve all seen what a brilliant competitor he is and what a fantastic exponent of pace bowling he is, and the relationship he has with Jono from the time he spent with him at Surrey made him the natural choice for this role. We can’t wait to start working with him and our bowlers are excited about the prospect of learning from one of the best in the business.”

Dernbach played 64 times for England in the limited-over formats, and finished his career at Surrey as their joint-highest T20 wicket-taker.

Dernbach said: “I am delighted to be joining Middlesex Cricket as a bowling consultant for this season. Having spoken to Jono [head coach Richard Johnson] and Coley, the opportunity to work with such a talented squad of players was one that I had to take.

“I’m very honoured to be joining such a great club and look forward to working with and helping all the squad to challenge on all fronts this year.”