A week after Mohammed Siraj invited over his Royal Challengers Bangalore family to his home in Hyderabad, Chennai Super Kings Matheesha Pathirana followed suit. Only this time around, instead of the entire CSK unit, the Sri Lanka pacer hosted the one and only MS Dhoni to spend time with him and his family. Pathirana, signed by CSK as a replacement for the injured Adam Milne in last year’s IPL, has been Dhoni’s go-to man in IPL 2023, picking up 17 wickets and bowling the death overs with aplomb. Earmarked by many as the next Lasith Malinga – his action resembles a lot like the Sri Lanka great – Pathirana has blossomed under Dhoni, hence it wasn’t even a wee bit surprising to see the 20-year-old inviting Thala to meet his loved ones at The Leela, Chennai.
And by the time he wrapped up, Dhoni had won multiple hearts. Pathirana’s sister Vishuka, in particular, shared Dhoni’s priceless words on Matheesha, expressing how she is now secure that her brother is in the right hands. Taking to Instagram, Vishuka shared a picture of Dhoni and the Pathirana family, while revealing Dhoni’s heartwarming message to her. “Now we are sure that Malli (Pathirana) is in safe hands when Thala said ‘You have nothing to worry about Matheesha, he’s always with me’. These moments were even beyond what I had ever dreamt of,” she captioned her post.
Pathirana made heads turn during last year’s Under-19 World Cup where he played four matches and picked 7 wickets. Since then, Pathirana earned his maiden Sri Lanka call-up but played just the one T20I. However, his rise with CSK is sure to give him more matches for the national team going forward. Pathirana is the 10th highest wicket-taker of the season so far, ahead of the likes of Arshdeep Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harshal Patel and Deepak Chahar. He has been used excellently in the death by Dhoni, in a way filling the void left by the retirement of Dwayne Bravo.
In fact such is Dhoni’s trust in Pathirana that he got into a long, animated chat with the umpire to let him bowl in Qualifier 1 against Gujarat Titans. Being off the field for a while, Dhoni wanted Pathirana to bowl his second over – the 16th of the innings but he wasn’t allowed to since as per ruled, a player off the ground for more than 8 minutes needs to be on the field for a similar duration before he is allowed to bowl. Not too sure what exactly was it that forced the Sri Lanka quick off the ground – reportedly it was a niggle – but Pathirana was away for nine minutes, which led to Dhoni and umpire Anil Choudhary having a word about the same.
After nearly 4 minutes of discussion, Pathirana was allowed to bowl, making up for the lost time. It is argued that Dhoni deliberately wasted time to make sure Pathirana bowl. Dhoni and CSK’s three options in Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar and Maheesh Theekshana had completed their quota of four overs, while Tushar Deshpande had two left, along with Pathirana’s three. As per a report in Cricinfo, Dhoni told the umpires that he has no bowling options left than Pathirana.