Imagine as a child dreaming of representing your country, sharing that dream with your parents, but then losing your father at the age of 14.
Imagine being talented enough a year later to draw the attention of the elite schools to further your cricketing education, but listening to the wishes of your mother to stay at your local school.
These sliding door moments can make or break careers. But not Praveen Jayawickrama, who took 11 wickets in his debut Test and earned comparisons with Rangana Herath from his captain.
At the age of 17, Jayawickrama finally accepted the entreaties of St Sebastian’s College in the Moratuwa suburb of Columbo. A debut school season of 90 wickets brought the attention of the Sri Lanka under-19 selectors, and a place at the 2018 Youth World Cup in New Zealand.
Since then, his progress has been stratospheric.
With just 10 first-class matches to his name, but notable performances for Moors Sports Club, the Test selectors called upon the 22-year-old to replace the injured Lasith Embuldeniya for the second Test against Bangladesh in Kandy.
In tandem with Ramesh Mendis, the off spinner who made his own debut against England in January, Jayawickrama spun Sri Lanka to a convincing 209-run victory. His first-innings figures of 32-7-92-6 were the best by a Sri Lankan on debut, supplanting the six for 179 Upul Chandana took against Pakistan in 1999.
In the second innings, on a deteriorating pitch, Jayawickrama bowled with guile, drift and flight to finish with 32-10-86-5. His ball to bowl Hossain Shanto, a centurion in the first Test, out of the rough after switching back from round the wicket, would have been too good for many a left-handed batsman.
Speaking after the game, captain Dimuth Karunaratne praised the debutant, saying: “Praveen does the simple things well. He pitches the ball in the right spot. He makes the batsmen play, and gives the ball a chance to do something.
“That’s something we saw from Rangana Herath as well. When you play at this level, you have to have that consistency in line and length. He did his job 100 per cent.”