Dilshan De Soysa: A Sporting Journey

De Soysa, a 26-year-old recruit from Sri Lanka, has played all 12 games for Hastings & St Leonards Priory in the Sussex Premier League this season, making valiant contributions with both bat and ball in the midst of the team’s disappointing results. He has amassed 411 runs – only five other batsmen in the league have scored more – and bowled over 100 overs of leg spin for a 13-wicket return. Hugh Sullivan put some questions to him on his Hastings experience to date.

CREDIT: Sumeera Dissanayake

Where did you learn your cricket?
I played for my school, the Revatha National College at Balaputiya. It has a strong cricket team. Then at the age of 19 I joined the army and spent the next six years playing cricket for them in the Army Sports Club.

What would happen in the event of war?
No war, I don’t fight, just play cricket.

How do you come to be playing in England?
Coming out of the army in 2020 I joined the Baduraliya club. I had some success, and got myself an English agent to look for a club in England who would pay me to play for them this summer. I sent him my scores and a video. Hastings Priory made me an offer, and here I am.

How does the Sussex League compare with playing in Sri Lanka?
In Sri Lanka the first-class club standard is a little higher – not as high as county cricket here, but maybe county 2nd XI. The pitches are not as good there and it’s harder to bat. The fast bowlers are faster, the spinners spin the ball more. But the people at Priory are very friendly and good to play with. I am very happy playing with them. 

What about the English climate?
It’s too hot in Sri Lanka, I prefer it cool here. 

Do you think of yourself, primarily, as a batsman or a bowler?
A batsman, definitely. 

And your favourite stroke?
The cover drive. Also what I call the “inside out” drive where I loft the ball over the head of extra cover.

What about your bowling?
Here in Hastings I have to bowl as never before – in the recent match against Three Bridges I opened the bowling and delivered 24 overs straight. It’s hard, because the ball doesn’t turn like it does at home.

What do you find difficult in England?
The language – but I am slowly getting better and understand more. And the food. I lived in an English house for the first two weeks, and didn’t like the food at all. Now I share with another Sri Lankan and we eat what I am used to: chicken, rice and fish.

What are your ambitions?
I want to stay playing cricket as much as I can. I am now 26, and due to play for a new team in Colombo for the 2021-22 season. And I would like to play again in England next season.

For Hastings?
For whatever team my agent finds for me. My aim is to improve over the next two years and play for Sri Lanka A team by the age of 28 – just below the Test team. After that, who knows? 

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.