Melbourne Renegades have made a shock signing by adding uncapped Melbourne-based Sri Lanka legspinner Ruwantha Kellapotha to their BBL squad as an overseas replacement player for the upcoming season.
Kellapotha, 31, played 20 first-class matches and 12 List A matches in Sri Lanka between 2010 and 2013 before moving to Australia to live. He played eight seasons in the lower-tier Dandenong District Cricket Association in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs representing four different clubs before playing premier cricket for Casey-South Melbourne last season where he took 46 wickets across 50-over and T20 cricket to finish the competition's leading wicket-taker and help Casey South-Melbourne reach the final.
He also was selected to play in two second XI games for Victoria late in the season playing alongside Will Pucovski in one of them. Kellapotha recently travelled with the Renegades Academy squad to play in the Top End T20 Series in Darwin and bowled superbly. That has moved Renegades General Manager James Rosengarten and coach David Saker to sign him as a replacement overseas after the Renegades drafted Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and West Indies left-arm orthodox Akeal Hosein in August's BBL overseas draft despite both men signing with the UAE ILT20.
"We were impressed by what we saw from Ruwantha up in Darwin as part of the Renegades Academy and his performances in Premier Cricket last year showed he can match it with Victoria's best," Rosengarten, said.
"He's had a unique cricketing journey to get to this level. We're confident he can come in and have an impact for us this season."
Kellapotha said he was really excited to get an opportunity with the Renegades.
"My journey to here has been a bit different," Kellapotha said. "I played first-class cricket back in Sri Lanka, came to Melbourne in 2013 to play local cricket and then last year went to Premier Cricket.
"I'd achieved what I wanted to achieve in local cricket, so I wanted to see what I could do in Premier Cricket. Now I want to see what I can do at the highest level.
"I really appreciate this opportunity the Renegades have given me to be involved this year. It is a huge privilege and something I do not take lightly.
"This is going to be a great experience for me, playing with and against some of the best players in the world. I want to be a team player and whatever my team needs, I'll give it 100 per cent."
Melbourne Renegades BBL squad: Nic Maddinson (c), Zak Evans, Aaron Finch, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Sam Harper, Mackenzie Harvey, Akeal Hosein (West Indies), Ruwantha Kellapotha (Sri Lanka), Liam Livingstone (England), Shaun Marsh, Jack Prestwidge, Kane Richardson, Tom Rogers, Will Sutherland, Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan), Jon Wells