Chennai Super Kings’ 21-year-old mystery spinner from Sri Lanka Maheesh Theekshana has revealed that he failed fitness tests a number of times at the Under-19 level, but a never-say-die attitude helped him overcome the odds to play in the most competitive leagues in the world.

The right-arm off-spinner has done a commendable job for the four-time IPL champions this season, scalping 12 wickets in eight games, with his best being a 4/33.

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Theekshana opened up about the initial struggles as a cricketer, saying that since he kept failing fitness tests, he became a perennial waterboy of the Under-19 side.

“Back in 2017-18, I was in the Under-19 squad. I never had a chance to play because I failed the fitness test two or three times. In 2019, I had to be a waterboy for 10 games in three-day games. I knew if I fail, I’ll have to carry bottles again. I started to believe in myself and I started developing the never give up attitude. That’s the reason I’m here in 2022,” Theekshana told CSK TV.

Revealing the transformation he went through to reach this level of competitive cricket, the youngster said that he had to work really hard to get his weigh down from 17 stones (107kgs) to what he weighs now.

“I was 107 kg at that time (U-19 days), so I had to work harder to get my weight and skin folds down in the yo-yo test. In 2020, I got everything down and brought my fitness to the (required) level. I started to do more hard work on my body. In 2022, I got everything down and the fitness tests are on the required level. In 2021, I represented my country. I had a chance in the last ODI game against South Africa. It’s remarkable. I never thought I’d be in the World Cup at the age of 21.”

The 21-year-old further spoke about Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s influence on his career.

“I took inspiration from Ajantha Mendis. In 2020, I had a chat with Ajantha Mendis, and in 2022, I spoke to MS Dhoni. I had a chat with CSK last year as a net bowler. Never thought they would bid for me or pick me this year,” he added.

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