‘Bullet’ Samaraweera - like no other | Daily News

‘Bullet’ Samaraweera - like no other

Thilan Samaraweera in action
Thilan Samaraweera in action

He was a victim to a bullet that pierced his leg. His and our hopes for the brilliant cricketing career were dashed. But in Thilan Thusara Samaraweera’s mind this was the very reason he was determined to come back with a vengeance. Such fighters in life on and off the field are rare. They are unique. He regained his batting ‘ Black Belt’ in a way that dazzled those of us who were convinced that there was no way he can make a come back to the turf. But the doughty fighter that Samaraweera was confounded everybody.

Disaster struck the Sri Lankan cricket team when terrorists mounted an attack after the second day’s play in the Second Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Lahore in 2009 and the cricketer who took the brunt of the attack was Samaraweera.

Bullet penetration

Samaraweera took a bullet that penetrated 12 inches into his left thigh. He needed immediate surgery and spent four months in crutches, not only physically wounded, but having to suffer the trauma and mental agony. Doctors had said he would never play cricket again.

But the doughty fighter that he was, he hit the doubting Thomas for six as he came back four months later to front up to Pakistan again in Galle. The injury retarded his natural stroke play, but yet made scores of 31 and 34 and gave indications that he would soon regain his form of old. Samaraweera was not a batsman who would have had spectators pressurizing the turnstiles and leaving it creaking for more oil. But he had the technique, temperament and the patience that is very essential to make waves in the established game. Hundreds and double hundreds came naturally to this talented right hand batsman who continued to frustrate opposing bowlers.

Samaraweera was born on September 22, 1976 had his schooling at one of the leading Buddhist Institutions Ananda College which institution gave to the game cricketers illustrious such as the Wettimuny brothers, Mithra, Sunil and Sidat, Ajit de Silva and 1996 World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga to name a few.

Tantalizing off spin

He began his career as an off spin bowler. Although his tantalizing off spinners did not produce a rich harvest of wickets nor did it earn him a place in the national Test team, it was his dogged batting, where he had the penchant to make big scores that earned him his Test cap which is the dream of every budding cricketer.

He made the national selectors take notice of his heavy scoring in domestic cricket for the Sinhalese Sports Club and they were forced to give him the big break and he made his entry into the big game in 2001 against the Indians and in the Third and Final test achieved a dream when batting at number eight he made an unbeaten 108 which signaled his arrival that was to last 81 Tests and 53 one-day games in a career that lasted for over 15 years. With several talented players knocking at the door for national representation it was to his credit that he lasted that long.

However like all best batsmen do, he suffered a blip in his batting form in 2005/06 and suffered the humiliation of being dropped from the national team. He was ignored for more than a year. But being the determined fighter, he did not throw in the towel but returned to big time cricket in 2009 and made that year the most memorable and in the 11 Test matches he played he made 1,234 runs and had a fantastic average of 72.58.

Four grand hundreds

Samaraweera hit four grand hundreds and his two double hundreds against Pakistan being grandstand stuff. His highest score was 231 and in the same year he partnered the majestic Mahela Jayawardena and was involved in a record stand of 437 for the fourth wicket which is still the test of time in Test cricket. What batting achievement he treasures and holds dear is the consecutive double hundreds -231 in the First Test against Pakistan in Karachi and the 214 he made in the Second Test in Lahore.

Samaraweera was known to showcase his best when his team was in a crisis. His knocks rescued his team from many precarious situations. We remember with nostalgia the 125 he made against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 2008. Against South Africa in Durban in 2011 he made 102. Then against the same opposition in 2012 he made an unbeaten 115 in Cape Town. Then in 2004 he made 100 against Pakistan in Faisalabad which were memorable knocks.

The likeable and soft spoken Samaraweera played for many teams during his 15 year reign. Not only did he sport the country’s colours but also contributed with both bat and ball for Colts Cricket Club, Sinhalese Sports Club, Sri Lanka ‘A’, Sri Lanka Board President’s X1 and Kandurata. He also became one of the fortunate cricketers to play for the sauce county Worcestership in England and also for Bangladesh Club Brothers Union.

First Test victims

Samaraweera’s first victims in Tests and ODIS were Sourav Ganguly and Nayan Mongia of India and what is interesting is that he made his first Test century also against India. His elder brother Dulip also played for Sri Lanka in Tests and ODIS. SAMARAWEERA’S contributions and talent did not go unnoticed. The Australian Cricket Board invited him to be their batting consultant an at present serves in that capacity for Bangladesh the team of the moment that has former Sri Lankan opener Chandika Hathurusinghe as head coach.

SAMARAWEER’S statistics for posterity – TESTS 81 – RUNS 5462 – HIGHEST 231 – HUNDREDS -14 – FIFTIES – 30. BOWLING – TESTS 81 – WICKETS -15 – BEST 4 for 49. ODIS – 53 – RUNS 862 – HIGHEST 105 not out – HUNDREDS 2 – FIFTIES - nil. BOWLING - 11 wkts – BEST 3 for 34. FIRST CLASS – 271 matches – RUNS 15,501 – HIGHEST 231 – HUNDREDS 43 – FIFTIES 76. BOWLING – 271 matches – RUNS 8366 – WICKETS 357 – BEST 6 for 55.

Samaraweera will not only join the hall of legends, but also the hall of fame for being the first cricketer to take a bullet and when doctors predicted finis to his career to cock a snook at his detractors and come back again like the Phoenix that had risen from the ashes. 


 

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