The middle order batsman from Sri Lanka will always be remembered for his unwavering spirit and a never give up attitude. Born on 22 September 1976, Thilan Samaraweera did not let his career end even when he was shot in the leg during a terrorist attack in Lahore in 2009.
Thilan survived as the bullet missed the bone and came back with more vigor and determination. He has kept the bullet as a memoir.
With the kind of stuff flowing in his gene pool, it was not unexpected when Thilan decided to play cricket. His brother, Dulip Samaraweera represented Sri Lanka in seven Tests and Thilan’s brother-in-law played for Sri Lanka A.
Thilan began his first-class career playing for Colts Cricket Club in 1995 as an off-spinner. He managed to impress the selectors and was given a seat in the ODI squad three years later.
Thilan Samaraweera made his ODI debut against India in 1998. He took the only wicket of Nayan Mongia, with India winning the match. He played a few more ODIs after that but Muralitharan’s dominance in the bowling attack kept him out of the side.
It was then Thilan decided to work on his batting. His patience and relentless hard work earned him the Test cap in 2001, but this time as a batsman. He announced his arrival with a bang, scoring a century in his very first match against India.
Along with Hashan Tillakaratne, he put up a mammoth 610 on the board for his team. The start to his test career was no less than a dream as the next five Tests saw him scoring a couple more centuries, thus solidifying his spot in the team.
Rise to Glory
Thilan had a good run in test cricket for a few years after his debut but was ignored for the ODI squad. Although he only played in the subcontinent, but averaged more than 40 and continued to churn out runs for his team.
Indifferent form in 2006 saw him being out of the team for 18 months. When he returned in 2008, his batting had transformed drastically. His playing style became more aggressive and he looked to score runs at a quicker pace.
He scored a blistering century on his comeback in 2008, bludgeoning Indian bowlers in the process. In the next five tests that followed, he piled over 500 runs at a whopping average of 97. His heroics in Test cricket earned him a spot in the ODI side too; where he did justice to the selectors by scoring a 100 on his comeback.
From being a sidelined off-spinner, Thilan became the backbone of Sri Lanka’s middle order. Samaraweera then went on to play the best knocks of his career in the Test series against Pakistan in 2009. He hammered back to back double centuries before the series was called off due to a terrorist attack.
Thilan Samaraweera hit a rough patch starting in the year 2011 in the home series against Australia, where he could not even manage double digit scores. He was dropped for the Pakistan series that followed but called for the South African Test tour due to Sri Lanka’s dismal performance.
The year 2012 was a little better, where he scored a couple of centuries, but was criticism of being a backyard bully continued to haunt him as he was unable to perform overseas.
Samaraweera played his last ODI against India in 2011. It turned out to be his last as he was not selected for the ODI squad thereafter.
He announced retirement from international cricket in 2013 after being left out of Sri Lanka’s squad to Bangladesh. He played 81 tests and 53 ODIs for Sri Lanka, averaging 48.77 and 27.81 respectively.