Samaraweera buries one-day demons

Test specialist shows he is equally adept at 50-over version with brilliant century


Thilan Samaraweera has firmly  established himself as a man for all formats. AP

Dubbed unfit for the shorter version, the right-hander laid the ghost to rest with a century that was important in more ways than one. Walking in at a time when Sri Lanka were in dire straits against New Zealand in the opening match of the tri-series, Samaraweera came up with his maiden one-day hundred that formed the backbone of his team’s emphatic 97-run win at the Premadasa stadium. The knock, laced with great maturity and immense responsibility, was symbolic of the player’s evolution as a well-rounded batsman.

 Notwithstanding his prolific run in the longer format, Samaraweera’s credentials as a one-day batsman have always been a bit suspect, a highest of 38 in his previous 18 visits to the middle lending further credence to the perception. Making a comeback to the one-day side — in July this year against Pakistan — after a gap of nearly four years, Samaraweera may have finally put his ODI career on track, but the batsman himself thought it was over for the good.

“Honestly, I thought my ODI career was over, but I also believed I had a chance because our middle order was struggling and I have been having a dream run in the Tests. And also this is the first time that I have got a decent run in the one-dayers. Previously I would play one game and the next match I would be sitting out. So that was a bit difficult to deal with,” he pointed out after accepting the man of the match award.

 The 32-year-old admitted he was under pressure when he walked out to bat on Tuesday. “Yes, I was under a lot of pressure because a lot of people thought I can’t play one-day matches,” he noted. “I got a double hundred against New Zealand in the Test match, and the team management told me to just bat like how I did in the Tests. I had the chance to bat 40-45 overs and after reaching 50 I knew I can play some shots which I did,” he added.

 Samarweera’s run of 35, 152, 96, 255, 214, 65, 27, 79, 179, 168 in the last ten 10 Tests has been nothing less than Bradmansque and the batsman felt his Test form helped him overcome any doubts about his one-day skills. “Definitely it has helped, but then again it’s all in the mind. Obviously during the series against Pakistan there were a few things doing rounds in my mind. I kept wondering whether I can do well or not and I wasn’t concentrating properly, but in this series I have come with a clear mindset,” he reasoned.
 For Samaraweera, however, the biggest doubt he encountered was whether he would be able to play the game again after the terrorist attack on their team bus in Lahore this March. A bullet fired by one of the terrorists caught Samaraweera 12 inches on his left thigh dangerously close to the knee. “After what happened in Pakistan, I never thought I can play cricket again,” he remarked with great nonchalance.

But on the hospital bed a thousand thoughts whirled in his mind. “Fortunately for me it wasn’t so bad. My doctors told me that I hadn’t hurt my bone or any nerve. After the Pakistan series (at home in July this year), I thought I can come back to international cricket. I didn’t score big runs, but I was batting well and the team management told me that it’s just a matter of time before I get amongst runs,” he stated, promising many more runs.

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