Cricket ended young Thirimanne’s brilliant academic career


Lahiru Thirimanne

Studies pushed Lahiru Thirimanne to cricket... From Bandarawela he came to Prince of Wales College in Moratuwa after passing the Grade 5 Scholarship and it was there he was pushed to cricket. He opted to do GCE A/L Examination in Maths stream after passing GCE O’L Examination with seven ‘A’s and three ‘B’s . But his A/L ambitions were cut short due to cricket.

Rex Clementine reporting from Chelmsford

Three days after Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan backed Lahiru Thirimanne to make his debut in the third Test against England, the left-handed opener stroked an elegant hundred against Essex in a three day tour game here in Chelmsford. Sri Lanka coach Stuart Law was impressed with Thirimanne’s effort and called him a ‘player for the future’.

Former batting great Aravinda de Silva was another who was highly impressed by the application Thirimanne showed in the middle and his ability to bat for longer periods. In fact de Silva was responsible in his capacity as a national selector to bring him back to Sri Lanka’s ‘A’ side after being earlier overlooked.

Thirimanne was born in Moratuwa, but schooled at St. Thomas’ College, Bandarawela as his father, who was employed at the Survey Department was transferred. He returned to Moratuwa after passing the Grade 5 Scholarship, but the same year his ambitions suffered a massive blow after his father’s untimely death.

"I studied initially in Bandarawela and came to Prince of Wales on a scholarship. Moratuwa was our home town. Our father died the same year we returned to Moratuwa and my uncle Viraj Thirimanne was my guiding light. The thoughts of possibly playing for Sri Lanka one day came to me when I was playing for school’s Under -17 team and now I am very close to achieving that dream," Thirimanne told journalists after his hundred.

There was talk about him being the replacement for the third Test if Dilshan doesn’t play and the hundred in the warm up game cemented his place in the side for the last Test if the captain is ruled out. "I made full use of the chance to play in the three day game. Prior to this, most of the time I was only practicing at nets and there was no match practice as such. But this knock has given me confidence," the 21-year-old added.

England may not be the ideal place for a young batsman to make his debut and Thirimanne understands how tough it would be. "Playing in England is different. The ball bounces and moves around and you’ve got to adjust to the conditions here and I get a lot of guidance from the team," he added.

"It was a great feeling to score a hundred in England. This is my first hundred outside Sri Lanka and I am very happy with this."

As he prepares to become the 116th Sri Lankan to play Test cricket, Thirimanne looking back at life has one regret and that’s not a cricketing one. After passing the GCE O’L Examination with excellent results he opted to do GCE A’L in maths stream, but couldn’t complete the exam.

It all in fact happened so funnily. School cricket experts were aghast after he was left out of Sri Lanka’s under-19 side for the Youth World Cup, but Thirimanne wasn’t overly bothered and was preparing for the GCE A’L Examination and then he was added to the squad as a last minute replacement due to injury. "I passed the GCE O’L Examination with seven A’s and three B’s. But I couldn’t sit for my GCE A’L Examination as I was selected for the Under-19 World Cup in August that year. From thereon I was called up to join the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team and sitting for the exam on the second time also were thwarted. I regret not completing my GCE A’L," he said.

Some facts about Lahiru Thirimanne

Lahiru Thirimanne’s elder brother too represented Prince of Wales in cricket and later moved to Isipatana College, Colombo. His coaches at school were Sujeva Gunaratne and the late Jayantha Perera. So obsessed was Lahiru with his studies that he’s said to have carried his school books for Inter-School matches.

Despite averaging a phenomenal 167 in the Inter-School Under-17 cricket tournament, he was inexplicably axed from Sri Lanka’s Under-17 team’s tour to Malaysia.

He finished the school season with an unbeaten hundred in the Big Match against St. Sebastian’s. Once in a First XI Inter-School fixture against St. Peter’s College, Negombo, he hit 185 off just 110 balls with 22 fours and six sixes and shared a second wicket stand of 414 runs with Nayana Priyanjana (200 no), a record partnership at Prince of Wales ground.

(The Island staffer Reemus Fernando contributed for this article)

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