End of the road for Thilan?

Selectors give birthday shock for middle order batsman


by Rex Clementine

The first casualty after th e series defeat to Australia in the just concluded three match series is middle order batsman Thilan Samaraweera, who was axed from the 16 member squad named to take on Pakistan in a three match Test series in the Middle East. The axing would have been the last thing the number five batsman would have wanted to hear today on his 35th birthday.

Apart from Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, Samaraweera has been the best batsman for the country in the longer format of the game, enjoying even a better Test average than Jayawardene. Samaraweera’s Test average of 52:61 is slightly better than that of Jayawardene’s 52:40!

He was dropped for the third Test against Australia, but the decision came in for some criticism due to Samaraweera’s excellent record at SSC where he has a Bradmansque average of 82 compared to Sangakkara’s 74 and Jayawardene’s 79. Another argument that was put across was that if selectors wanted to play prolific opener Lahiru Thirimanne, he should have played instead of opener Tharanga Paranavitana without juggling the batting order which saw Dilshan coming down to number five.

Despite all arguments in favour of him and his prolific records, Samaraweera did not help his cause as his name prominently featured in the murmurs of team disunity during Sri Lanka’s tour of England and the current series against Australia.

Lack of support from senior players prominently featured since Tillakaratne Dilshan took over as captain as several senior players, including Samaraweera, exhibited a halfhearted approach on the field. The mood, however, changed drastically in the last two days of the series against Australia, presumably after the selectors gave the players a piece of their mind.

In fairness to Samaraweera, in England early this year when two former captains had refused to stand in as captain for the injured Dilshan in the three day warm up game against Essex in Chelmsford, he stood in as captain.

The first time Samaraweera went out of the national side since making his debut in 2001 was during the tour of England in 2006 where he turned down a request by coach Tom Moody to open the innings and was dumped for the third Test in Nottingham. Many on that instance thought that it was the end of Samaraweera, but he fought his way back admirably with heaps of runs for both SSC and Sri Lanka ‘A’ and was back in the side two by 2008.

Unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis has been ruled out with a back injury. Fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep Fernando, who was injured during the tour of England, has been named in the squad. Promising batsman Dinesh Chandimal has been named in the squad along with Kaushal Silva, who will be reserve wicketkeeper.

Test Squad: Tillakaratne Dilshan (Captain), Angelo Mathews (Vice-Captain), Tharanga Paranavitana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Prasanna Jayawardene (Wicketkeeper), Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv, Chanaka Welegedara, Suranga Lakmal, Shaminda Eranga, Dammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep, Kaushal Silva.

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