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Thread: Thilan Samaraweera: a victim of black magic?

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    Global Moderator Prince EWS's Avatar
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    Thilan Samaraweera: a victim of black magic?

    Thilan Samaraweera will probably be best remembered as home-test bully as far as test cricket is concerned; averaging a tick over 56 at home compared to his 26.29 away. I'm sure most of us will agree that he probably should have been given more of an extended run in the test team as a batsman despite his limitations, but if you look a little deeper into his career, it makes for very interesting viewing. Given his limited test opportunities, particularly with the ball, it'll be hard to ever get a full grasp of exactly what he was or wasn't capable of doing at the highest level given his career seems to be winding down as he enters his mid thirties. But purely at first class level, he could well be one of the greatest allrounders ever amidst a shocking lack of appreciation.

    His batting, known as his stronger suit, has been absolute immense in Sri Lankan conditions. Those who have seen a bit of him will confess that he really doesn't look much at the crease, but his technique is so sound that just clocks up the runs by picking off the bad balls. At his best, he scores a remarkable percentage of his runs in boundaries, just defending the good balls and waiting for something lose to pounce on. So simple, yet so very, very effective. His first class batting record of 8484 runs @ 42.42 looks good, yet nothing breathtaking. That is, though, until you actually stack it up against his peers at the time. Pitches in Sri Lankan domestic cricket have been far from easy to bat on during his career: a fact that many on this forum (including myself, until recently) fail to grasp just how batsmen stack up under these conditions. If you take a quick look at the records of the Sangakkaras and of the world, you'll see a first class average in the mid 40s, but that is of course propped up by the high number of tests they have played averaging near 50. Of recent times, only Jayawardene and Atapattu have really racked up the first class numbers (excluding test matches) that one would generally expect from someone pushing from higher honours.

    Assorted Sri Lankan first class batting averages (excludes test matches):

    Marvan Atapattu 56.10
    Mahela Jayawardene 51.08
    Thilan Samaraweera 42.57
    Sanath Jayasuriya 37.91
    Tillekeratne Dilshan 37.12
    Chamara Silva 36.97
    Kumar Sangakkara 33.55
    Michael Vandort 33.11
    Jehan Mubarak 31.32
    Upul Tharanga 29.56

    This group is the group of those who have been test regulars of Sri Lanka of late - obviously scoring runs is not easy in domestic cricket at all and hence Samaraweera's average of 42.57 would probably be akin an average of around 50 in England or India, for example. He was amongst the three best batsmen in his country in his time and this is obviously nothing to sneeze at. He backed this up in tests by averaging over 50 at home in conditions that suited him and unfortunately was never really given many opportunities abroad to shake his label as a home-track bully. Though, I guess, his career is not over as a test batsman so he may just do so eventually, as doubtful as it may be looking now given his age. Personally I have no doubt he would have achieved more away from home if given more chances or possibly a bit more luck; for a Sri Lankan he actually has one of the better suited techniques I've ever seen for bouncier wickets and the moving ball - I feel he's just been a victim of poor form at the wrong times.

    Now, granted, there is a huge leap to make from being a prolific first class batsman in the top echelon of a country's batting stocks to being a truly great allrounder at first class level. And those who have merely seen him bowl the odd over at test level will certainly raise a few eyebrows here. But the fact is, his bowling record is absolutely brilliant in first class cricket. He has been poorly used in test cricket with the ball AFAIC, especially at home, as he clearly had the potential to be much more than the part-timer he was used as. Obviously, the same poor pitches previously mentioned in relation to his batting will be the ones he bowled on, but you don't take 348 first class wickets @ 23.34 bowling rubbish. From what I've seen of his bowling even at test level where he has a poor record, he certainly had all the tools to be a genuinely good off spinner providing the pitch suited - in fact, I'm adamant he was/is a better bowler than Nicky Boje, Omari Banks, Paul Wiseman, Dan Cullen and several others we've seen at test level lately. His bowling, if used correctly, could have been much more effective at test level for mine and his record, although not quite as good as some specialist spinners around in first class cricket during his time, was of certainly of the frontline standard, and he was amongst the top few spinners in a country that produces them by the bucketload for some time during the early part of his career. As his batting progressed, his bowling did indeed decline, but was always still a threat at first class level.

    So, for all the supposed black magic Sobers has supposedly dazzled the public with regarding his test performances, Samaraweera has seemingly been the victim of black magic regarding his first class exploits and the limited opportunities he has received at test level, especially as a bowling option. While he's still playing, his limitations as a stroke player may be constantly brought up, but I think he'll be a player people will look back at in the years to come to give far more appreciation to than he's received while actually playing.
    Last edited by Prince EWS; 21-02-2009 at 04:46 AM.
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    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    Agree completely. Will sound like opportunism obviously, but I've thought this exact thing for any number of years.

    When he averaged over 100 in his first 7 Tests (IIRR) and was then dropped in favour of Russel Arnold (this is the Russel Arnold who's been given more Test chances than Graeme Hick or John Crawley and done almost certainly less than either to deserve them) I simply could not believe my eyes. Less still, I could not believe the lack of fuss over it.

    Sadly, my only real memory of watching him score is an awful innings against England at SSC where he was dropped, I think, 3 (may even have been 4) times in the course of 142. I've seen him dismissed cheaply any number of times, and it's always disappointed me because, as said, he strikes me instantly as a batsman with all the tools to make massive hay at the current bat-friendly time. It's not even as if it's been being "found out" on wildly different pitches from Lankan ones - most of them have been exceedingly flat, such as the one at Lord's in England where he somehow managed to fall to Sajid Mahmood.

    With regards Sangakkara's domestic record - when was the last time he played more than 1 or 2 games in a season? He's a damn sight better now than he was at the time (I'd imagine) most of those innings were played.
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    Global Moderator Prince EWS's Avatar
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    With regards Sangakkara's domestic record - when was the last time he played more than 1 or 2 games in a season? He's a damn sight better now than he was at the time (I'd imagine) most of those innings were played.
    He's obviously quite better than that average, even on dodgy wickets, but the point was the fact that he got selected for Sri Lanka with it. Obviously scoring runs wasn't particularly easy in Sri Lankan first class cricket if someone who turned in performances with the bat like those listed were making the test team.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    It's not unusual, though, to be selected in Sri Lanka or Pakistan - as batsman or bowler - despite having no real case for selection, with there being many better options.

    Sangakkara was someone the Lankan selectors got lucky with - barely a year after he got into the Test side, he went from a promising player to a very, very serious one.

    But at the time he was first picked, there were those who should have been ahead of him, several of them (including Samaraweera UIMM). But he clearly had the goods, even from his first few games.


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    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    SSC the home ground of Samaweera, Jayawardene and Atapattu is the best batting pitch in Sri Lanka. It is something that needs to be taken into account i guess. Just look at fellow SSC batsmen records compared to most FC batsmen in Sri Lanka, i.e Gunawardene, JK Silva and NT Paranavitana.

    Also bowlers such as Zoysa, Dilhara, Ruchia Perera and Wickramasinghe have pretty high FC bowling records compared to other bowlers, due to playing most of their FC cricket on that pitch.

    EDIT: With regard to his bowling at Test level, he had a serious injury prior to his first major stint in Test Cricket. He made his debut in Test Cricket as specialist bowler, batting at number 8. But during most of his Test career he has hardly bowled in FC cricket. He got the yips pretty bad as well after struggling to cut it in ODIs as bowling all rounder. But an injury was the main reason why he hardly bowls in Test cricket.
    Last edited by chaminda_00; 08-11-2007 at 04:55 AM.
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    International Captain LongHopCassidy's Avatar
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    Knew he was a freak on ICC 2005 for a reason.
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    Global Moderator vic_orthdox's Avatar
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    Any change in your thoughts after watching him bowl today?

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    International 12th Man Shaggy Alfresco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LongHopCassidy View Post
    Knew he was a freak on ICC 2005 for a reason.
    He's absolutely gun on ICC 2006 as well.

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    Global Moderator Prince EWS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vic_orthdox View Post
    Any change in your thoughts after watching him bowl today?
    One over on a hiding to nothing? It'd be madness to do so based on that.

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    School Boy/Girl Captain skipper's Avatar
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    good article.

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    Hall of Fame Member Jamee999's Avatar
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    He was gun on ICC BECAUSE of his test stats, I reckon. Was the best overseas player on ICC 2002.

    Anyway, obviously talented, but didn't get a chance to show it at the test level that often..
    Or something.

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    Had a wonderful start to his carrier, and he batted at 8 on debut, got Ganguly out with the ball.But the selectors as usual put him up the order.

    I have always been and still am a fan of his, he should be in the test squad ahead of many other players Arnold, Mubarak, Tharanga etc.

    I dont think he will be recalled, so sad

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    International Coach pup11's Avatar
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    Well as Princey said he should have been given an extended run when he was doing well but that didn't happen but since then he has had his chances but he has just not been to make most of them, he has looked very ordinary while batting outside Sri lanka so i guess he is pretty much a backyard bully.
    I don't think he would be getting any further chances now unless there is a injury crisis within the team.

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    A batsmen who didn't make the most of his talents, although it has to be said the selectors hardly allowed him to blossom into a good Test player. As Richard said, it seemed particularly odd he was dropped after 9 Tests averaging 87, but it was for Aravinda de Silva, not Russel Arnold, so that's probably why there wasn't much fuss. I can't seem to work out why de Silva returned to the side though, for a 3 Test tour of England and then bowing out with a double-century against Bangladesh. In a way I suppose you could liken Samaraweera to VVS Laxman, as both seem/seemed to be constantly under pressure to retain their spot in the side, despite often performing better than their flashier team-mates.

    He should never have played ODIs as anything other than an off-spinner who might be good for a few handy runs, but he doesn't appear to have the aggression in his batting to be anything other than a #8 or lower. He was tried in most positions, but had virtually no success. His List A statistics are really poor, for somebody who is primarily a batsmen. Only 6 half centuries in over 100 games, and his average bolstered by just under 1/3 of his innings being NOs.
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