Another success story: 1995-1996 Schoolboy Cricketer : Samaraweera Bangladesh batting consultant | Sunday Observer

Another success story: 1995-1996 Schoolboy Cricketer : Samaraweera Bangladesh batting consultant

Producing champions and world class cricketers is nothing new for the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year series since its inception way back in 1979. It has even produced Chief ICC Match Referee, another ICC Match Referee and an ICC elite panel umpire.

But now, we see the great contest taking another giant leap forward by producing even international level coach. The latest in that ever-increasing distinguish club is former Sri Lanka Test batsman turned international coach Thilan Samaraweera.

Samaraweera, under the guidance of head coach – another former Sri Lankan batsman Chandika Hathurusinghe, has done a great job in fine tuning the skills of Bangladesh batsmen who gave a torrid time to Sri Lanka bowlers in the second Test played at Saravanamuttu Stadium last week.

As the batting consultant of the Bangladesh team, Samaraweera has proved his class. Having lost the first Test at Galle to the hosts by 259 runs, Bangladesh would never have expected to win the second Test that followed.

Perhaps, their only intension would have been to draw the game at Sara Stadium and stop Sri Lanka from going for a 2-0 clean sweep. But Samaraweera injected that gutty feeling to the Bangladesh batsmen – to believe in them and capitalize on the mistakes of Lankan bowlers. The

visitors did just that to register their first ever Test victory over Sri Lanka. Most importantly, that came at a memorable time for Bangladesh – in their 100th Test!

Having made only 312 all out and 197 all out in the respective innings to lose the first Test, Bangladesh bounced back to win the second Test by four wickets and square the two-Test series. Having restricted Sri Lanka’s first innings to 338 all out, Bangladesh did well to make 467 runs and that handy lead eventually became the deciding factor of the Test series. Full credit should go to former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year winner Samaraweera who was mainly responsible in transforming the Bangladesh batting to a formidable position, along with the support of Hathurusinghe.

Samaraweera has a proven track record as a classy batsman right from his school career at Ananda College, Colombo.

His outstanding performances in successive years earned him the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year titles in 1994 and 1995. In the four decade long history of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest, only six players have been fortunate enough to win the coveted award two times each and exactly half of them had been from Ananda.

Heading that elite band of cricketers is Sri Lanka’s world cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga (1980 and 1982). Beside Samaraweera and Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama (Nalanda -1983 and

1984), Lahiru Peiris (Ananda - 2004 and 2005), Bhanuka Rajapaksa (Royal - 2010 and 2011) and Charith Asalanka (Richmond - 2015 and 2016) have won the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title two times each.

In less than three years after winning the title for the second time, Samaweera made his Sri Lanka debut in the Champions trophy ODI against India in Sharjah on November 6, 1998.

Although he did not get an opportunity to bat, he had Indian wicket keeper bat Nayan Mongia (51) as his first ODI scalp.Samaraweera’s Test debut too had been against the identical nation but on a

memorable note. He made a debut Test century in Sri Lanka’s third Test against India at SSC grounds in August/ September 2001. Coming in as No.8 batsman, Samaraweera made 103 not out on his debut, facing 175 balls in 201-minute stay, hitting ten fours.

In fact, Samaraweera was the fourth Sri Lanka batsman to score a century in the home team’s first inning of 610 for 6 declared with Marvan Atapattu (108), Mahela Jayawardene (139) and Hashan Tillakaratne (136 not out) making merry against the Indian bowling.

Despite making his debut, Samaraweera showed class of a seasoned batsman and was associated in an unfinished 194-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Tillakaratne as Sri Lanka emerged victorious by an innings and 77 runs.

Samaraweera’s rock-solid batting and tantalizing off spin bowling enabled him to cement his place in the Test team.

Representing Sri Lanka in 81 Tests, Samaraweera had aggregated 5,462 runs with 14 centuries and 30 fifties. In fact, he is among the top Lankan batsmen who had maintained an impressive Test average of 48.76.

Although Samaraweera was better known as a Test batsman, he had also represented Sri Lanka in 53 ODIs with a top score of 105 not out.

The 40-year-old had been working with some Australia Test players ahead of their 2016 tour to Sri Lanka, in his brief consulting stint at Australia’s National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. In 2013, he had a successful season with Worcestershire in the English country championship and made a top score of 144 not out against Leicestershire at Leicester on August 28, 2013.