Thilan Samaraweera has built his game around survival. In 2009, he was one of several Sri Lankan players who were shot during the tour of Pakistan. The 12 inch wound suffered by Samaraweera could have ended his career, or even worse, his life. Instead, he has used it as motivation to become a rock in the Sri Lankan middle order.
Big things were expected after his sensational debut against India in 2001. It was a perfect welcome to the Test arena, with the right-hander hitting 103* in his side’s crushing innings victory. It began a love affair with the Sinhalese SC Ground, where he hit another two centuries in his next two appearances at the venue.
Inconsistency plagued Samaraweera, who was constantly dropping in and out of the side. Finally, in 2008, the gifted player hit back to back centuries against the West Indies and India to cement his spot in the side.
The return to form continued in 2009, where Samaraweera played some of his best cricket. Despite the tragedy suffered on tour, Samaraweera had earlier enjoyed unrivalled success on the placid Pakistani pitches. A career best 231 at Karachi was followed by a picture perfect 214 in Lahore. The Pakistani purple patch was just reward for a player who prided himself on perfection. His knocks were never overly extravagant, but they provided Sri Lanka with a steady middle-order depth that they had been missing for years.
The 2009 season saw Samaraweera’s hot form continue, when he hit 159 and 143 in back to back Tests against New Zealand. The year also included his maiden ODI ton, also scored against New Zealand. The 50 over game was never really Samaraweera’s focus, and it showed, with the batsman only averaging 27.8 in his 53 game career.
As good as his 2009 season might have been, Samaraweera will look back at the South African tour of 2011 as his proudest moment. After being dropped earlier in the year, Samaraweera returned for the season ending series with the red hot South Africans. It was a dream tour for Samaraweera, whose 102 in the second Test led Sri Lanka to their first ever win in South Africa. He followed up that ton with another century in the third Test.