August 28, 2009

How good is Samaraweera?

Sambit Bal
Thilan Samaraweera gets a big stride in as he drives, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Test, Galle, 1st day, August 18, 2009
 © AFP
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With his second successive hundred against New Zealand, Thilan Samaraweera has taken his batting average to over 50, the magic number that used to confer greatness on Test batsmen. He now stands 29th on the all-time averages list, and if the list is restricted to batsmen with a minimum of 50 Tests, he jumps to 18.

Samaraweera, of course, deserves his success. In March this year he was hit by a bullet when terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore, and he feared he would never play cricket again. He had just hit two back-to-back double-hundreds then. You can argue that his returns have been halved now. But as S Rajesh tells us, Samaraweera has had a cracking couple of years, averaging over 76 in his last 15 Tests.

Still, how good is he? We perhaps don't know yet. He averages 31.22 against Australia, 24.66 against South Africa, 28.87 against England. In Australia he averages 22.66, in England 4.25, and in India 10.50. He has played 30 of his 54 Tests at home, and averages nearly 60 in them. Seven of his 11 hundreds have come at home, and his career average has been massively boosted by his five Tests in Pakistan, in which he scored 633 runs at 90.42 with three hundreds. His other hundred came in the West Indies.

Scoring big runs is a special ability. And given that Samaraweera started in the Sri Lankan team as a bowler who could bat, his achievements are huge. If he were to retire today, he would forever remain in an elite band statistically. But the numbers will lie because if we drew up a list of top 50 batsmen of all time, Samaraweera will not feature in it. Not even in a list of the top 100.

Niether will, say, Michael Atherton. But Atherton averages 37.69. He will never be called a great batsman. He was nowhere near being picked in Cricinfo's all-time England XI. But it can be suggested that his average did not do him justice. He opened the innings in a bowler's era. He had to survive and score runs against Wasim and Waqar, Walsh and Ambrose, Donald and Pollock, and Glenn McGrath. Each run scored in the '90s meant more than one scored today does. Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara were the kings of that age. An average of over 50 then meant you were great.

At 21 Tests, Michael Hussey averaged 80.22. At 42, he averages 52.65. Samaraweera can perhaps be better judged after 100 Tests, which he could well end up playing. But even then his average might not reflect his true worth. Batting is unlikely to get tougher in the next five years.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Pavel on (June 28, 2012, 0:33 GMT)

jeevantha kulatunga is the best ever . try to get a ceuntry as u did in last interprovincial matches ..this will be the best chance you get . if u play well definitly you must play for srilanka specially t20 and as a middle order batsman for 50 overs we wait and see what will happen (0)

Posted by Shane Perera on (March 20, 2010, 11:52 GMT)

Shamal Jayakody is correct. Samaraweera never played well in Australia. He is scoring mainly in Sri Lanka. He is not a "great: batsman.

Posted by Ravi Chandra on (January 22, 2010, 17:37 GMT)

Samaraweera is probably the best "FLAT PITCH BATSMAN OF THE DECADE". Period. He has huge scores in the flat and placid pitches of the sub-continent. Once he gets set, he is difficult to dislodge. But does it really help Sri Lanka. Lanka has better classy batsmen like Sanga, Mahela and Upul Tharanga. Samaraweera is over rated.

Posted by Vikram Maingi on (October 19, 2009, 7:23 GMT)

Samaraweera has performed a great a job in the test matches in SL/Pakistan, but he deserves to be given opportunity to prove his worth on different kind of pitches in England, Australia and South Africa. Even in India, his credentials do not speak for his capability. Let us see how does he perform during Sri Lanka's forthcoming test series in India.

Posted by Kasun on (October 4, 2009, 14:40 GMT)

he he...how about ur man 'Dhoni' who included for world XI test team...hehe..and remember 'Sanga ( world no 1 test batsman ) and Chanderpaul not included

Posted by Ranjith on (September 8, 2009, 18:53 GMT)

Samaraweera has found a new form. His 100 in NZ one day match is further evidence. Before this he was almost a waste of a selection in one day matches. Why not wait till he plays other countries at home and away to re-evaluate his new form. Even if he does not perform outside SL, it doesn't matter. SL can use him to win matches at home. My bet is that he is going to be a different player altogether. He will perform outside SL too. Go Samare!

Posted by Nileshkumar on (September 7, 2009, 16:45 GMT)

Samarweera averages 83+ in tests in 2009. The question is: Is he equally good? I had the same doubt regarding Hussey.. and we all know how it has turned out to be. The main problem here is that the guy has already played 50+ matches but no prominent cricketer/commentator in world seems to take a note of him! Most of the players are acknowledged when they have played 50 test-matches...

Posted by Amit on (September 4, 2009, 18:06 GMT)

Apart from Sangakara I don't see any batsmen in Srilanka worth shovering praises at.Samaraverra will be forgotten in couple years as his feat in Lankan dead pitches will not count. We all know what's his average is against the top 3 teams in the world. Look at Jayawardene's record against Oz. One hundred(In SL pitch) in something like 16 inns, and then compare his record against other nations. It's not a coincidence.He only hits his centuries against Ban'desh,Pak,Zim,NZ,WI. Even if he hits 30 centuries 28 out of those are in dead sun-contenetal picthes.Would that be considered "Great". Same is the case with Samaraveerra.

Posted by Nissanka on (September 3, 2009, 12:26 GMT)

I am a Sri Lankan cricket fan and have followed Thilan career since his schooldays. He was always considered a good batsman and was not put in the same class as Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Aravinda and even Mahela in terms of natural talent-we Sri Lankans tend to not give defensive batsmen as much prominence. Given his background, he should be commended for what he has achieved.

Posted by Karthik on (September 3, 2009, 11:52 GMT)

Sambit, Benchmark is different now. Through the 90s there were just 3 or 4 people averaged 50 plus. Tendulkar topped the average with 58 followed by Lara 52. In 2000s atleast about 20 people average 50 plus. Presence of so many weak teams, flatter surfaces have enabled batsman to maintain average of 50 plus.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sambit Bal
Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.

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