ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
Sri Lanka v Canada, Group A, World Cup 2011, Hambantota
Revived Samaraweera ready to anchor Sri Lanka
February 18, 2011
Thilan Samaraweera's re-emergence as a batsman in Sri Lanka's ODI side has been one of the more understated, indeed surprising, developments of the last couple of years. His set-up as a batsman for long innings is no longer in question. But since his return to the ODI side in 2009, after a four-year break, he's become a sturdy middle-order contrast to a top-order by turns explosive and elegant.
Since his return in July 2009, Samaraweera averages nearly 35 in 27 games at a spot where that often means more than it implies quantitatively; he has also made his only two ODI hundreds in this period. And his strike-rate isn't far from 80, still respectable in this age and by his own standards nearly remarkable.
It's not down to anything in particular, according to him, just a little confidence flowing over from his Test form and some from selectors. "Three or four years back I was not even in the Test team and I got back in late 2008 but since then I got runs," he said. "Especially after scoring a hundred against India two years ago I got a place in the team which also gave me confidence. I've had good communication with selectors and they said that you still have opportunity. Last year I scored two hundreds, so it's been good far."
A clarity over his role and responsibilities has helped, even if for the modern middle order one-day batsman an ability to map out a late Powerplay clouds issues more than before. "My role is to control the innings in the middle. Last year I did very well and also did well in the last warm-up match, though I didn't get much opportunity in the West Indies series. All the players know their roles individually, but most importantly it will be on the situation you are facing also.
"Because of the Powerplay one has to force the scoring rate to eight or nine an over and it's easy to hit in the sub-continent so you can score 45 and at times teams also 60. But that all depends on the wicket and how the game is going."
On Sunday, Samaraweera and Sri Lanka will come across two unknowns: Canada and the Mahinda Rajapakse International Stadium in Hambantota, on which no international has so far been played. Both ensure that Sri Lanka's much-awaited opener will be a "big game."
"We had a good long session because we were practising for the first time here and so far, so good. At Premadasa it was a bit up and down, but the groundsman put in a lot of hard work and domestic cricket was played there. They did good job for the last match and it was good. Basically we have to play the Canada match like a big game and if you relax they can upset any team so we have to approach it as a big game. We have stopped talking about that [a new venue]. We have prepared well in the warm-up matches because you have to deal with these kinds of things."
Samaraweera acknowledged the openness of this tournament, more so perhaps in Sri Lanka where surfaces might not regularly concede 300-plus totals in big games. "Lots of people talk about 300 runs as a par score but that could happen in India where the wickets are flat and the grounds are small. Here it will depend on the nature of the wickets. The surfaces we played in domestic matches at Premadasa were difficult and this ground is too big with 90 yard boundaries. 260 might be par in Sri Lanka.
"At the moment honestly, we're planning for the Canada game, because in this type of group you have to plan one game at a time. After the Canada match we have to plan for Pakistan. All three big teams are good, Australia have won the tournament four times and they can still do lot of things. Pakistan is I think really the dark horse and can change the game any time and have firepower. Even New Zealand are good."