This, that and the other. Mostly the other
Thilan Samaraweera may well have played his last game for Sri Lanka. At least until the middle order has failed in a couple of games. And because of who he is, Thilan has a cult following. There are those of us who have been kicked out of pubs for defending his defence shot as being equal to that of past greats. You know who you are. We are that cult, and these are some of the lesser-known Thilan gems that make us gather in dark alleys to dissect his genius.
The tiff with Mahela
The Cult of Thilan despises Mahela. Not many know that Mahela and Thilan had a falling-out over the number of runs both have scored at the SSC. Mahela felt Thilan had no business scoring century upon century at what he calls "his" ground and showing him up. Things have eased up a little now, but it remains a contentious point between the two and their fans. Colombo suburbs have been split for years over this. Certain sections of the cult used to abuse Mahela's fans by yelling out Thilan's average at the SSC whenever he came out to bat. In fact, a poster that said "82 > 79" was banned at the SSC after the two sets of fans clashed in an ugly incident in early 2007.
Left-handers are his bunnies
Who likes left-handers ? I mean, really. They walk around like their cover- drives are some sort of gift from the cricket gods themselves. Thilan did his best to put these freaks in their place, and we loved him for it. Ganguly, Lara, Hayden (twice), Langer, Hussey (!), Lehmann, Yuvraj, all brought to their knees by the brilliance of Thilan's deceptively magnificent offies. Don't believe us? Not many do. This is because: a) people often forget he bowled, b) they don't think Thilan can be cool like that. Why don't you Statsguru it before you end up looking like all the other fools? Many of us argue that Thilan's underrated bowling was the inspiration for Graeme Swann's resurgence. But obviously Thilan is better because he can score runs too.
What Thilan said
Thilan wasn't a favourite among interviewers, but when he spoke he was always insightful, and often surprisingly funny. We've compiled some our favourite quotes from Thilan below:
"Yes, with an AK47 and a 9mm, by the looks of it."
Answering Sanga when he was asked if he was shot on that Lahore team bus. Thilan was the first Civilian National Shooting Champion.
"Anyone could have done it."
Modest after scoring his maiden one-day hundred, against New Zealand.
"Even New Zealand have a chance to win."
Showing his funny side when speaking about the 2011 World Cup.
"Life is like a baggage carousel. Sometimes you know what's coming around the bend, but most of the time your bags are ripped open and your favorite undies are stolen."
Getting philosophical with Christiane Amanpour in a CNN special report after the Lahore shooting.
"I'm a Sri Lankan first, an Asian second, and I don't like leaving the subcontinent!"
Part of the sterling, award-winning keynote speech delivered at the "Flat Track Bullies Are People Too" meeting in 2007.
Thilan's charity work is even less known than his Test average. Fifty-two by the by. When he started the "You're Not Remarkable But You Still Matter" Foundation, most of us sold everything we had to donate money to it. I remember one summer when we followed him around in his fund-raising efforts with "Daddy Cool" on repeat in his '70s van. Through Thilan we met some remarkable people - some who had been used and cast aside by people in their lives like they had meant nothing, some who were told they just weren't good enough to fill the role in other people's fast-paced lives. I wish more people could see Thilan like that. Getting his hands dirty. Building relationships one at a time. With that magnificent snarl on his face. Just having him there made us all feel good inside. You filled our souls that summer, Thilan. We will always owe you that.
Damith Samarakoon is a Sri Lankan cricket fanatic living in Sydney. He blogs regularly at www.theflyslip.net
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