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Thilan Samaraweera has retired from international cricket after being left out of the Sri Lanka squad for the first Test against Bangladesh in Galle, which starts on March 8. Samaraweera had sent a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) on Tuesday informing it of his intention and the board has now accepted his decision.
"I was shocked with my omission from the squad against Bangladesh," Samaraweera said, adding he had been told by the selectors that they may need him to play Pakistan later this year."There was no point in waiting for nine months. I respect the decision of the selectors to go with young players and decided it was the right time for me to retire."
SLC wanted him to play against Bangladesh - perhaps a farewell Test - but Samaraweera declined because he felt the time was right to retire.
"I never wanted a farewell match because if you're not good enough to be in the 15-man squad, there's nowhere in the world you can play in the first XI," the 36-year-old Samaraweera said. "I didn't want to be selfish and deprive a youngster of his place by requesting to play in a farewell Test."
Samaraweera's decision to retire was brought on as much by a lack of Test matches for Sri Lanka in 2013, as his non-selection for the first Test against Bangladesh. Apart from the two home Tests in March, Sri Lanka only have one away tour to Zimbabwe during the year, which Samaraweera was unlikely to attend in any case, before the year-end tour to Pakistan. A proposed series against South Africa was postponed to 2015.
"I may not have retired so early if the Test series against West Indies and South Africa had not been postponed because as a cricketer you'd always want to play against the number one team which is South Africa at the moment."
Samaraweera will leave for England next week to represent county side Worcestershire during the 2013 season. "I will take a decision at the end of the English season whether to retire from first-class cricket," he said.
His international career comes to a close after a woeful tour of Australia, where he made 79 runs in six innings. He reclaimed form in Sri Lanka's first-class competition since then, hitting 464 runs at 92.8 in four matches. Samaraweera was originally left out of Sri Lanka's preliminary Test squad for the Bangladesh series, but was later called into that squad when Mahela Jayawardene's finger injury ruled him out of the series. He could not find a place in the final 16, however.
In a letter to media, Samaraweera thanked the coaches, clubs, team-mates and family who had supported him through his career, and laid out the reason for his retirement. "Although I have not lost the power of my passion to make a comeback, my ethics of reasoning does not interest me to do so at this hour where the obvious focus should be to find a balance in the prospects we have for the future," he said.
Samaraweera has played 81 Tests, and scored 5462 runs at 48.76, with 14 hundreds. He was primarily an offspinner at the beginning of his domestic career, but transformed himself into a secure, if dour, middle-order batsman, in order to break into the Sri Lanka side in the time of Muttiah Muralitharan. He also played 53 ODIs, but his conservative style of play never made him a natural fit for the shorter formats, even after he began improving his stroke range later on in his career.
Samaraweera's Test career has had several starts, most notably when he came back from being shot during the 2009 Lahore attack on Sri Lanka's team bus, after he had made double-hundreds in back-to-back Tests in Pakistan. Samaraweera had surgery to remove the bullet which had travelled 12 inches into his thigh, and underwent months of physical and psychological therapy, before returning to the Test side four months later.
He was dropped for more than a year in 2006, and again for one series in 2011, but he returned triumphantly from his second layoff to play his most memorable Test innings - a first innings 102 which enabled Sri Lanka to win their first Test in South Africa, in Durban.
Though he had received a central contract from SLC, Sri Lanka's selectors had expressed a desire to build a youthful Test side in 2013, and was unlikely to play a major role in what little Test cricket Sri Lanka had scheduled.