Thisara Perera: 'I think I did a lot for the country. There are plenty of records I've set'

The Sri Lanka allrounder looks back at the high points and fondest memories from his 12-year career, and maps the way forward

Thisara Perera: "I did what I could for Sri Lankan cricket, and I'm retiring happy"  •  IDI via Getty Images

Thisara Perera: "I did what I could for Sri Lankan cricket, and I'm retiring happy"  •  IDI via Getty Images

Thisara Perera announced his retirement from all international cricket yesterday, calling time on his 12-year career. He spoke to ESPNcricinfo about his reasons for announcing his retirement before the T20 World Cup, his most memorable innings, and his plans for franchise tournaments in the near future.
You're still only 32. Why have you decided to retire now?
I've played cricket for Sri Lanka for 12 years now. I think it's time to give a chance to the youngsters. There has to be some lead-up time before a World Cup for a young player to prepare himself. You can't do that in a rush. In 2023 there's an ODI World Cup, and there are only a few months left before the T20 World Cup. Rather than retiring too close to those events, I thought it was better to give someone else the chance now.
It's likely that you were part of Sri Lanka's plans for this year's T20 World Cup. Why are you retiring from that format as well?
They haven't let me know much about their plans. All I knew was that they were dropping several seniors from the ODI team, so I thought it's better that the young player who replaces me in ODIs gets that same chance in the T20I side. He then has the time to get settled and be stable in the side. If he plays a few one-dayers as well, there's more than enough time for him to get set and play the World Cup.
You've been a World Cup winner. Did you not have dreams of doing it again?
I definitely did. I'd been thinking for a while that before I quit I'd like to bring another World Cup home. One of the greatest highlights of my life was being able to finish the 2014 World T20 [final] with a six. I was seven when Arjuna Ranatunga won the 1996 World Cup with a four, and that's really where my life in cricket started. From very early on, I wanted to hit that winning run, and I was overjoyed at having been able to do that.
But with the situation at the moment - this is a time when they are looking closely at youngsters - I thought it's better not to make anyone lose out on a place.
You haven't been consistently picked over the last five years, although you also had a spell as the limited-overs captain between 2017 and 2018. Were there frustrations for you during this period?
Failure happens to everyone. There are times you are right at the top of the staircase, and times when you're right at the bottom. That's a normal part of life. When I was low, I did my best to become free from what was holding me down. Sometimes those things have worked perfectly. I think I did a lot for the country. There are plenty of records that I've set.
You took four wickets in an innings and also hit 75 in your last Test for Sri Lanka, in 2012. Do you feel you should have had more opportunities?
Yes, I didn't get any opportunity in the Test format since then despite my performance in that match. I didn't go to ask too much about it also. I watched for a few years, then retired from Tests. I just didn't get a chance.
What are some of your fondest memories playing for Sri Lanka?
Early on in my career, I loved the 2011 World Cup final, because I was able to end our innings with a six. Then there's the 2014 World T20 and that winning six. I'll never forget that. I became the first Asian cricketer to take hat-tricks in both ODIs and T20Is, and the first Sri Lankan player to hit six sixes in over in first-class cricket. I also hit the biggest six by a Sri Lankan - 123 metres in Perth.
Any innings or spells that meant a lot to you?
Yes, the 140 that I hit against New Zealand [in Mount Maunganui in 2019]. I came in at No. 7 after a few wickets had fallen cheaply and we were out of the game [Sri Lanka were 121 for 5 after 25 overs, chasing 320]. But through my innings, I was able to get us close [they lost by 21 runs eventually]. I hit the most sixes struck by any Sri Lanka player during that innings - 13. I was batting with the tail for most of the innings. Nuwan Pradeep was batting at the other end and I remember telling him to hang in there somehow, because I was doing my best to get us to a win. We fell short narrowly. It's very rare that someone in the losing team gets a Man-of-the-Match award. But I did for that game.
Was there something that you wanted to achieve but couldn't?
I did as much as I could. We won a T20 World Cup; to win a 50-over World Cup was another goal. Of the seven World Cups I played, 2011 was the one in which we came so close and still didn't win, despite the fact that we gave it our everything. That was just our fate. But I did what I could for Sri Lankan cricket, and I'm retiring happy.
You were a penetrative bowler in your early years. Were you disappointed at how it fell away later in your career?
I was bowling really well when I started, but then I suffered a major side-strain injury late in 2012, and I focused more on my batting after that. I used to bowl 140kph, but anyone who gets a side strain is worried about bowling from then on, because of the pain. But although my pace decreased, I still got a lot of wickets. I had 175 ODI wickets, and I think I was balancing that and my batting well. My heart tells me that I gave everything I could with the ball as well.
What are your plans for retirement?
I'm still a professional cricketer. There are franchise tournaments, and I haven't stopped that, and I'll play for a while. I play domestic cricket for Sri Lanka Army, and I'm an Army officer. I can give that my full attention now. I can also focus more on my family.
You're the captain of the Jaffna Stallions LPL team. How important is that franchise to you?
I recently spoke to the owner, Anandan Arnold. We did extremely well in the last tournament, winning the tournament. And I think we'll continue to do well this year. Based on the discussions we've had, I want to keep playing for Jaffna Stallions.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I've got a few people I'd like to thank. Harsha de Silva was my coach at St Joseph's College, and that's the place that changed my life the most. I used to play as an opening batter, and it's only later that I started batting at No. 6 and had the chance to play as an allrounder. I made my international debut in 2009, and I remember Kumar Sangakkara with a lot of affection, because he was the one that brought me into the team and was my first captain. I want to thank my parents, my brothers and sisters, and my wife, Sherami Perera, all of whom sacrificed a lot during my 12 years with the national team. Sherami would sometimes be without me for months while I was touring. I am very grateful to my family.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf