Sri Lanka’s besieged batsman Lahiru Thirimanne must be someone whom very few people would want to sit with at the dinner table.
Ever since he played his last international match against England in June this year and made 17 in a Test at Lord’s, Thirimanne went into a shell and after been thrown a lifeline to restore his character and image there was nothing that he could do other than feature in more setbacks for a second-string team in a current series against a West Indies second tier outfit.
Thirimanne is today a player who perhaps epitomizes a cricketer who either had the makings of a frontline bet in the mould of Kumar Sangakkara or Australia’s Matthew Hayden or someone who was overrated ahead of several others.
So much for a player, who even skipped his A Level examination at school to trade his books for bats when he had to make a choice for participation at the Under-19 Youth World Cup some years ago?
Never had a Sri Lankan cricketer with Thirimanne’s potential and anticipation been relegated to play in the ranks of the lower team after shaking up his position in the senior team with some horrific scores.
Some analysts rue that Thirimanne is a victim of bureaucracy and commerce in an age when players are kept as pawns and marketed not for a country-cause but by salesmen for the big bucks now on offer at slam-bang T20 cricket.
Thirimanne’s former mentor Roshan Abeysinghe, however, refutes any charges that the south-paw batsman had fallen to the dictates of unscrupulous elements that culminated in his current mess.
“Thirimanne is a batsman with a strong foundation to play any form of cricket and his present plight has a lot to do with his mindset. Here is a player with the best technique in the country who cannot find a permanent place. I think right now he needs a break to set his mind right,” said Abeysinghe.
Abeysinghe was the first to see the potential in Thirimanne whom he enlisted to play for his Ragama Cricket Club as a 15-year old boy in 2004.
But Thirimanne’s case is also embroiled in the notorious selection syndrome where a cricketer gets into the Sri Lanka team not because he has earned his rightful place but because a replacement was needed for an injured player.
Thirimanne played his first Test match replacing Tillekaratne Dilshan at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on a tour of England in 2011 when the latter busted his thumb during a marathon 197 knock at Lord’s. On another occasion in 2013 he missed a maiden century on Australian soil by nine runs after replacing an injured Kumar Sangakkara in Sydney.
Thirimanne was a player who could have easily been groomed to fit into the slot left open by the ultimate retirement of Sangakkara two years later. He had the drives and flicks and the big straight shots to go with at a time when the International Cricket Council is in need of ambassadors to keep afloat the traditional intellectual format of the game while players are enticed into the colourful world of overseas domestic T20 leagues.
That Thirimanne had to be pushed down to restore his image only goes to show that the governors of Sri Lanka Cricket had mismanaged or failed to see the reality of players they are supposed to nurture once and for all.
For Abeysinghe it would be a matter of time before Thirimanne breaks into public acceptance once again.
“Thirimanne has to re-launch his career and prepare for the Bangladesh (home) tour in March next year. He needs to go back and play the domestic (club) game to re-launch himself,” said Abeysinghe.