Endeavour Hills’ recruiting spree has been well publicised, and rightly so.
It’s not often the cherished fields of local cricket are donned by a current Test cricketer, let alone a current Test cricketer and former international champion simultaneously.
But under the guidance of countryman Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne will take to Sydney Pargeter Reserve. Albeit far removed from Kandy’s Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, the venue where Thirimanne plundered a Test 140 against Bangladesh in his last outing.
There’s an eerie symmetry in Thirimanne reuniting with Dilshan, as not only do the two have a history of representing Sri Lanka together, but Thirimanne admits his Test debut came by virtue of an injury to his now-captain.
“(My) Test debut was special because I was actually not supposed to play for that match, because Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana were opening for Sri Lanka,” says Thirimanne.
“But before the Test match (against England) we played a practice game with Essex, and Dilshan got injured but I scored a century, and that’s how I made the Test debut.
“It was a good experience, back then England were a great team, I think they were the number one Test side at that time. I scored 40 runs in the second innings, and it was a memorable knock for me.”
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A decade on, and Thirimanne’s still a regular fixture in the Sri Lankan side, with those commitments meaning his availability for the Hills only stretches until the 2nd of December.
That being said, he’s still set on achieving “something special” at Sydney Pargeter Reserve, but only has a short time to make his presence felt.
That won’t faze a man with over 5000 international runs to his name.
279 of those came during a “memorable” 2014 Asia Cup, in which Thirimanne was crowned Player of the Series, cracking two centuries in five matches, including a decisive 101 that pushed Sri Lanka beyond Pakistan in the final.
Fast forward two weeks, and Sri Lanka was taking to the field for the T20 World Cup.
Absent during the early stages, Thirimanne came into the fold at the pointy end of the tournament, proving his worth with a crucial 35-ball 44 in the semi-final.
Three days later he and his compatriots had their hands on the coveted World T20 trophy, downing India with six wickets and 13 balls to spare.
On top of the world both figuratively and literally, 2014 was undoubtedly a high-point for Thirimanne. The joy brought to him by simply recollecting the on-field successes of that year evident.
But triumph hadn’t granted Thirimanne immunity to adversity. Such is the turbulent nature of elite sport, and in particular cricket.
Having struggled to convert his white-ball ascendancy to the red-ball arena, 2015 and 2016 were especially testing for Thirimanne as he “didn’t score many runs.”
“I had a failure in 2016, and after that I was dropped for a couple of years, but I kept playing ODI’s,” he recalls.
As is an earmark of the best, Thirimanne refused to let his “failure” define him, instead searching for, and grasping, the opportunity to develop.
“Later in 2020 I had a chance to represent the Test side again, so that was special because I learned so much from that failure and scored lots of runs after that.”
“I think I am a better batsman moving on,” Thirimanne concludes.
Leadership has also shaped Thirimanne for the better, having been afforded the opportunity to lead his country not once, but twice.
The first of those opportunities presented in 2014 because “Angelo (Mathews) was injured at the time.”
“I also captained the side on a tour to Pakistan in 2019. When you’re captaining the side it is a great honour, because in Sri Lanka it’s like India, there’s so much expectation from you’re country to represent, and captaining the side is so special,” says Thirimanne.
“It was a good tour of Pakistan because we actually won the T20 series, unfortunately we lost the ODI series, but we fought to the end, so it was memorable.”
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An open-minded character, Thirimanne still hopes to learn from his stint at Endeavour Hills, despite being the one many will be looking to learn from.
“I learn every day, every day I learn something,” he says.
“It is good to come to Endeavour Hills and play for a stint and get that exposure, because at the end of the day you learn something from playing for different teams and playing in different countries, so I think it will be a real learning curve for me.”
As for the knowledge he can impart, Thirimanne’s advice for young cricketers is that they can “learn every day, and you can turn the failure into success by working hard.”
“There’s no real secret to the success. I believe in hard work, and I want young cricketers to work hard and do their best.”