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Chamara Silva: A tale of burgeoning promise unfulfilled

Chamara Silva © Getty Images
Chamara Silva © Getty Images

Chamara Silva, born on December 14, 1979, was a talented batsman, but never quite dazzled the international stage. In 1999, when he essayed a fine half-century on his One-Day International (ODI) debut, it seemed like he would be the shining light of Sri Lanka’s cricket in the years to come. But it wasn’t to be. Bharath Ramaraj has more.

 

In the 1990s, when the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne came onto bowl, doomsayers and the apocalyptic prophets of the world would envisage a set of batsmen being sent back to the pavilion like an army of sheep.

 

By the dawn of the new century though, a young 19-year-old from Emerald Isle, Chamara Silva in a One-Day International (ODI) against the pillaging Australians with delectable wrists found the minutest of gaps in the field at Colombo. He went onto essay an eye-catching half-century during the match. The writer just had an inkling that Silva’s unwavering self-belief, even when thrown into the deep end to face the best in the business, would hold him in good stead in the years to come. Unfortunately, his international career seemed to turn into a stop-and-start journey towards unfulfilled promise.

 

Silva, born on December 14, 1979 could wow the crowd with intrepid performances. However, sometimes his unbridled passion to play too many shots square of the wicket on both sides saw him struggling to find a regular place in the Sri Lankan set-up.

 

Silva’s burgeoning promise was spotted early in his career by the selectors and was drafted into the national squad at the age of only 19. He made it into the side on the back of just one hundred in First-Class cricket and even his List A record at that time wasn’t remarkable to say the least.

 

After notching up a twinkling half-century against Australia in 1999, he was strangely discarded from the squad. In fact, for the next seven years, he found himself in the lonely world of wilderness. It was only in 2007 when Silva, now a 28-year-old man, essayed his first international hundred against India at Visakhapatnam. He stood like a boy on a burning deck that day.

 

During the next few months, Silva made his presence felt with a few innings under pressure cooker situations including in the 2007 World Cup held in the Caribbean. One fondly rekindles memories of Silva standing up to the might of the all-conquering Australian team in the World Cup with an elegant half-century. Curiously, he touched towering peaks not in the game against Australia, but when he took an outside the off-stump delivery from Bangladesh’s seamer Mushrafe Mortaza to flick it over the mid-wicket region for a believe-it-or-not six in the World Cup. It seemed as if he was using a magical wand rather than a willow when he played that sparkling stroke.

 

Chamara Silva © Getty Images
Chamara Silva played 11 Tests for Sri Lanka and scored 537 runs at an average of 33.56. He also scored one scored century and two half-centuries with a highest of an unbeaten 152 © Getty Images

By the end of that year, he was yet again in the thick of things by launching a rescue mission against England at Colombo RPS. Yes, Sri Lanka had already lost that ODI series by losing three of the first four games played. However, Silva’s backs-to-the wall knock of 73 against England in the final match of the series helped them to save some face.

 

At that crucial juncture of his career, many believed Silva’s valiant and courageous knocks in 2007 could turn out to be the reality-altering year for him. Sadly, it yet again turned out to be a false dawn in his career. Silva went onto essay a mere three more fifties since the ODI series played against England. The best of the lot perhaps being his timely half-century against Australia on a slow turning wicket at Colombo in 2011. Curiously, he played only one more game for Sri Lanka in ODI cricket and hasn’t represented them since.

 

Even in Test cricket, barring his resplendent innings of 152 in only his second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington in 2006 that helped Sri Lanka to achieve a rare Test victory in New Zealand, Silva’s career was a major disappointment. There were question marks over his ability to play in alien conditions. But that century in New Zealand showcased, he can do well in tough conditions. Yet, he ended up with a less than impressive average of 33.56.

 

Despite the chances of again playing for his country seemingly being very slim, he continues to serve various First-Class teams in Sri Lanka with dedication and devotion. In fact, he essayed his first double ton in First-Class cricket only during the 2011-12 season.

 

Silva is also a fine and agile fielder in the inner circle, but to find a regular place in any national set-up, that isn’t enough.

 

Sri Lankan supporters had pinned hopes on Silva combining with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera and Kumar Sangakkara to form a formidable middle-order. But he couldn’t make his chances count and now can only ponder as to what might have been. In short, he wafted from being a batsman who would thrill the crowd with sheer brilliance to mediocrity.

 

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

 

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