In the current era of cricket, getting selected for the national side has become a tad easy because there are three formats in the sport. In the early days, there was just Test cricket and batting in the longer format has never been as easy as a few players make it look. A successful batsman in the ODIs is eventually pushed into the Test team as well, these days and one might blame the batting paradise to nearly kill the real charm of the art of batting. Despite these massive changes in the game over the years, there still are players who stick to the old-fashioned style of batting and hence, they receive fruitful results at the end.
If getting into the grove of orthodox batting is a challenge, a tougher one is to maintain consistency in your game. Cracking an average of at least 50 or more season after season is sparse these days for a single player. Every player has a golden period in his career but that is always followed by a downfall at some point of time. However, there has been one name in cricket, who has been a standout in terms of consistency, time and again. His numbers in the recent few years in Sri Lanka’s Premier League Tournament Tier A have been unbelievably constant at the top. Years when he averaged less than 50 in Sri Lanka’s domestic circuit have been rare but still it took him 11 years after his First-Class debut to make his maiden appearance for the national side.
When Roshen Silva walked in with Dinesh Chandimal and Co for the National Anthem at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on December 2, he became the 144th player to represent Sri Lanka in the Tests.
Roshen made his First-Class (FC) debut with Singha Sports Club in 2006. It was not a memorable start to his career as he was given only three matches in the season where he finished with just 53 runs in three innings at an average of 17.66. Roshen then moved to Colts Cricket Club ahead of the 2007-08 season and from there, his First-Class career took off. In his premier season for them, Roshen piled up 429 runs in 10 matches at an average of 30.64, which was inclusive of his maiden First-Class century.
In the next edition of the Premier League Tournament, Roshen carried his momentum and finished the season with yet another 30-plus average. In the next three seasons (2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12), Roshen sat on the top of the run charts for Colt Cricket Club averaging 55.90, whopping 96.66 and 86.42 respectively. The Colombo-born batsman has always managed to be easily noticeable among his club members but has never finished as the top-scorer of the domestic tournament and hence, he was ignored by the selectors for all these years.
The season, 2015-16 was when Roshen’s big breakthrough actually happened. He not only managed to strike yet another 50-plus average in First-Class cricket but also registered his highest FC score. Roshen, who now plays for Ragama Cricket Club, scored 678 runs in 10 matches and that was included three half-centuries, two hundreds and an unbeaten 225 in the 2015-16 season. He was then picked for Sri Lanka A side that toured New Zealand in October 2015. In the first unofficial Test, he scored a 47 and a 120 not out that helped Sri Lanka A draw the match. He failed with the bat in the second match and the visitors lost the series 0-1.
Maiden Test call
Based on his tour A and consistent domestic performances, Roshen received a maiden call for the national side for the home series against Australia in July 2016. However, he could not break through into the XI. Roshen then made it to the Sri Lankan squad that toured UAE for the Test series against Pakistan but again, Roshen managed to just bench in the series.
The long wait ends
In July 2016, he was a part of the touring Sri Lanka A that played two unofficial Tests against Pakistan A in England. He contributed with scored of 47 and 17 in the first match that Sri Lanka A won. In the second match, which the Lankans lost, he scored 57 in the first innings and was the top scorer in the second with 40 when his side suffered a batting collapse. This tour was followed by yet another season of Premier League Tournament where Roshen ended with a 50-plus average and there was no way the Sri Lankan selectors could ignore him this time. The national side, anyway, needed a fresh face in the bunch of players who have again and again failed in their jobs.
He landed in India last month in a hope to finally break through into the playing XI. He surely would have gone to bits when he was sidelined for the first two Tests. His long (long and long) wait ended when Sri Lankan skipper made a few changes in the side ahead of the final Test against India in Delhi. Roshen finally received his Test cap as he replaced all-rounder Dasun Shanaka, who had been failing miserably with the bat and Lanka needed a reliable batsman down the order.
The intensity of the match got heated up right from the second day; not because of the game but for the events that took place on the field. The visitors halted the play for several times, complaining about the smog and that angered the Indian captain. Since Sri Lankan bowlers were heavily hammered by the Indians, the visitors were accused to using a cheap tactic to waste time in the Test. An angered Indian captain, Virat Kohli, declared India’s innings and sent Sri Lanka to bat.
Apart from Matthews and Chandimal, no other Sri Lankan managed to survive the Indian bowling attack. Roshen, being one of those, had a forgettable first innings in Test cricket when Ravichandran Ashwin sent him back moments after the former came at the crease. He edged the third ball he faced to short and walked back in disappointment for a duck in his maiden Test innings. The match was already ruined by the Delhi smog that gave the Lankan players a real hard time on the field. A couple of them, apparently had vomited and a few needed an oxygen supply too. Amidst this chaos, not many would have consoled the 29-year-old Roshen who had just blown away the moment, he had waited to live forever now.
India declared their second innings midway of Day four and set Sri Lanka a target of 410 runs. On any other day, a defeat would be written all over the Lankans but the fifth day fight put up by two new faces in the team ensured they drew the Test. In his 11th Test, Dhananjaya de Silva scored his third hundred and he had the debutant Roshen on the other end, who remained at the crease till stumps of Day five.
After India broke Chandimal and Dhananjaya’s stand of 112 runs by removing the former, Sri Lanka witnessed one of the finest partnerships from new comers in the fourth innings. Dhananjaya and Roshen added another 58 runs before the centurion Dhananjaya retired hurt but Roshen played on. The best way to survive a pressure-filled fourth innings is to be calm and Roshen looked in no hurry. All he had to do was not lose his wicket and take Sri Lanka to a draw. With his nimble feet in a non-hassle manner, Roshen conquered the spin and pace attack.
Justifies his selection
Roshen admitted later that Niroshan Dickwella tempted him by asking, “aren’t you going for the hundred?” The wicketkeeper-batsman thought it would be great if Roshen scored a hundred on debut and since it would be against India, the knock would be more significant. However, showing sheer responsibility, Roshen disagreed with his batting partner.
“Look here, saving the Test match is of paramount importance. You never know with this Indian team. Going for personal milestones, if you lose a wicket, that’s it. Cricket is a funny game.’ Just forget about the hundred, we will close shop here,” Roshen explained to Dickwella as the two successfully drew the Test for Sri Lanka with their unbroken stand of 94 runs for the sixth wicket.
Roshen, with his unbeaten 74 off 154 balls, surely would have inflicted guilt in the selectors for ignoring him for all this time. He began his FC career with Matthews and Chandimal made his FC debut three years later. But what kept Roshen apart from these two is the fact that he has managed to be the best among his club teammates, whereas the likes of Matthews and Chandimal, with their performances, have outdone the whole lot at some point of time in their career. Hence they were elevated into the big game way early and Roshen needed 103 FC matches to convince the selectors of his ability.