Steven Eskinazi said that Thilan Walallawita possesses a mature head on young shoulders. After just a few minutes in Thilan’s company, you can see what he means. This is, after all, a man who has been through a lot, from escaping the 2004 Sri Lankan Boxing Day Tsunami, to settling into the UK, making his First-Class debut and very recently unravelling Home Office red tape to become a British citizen. Just for good measure, he has also designed and launched his own clothing range.
That really isn’t bad going for a young man not yet turned twenty-four who arrived in the UK at the age of twelve. But what, I asked, does Thilan think about that “mature head” tag? For him, it is about “listening hard whilst also getting stuff done”. He is certainly a fine listener and keen to learn from the best about honing his cricketing craft wherever he can. He also feels that the battle to finally secure his British citizenship was an example, navigating through the bureaucratic frustrations that continually extended the process. Thilan was quick to gratefully acknowledge the support of the club and others in getting it over the line.
Whilst the resolution of his citizenship is a huge weight off his mind, enabling him to be selected as a local cricketer, it also raises an obvious question. Can he see himself playing for England in the future? The answer is a resounding yes and Test cricket is his ultimate goal, although as a modern cricketer Thilan’s objective is to be good in all formats and indeed all three disciplines (batting, bowling, fielding).
He certainly has no illusions that there is hard graft ahead. Jack Leach, the incumbent England slow left armer has recently wheeled his way through over 90 overs in Bridgetown. Thilan was quick to cite the vital experience of operating in tandem with Luke Holman at Hove last season. The pair sent down 110 overs between them and whilst it was Luke that grabbed the headlines with ten wickets, Thilan could certainly have had more, with some luck and a following sea breeze. His left arm economy and control though made a big contribution to Luke’s leg break wickets and to the ultimate Middlesex victory.
For inspiration, Thilan can look to his hero, fellow slow left armer, Rangana Herath. What, I wondered would be the single biggest quality that Thilan would take from Herath. It is he says “control and the ability to set up a batsman”. There again is that mature head. The easy answer might have been a single delivery or magic ball, but Thilan, you sense, is already thinking of the long game and the guile and patience that success demands.
There is no doubt in his mind that personal and team goals are aligned this season as “playing in all three formats, promotion and white ball silverware”. Bowling in partnerships excites him and he is, he says, really look forward to learning what he can from Mujeeb Ur Rahman who will arrive to bolster Middlesex’s Blast campaign.
Thilan will need to be putting revolutions on both white and red balls and when he is not doing that, he will be designing his Revolution clothing range. On and off the field, you sense this a young man tailored for success.