In his first three international encounters, Roshen Silva has been almost Bradmanesque. Debuting against India during the final match of the recent bilateral series in Delhi, he fell for a five-ball duck in the first innings. Then he staked his claim in the global spotlight in the second innings with a match-saving half-century.
Since then, Roshen–at least for now–has been unstoppable. His next three innings returned scores of 109, 56 and 70 not out against Bangladesh, becoming the first Sri Lankan to make four or more scores above 50 in his first five innings.
“After being out for a duck in the first innings, I was desperate to avoid a pair,” Roshen said, voicing his disappointment. “All I wanted in the second innings was to score a run and avoid a pair. So when I scored my maiden runs from a boundary off Ashwin (Ravichandran), it was a huge relief and gave me lot more confidence to construct my innings.”
Roshen made an unbeaten 74 in that innings, his maiden Test half-century. More importantly, he helped Sri Lanka draw the match, sharing an unfinished 94 runs for the sixth wicket with Niroshan Dickwella. Sri Lanka concluded the three-match Test series 0-2 in favour of the home team. But it was that impressive fight in the third Test that helped Sri Lanka to end the series on a high.
Like Australia’s Michael Hussey, Roshen was constrained to pile on the runs in domestic cricket for years before he was finally allowed to debut at the age of 29. This was much later than his teammates at St. Joseph’s College, Maradana: Angelo Mathews (2009), Thisera Perera (2011) and Dimuth Karunaratne (2012). Hussey made his debut at 30 and, when he retired in 2013, he had become an international icon.
“To be very honest, I was really frustrated at times,” Roshen confessed. “It was difficult to understand as why I was consistently snubbed for selection despite my domestic form being impressive right through. Then I realized that it was not easy to get into a side which already has a number of star players.”
Since moving to St. Joseph’s from Ragama Basilica Vidyalaya in 2002, Roshen has been a middle-order batsman. He is a prolific run-scorer in domestic, playing superbly in successive years.
“The national team had very solid middle order then,” he said. “The likes of Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, TM Dilshan, Malinda Warnapura and even Angelo Mathews were well set in their positions and it was tough to a break into the side. I had to wait for the right opportunity.”
But he felt devastated many times, he admitted and even thought of seeking greener pastures. He resisted the lure of money only because of a hunger to represent Sri Lanka at least once in his life.
“I lost hope at times,” Roshen, a devout Christian who lives a life of prayer, said. “But I knew it was beyond my control. I continued to train and perform in domestic cricket. That was all I could do. I left everything in the hands of God.”
He turned down several lucrative offers from England and Australia to play in their domestic tournaments last year to realize his dream of donning the national colours. “They were really tempting,” he recalled. “With the chance of getting selected looking really slim, I strongly considered moving out. But my wife said to give it a final go. I think I made the right choice as I wanted to play at least one match for my country.”
But the main motivation for staying back was the words of a preacher who, two months before he was selected for the Pakistan series in the UAE, prophesied an impending recall to the national side.
But this was not the main reason why he decided to stay back in hope. Two months before he was selected for the Pakistan series in the UAE, a preacher prophesied an impending recall to the national side. He trusts that word and waited I hope. The prediction came true; Roshen was recalled to the side–more than one year after he was first signed up to the 15-man squad.
“All that was left for me, in my frustration, was to ask for divine intervention,” he reflected. “The message was loud and clear. He said not to lose hope as I would earn a recall to the side for the series in UAE, which I did.”
Hailing from Ragama, a village with a strong Catholic presence, Roshen has had a close and a personal relationship with God. He said his strong faith kept him going when everything was difficult.
“If you look at my first class career, I thought I had done enough to warrant a place in the national side for many years but it continued to evade me,” he said. “It was my strong faith that kept me going.”
Roshen had scored 614 runs at 55.81 in last year’s Premier League tournament and maintained an average of 49.26 over 175 first-class innings. He has scored 7,094 first class runs which includes 20 centuries and 32 half centuries, typically batting in the middle order.
At his age, Roshen has few more years left in cricket. What he wants now is to perform well for the country whenever he gets the chance.
“All I want now is to perform–perform well and consistently,” he concludes.