THILAN speaking to Andrew Fernando, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo,
“Since 2009, I had fretted over the fact that I was probably the only player to have scored a whole lot of Test runs without playing in a World Cup. I worked hard with our shadow coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, to open up my game a bit more, and I lost six to seven kilos to get fitter. My two one-day hundreds also gave me a lot of self-belief. At 34, I knew it would be my last chance to play a World Cup, and that it would also be Murali’s last World Cup.”
“Our campaign did not begin on a happy note. A week before the start of the World Cup, Chamara Silva lost his sister. Then Lasith Malinga got injured and missed the first two games. The turning point came when we beat New Zealand in Mumbai. After that we thought, “We are in the right place.” It helped that our top three – Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara – were in real good form.
Home support was a great advantage but it also meant a lot of pressure. I think the most pressure I’ve been under while playing was in the semi-final in Colombo. Chasing 218, we were 160 for 1 and we thought, “Oh, we have made it to Mumbai.” Suddenly we were 169 for 4 and I was batting in front of 35,000 stunned fans.
Angelo Mathews came out at No. 7 with the score at 180-something. He was a 23-year-old kid back then. When Tim Southee came to bowl the 47th over, with us needing 14 runs to win, Angelo said to me, “I will back myself and go over mid-on.” He was very strong in that area, so I said, “If you can, you do it.” He hit a six.
In the same over, he said to me again, “I’ll go after him.” I said, “Don’t do that. We have to get only eight more – that’s easy. After us, Herath, Mendis, Murali and Malinga can be finished up in six balls. Don’t take that risk.” But he said, “No, I’m 100% sure.” He hit a four over Southee’s head. I remember thinking, “This man will go a long way.”
We honestly thought we had a great chance to win that World Cup after how we had done in the quarters and the semis. Unfortunately Mathews got injured and our team in the final was hard to balance. Murali was also half-fit, so we had a few doubts.
In Mumbai in the final, I walked in at 122 for 3. Mahela [Jayawardene] told me, “This is the final, but we have to bat positively.” We put on 50 to 60 runs and then I got out. Mahela’s hundred was one of the best innings I have seen in ODIs, and I was lucky to watch some of it from the other end. With a total of 274, we thought we were in the game. No one had chased that kind of score in a World Cup final before. In the end we were quite devastated after the match. It took me four weeks to recover emotionally from that.
It was my first World Cup and my last, but I was grateful that I got there and was part of a team that came very close to going all the way.”
As told to Andrew Fidel Fernando, ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent