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Dream come true for Tillekeratne

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new captain Hashan Tillekeratne says two years in the wilderness made him a better cricketer, but he’s finding it difficult to believe the turn of events that propelled him to the helm of the Test team.

Tillekeratne, 35, was elevated to the captaincy following the resignation of Sanath Jayasuriya earlier this month.

It was a dramatic change of scenario for a player who had lost his place in the team for more than two years, before making a comeback during the 2001 home series against India.

The selectors decided to give Tillekeratne, the team’s most-seasoned player, the Test captaincy, but decided to groom opener Maravan Atapattu for the job by putting him in charge of the limited-overs line-up.

“The time I spent away from the spotlight made me a better cricketer,” Tillekeratne said.

The last time he led Sri Lanka in one Test was in 1999 against Pakistan — as a stand-in for Arjuna Ranatunga and his deputy Aravinda de Silva, both being injured.

“During the period I was out, I could not even dream of becoming the captain,” he said. “It’s an honour to lead the country and the series against New Zealand (that got off Friday) is going to be a big occasion for me. I’m getting full support from Sanath, under whose captaincy I’ve been playing recently.”

The Test captaincy might have been unexpected, but he feels the experience of leading the Nondescripts Cricket Club for the past six years had prepared him for the task.

The Test line-up overhaul came at a time when Sri Lanka terminated its long-standing contract with coach Dav Whatmore, a former Australian Test player who guided the Sri Lanka to their 1996 World Cup triumph.

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