When Hashan Tillakaratne made his international debut in 1989, Sri Lankan cricket was just beginning to carve an identity for itself. He has scored runs, taken wickets and kept wickets for Sri Lanka, as well as played a key role in his country's World Cup winning campaign in 1996. He spoke to Wisden India on Sri Lankan cricket's past, present and foreseeable future. Excerpts:
The 1996 World Cup win must be the greatest moment of your illustrious career ...
Representing Sri Lanka in every game was an experience for me. Yes, the World Cup win was special, but for me every game was important. I enjoyed my cricket, and I believe I gave something to Sri Lankan cricket. I am very happy with what I achieved.
How much has Sri Lankan cricket developed over the years?
After 1996, cricket became a religion in Sri Lanka. All the kids want to play the game and they look up to the national players. The infrastructure has developed a lot since our playing days, and cricket is headed in the right direction as far as I can see.
How is the talent pool looking like?
There are so many youngsters, and the SLPL gives them a very good opportunity to be recognised. Right now I cannot single out one particular player, but I have seen so many players coming up. In our Ruhuna Royals side [Tillekeratne is the manager of the team], we have some good performers from the domestic circuit. I am sure in time there will be a few more players knocking on the selectors' door.
It has been a busy life for you after retiring from cricket ...
I am a provincial councilor from Western Province. Apart from that, the experience of managing Ruhuna Royals is something new for me. Working with the local boys alongside the foreigners makes it very exciting. To manage a team with players from so many backgrounds is a challenge for me, but the boys are getting along with each other really well. If I can give something back to cricket through this role of mine, then I will be very happy.