WITH many a successful summer in English cricket already on his CV, Sri Lankan professional Saliya Saman has no intention of becoming a shrinking violet following his change of scenery.
The 28-year-old all-rounder enjoyed a prolonged spell of active service at Carlisle CC, topping the North Lancashire and Cumbria Premier Division bowling averages for the last two seasons.
Lighting up Edenside for half decade, more than 300 batsmen came under the spell of his right-arm medium-fast bowling, while he was far from shy with the bat, amassing more than 2600 runs.
Despite being part of the Carlisle furniture, he answered an SOS call from Netherfield during the dying embers of last season and now finds himself a regular fixture at Parkside Road.
And keen to extract as much as possible from his reunion with his ex-colleague and new skipper Marc Brown, Saman is intent on propelling Netherfield towards the league’s top end.
“Ever since I was young, before the season starts I set a goal,” he said.
“The target I have in mind this year is 650 runs and more than 60 wickets. That’s the goal to help get the club to the top four.
“I played the final game of last season for Netherfield as sub pro and was asked if I wanted to play this season but I had to say no as I’d already signed a contract with Carlisle.
“I was later called by Carlisle’s chairman and told there were some issues and they couldn’t afford me. So I talked things over with my agent and Browny and agreed a deal with Netherfield.
“With it being my first season it’s a big help knowing someone in the team, especially the captain – I played with Browny for three years so I know him well.
“He trusts me all the time when I’m bowling and batting and knows I can always do something which is encouraging. I think I have done a good job so far.”
Saman played for Sri Lanka at under-17 level, taking part in a triangular series against Bangladesh and India while also representing the under-19s between 2003 and 2005.
During this period he locked horns with the likes of AB de Villiers, Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, all players who have gone on to enjoy fully-fledged international careers.
And while his name has been mentioned in dispatches over the years, further representative honours have failed to materialise, something Saman still hopes can be rectified.
“Not this season but last season I was the highest wicket-taker back home,” he added.
“I played nine three-day first-class games and took 38 wickets and scored more than 410 runs but they didn’t pick me for the A team or anything.
“I also think I did pretty well when I was selected for national teams earlier in my career but it didn’t go any further.
“But I will continue to play and try and make an impression. I haven’t given up and I’m still trying, maybe it will happen, maybe not.
“It’s all about politics in Sri Lanka these days but I think I deserve to play as I’ve been playing consistently for the last five years in the first-class season.”
Like most players of his age, Saman was inspired by the Sri Lankan side which came to the fore in the nineties, with the 1996 World Cup success against Australia the side’s crowning glory.
And as a fully qualified level two ECB coach, Saman is keen to help educate the next generation of cricketing stars, with coaching youngsters high on his priority list.
“Sri Lanka had just won the World Cup when I started playing cricket and there was massive interest afterwards,” he said.
“People played on the streets and on the beach and still do. In fact I remember playing on the beach and an English tourist handing me a book by Geoffrey Boycott.
“Sanath Jayasuriya was man of the series back in 1996 and very popular. He became a massive influence and remains so. That’s important as it’s vital for youngsters to have influences.
“I did a load of coaching at Carlisle and I’m happy to pass on skills. The most important thing is to improve players and send them on their way to a high level.”