If you are a keen cricket follower, the name Hashan Tillakaratne should ring a bell. Member of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup winning squad, Hashan is a former captain and a left-handed middle-order batsman who served the island nation from 1989 to 2004 in 83 Test matches and 200 ODIs with some brilliant innings.
Hashan's attachment with the game was so deep he found the coaching job as a medium to keep him close to the dust and the grass. There is also a second way for the former wicketkeeper-batsman to keep himself attached to the game - through his twin sons Duvindu and Ravindu Tillakaratne.
Having grown under a cricketer-father who used to keep the family close, even on the tours it was easy for the twin brothers, separated by only a minute, to stay involved with the game. Though Hashan the father did not put burden or pressure on the shoulders of his 21-year old sons, it is an easy guess that the father does dream of seeing his young sons going on to represent Sri Lanka someday.
The writer of this article had approached the older son, Duvindu, for an opportunity to sit with the family and the response was as humble as it could be. Duvindu was key behind this writer getting to meet the family at R Premadasa Cricket Stadium in Colombo and his punctuality must be appreciated. As a left-arm spinner, he had just finished a grueling bowling session in the nets with the Sri Lanka team and went on to gather the father and brother for the “family interview” session.
"I have never forced them into cricket," were the first words to come out from father Hashan, who is now a Sri Lanka development and High Performance coach.
"Growing up in a cricket environment was the main reason for us brothers to develop interest in the game and we both are happy that we are playing cricket. We are proud to be sons of a former Sri Lanka captain," Duvindu clarified.
In 1996, Hashan was enjoying a tremendously good time. The Lankans had won the World Cup, lifted the World Series trophy and these joys were topped with the birth of the twins on September 9.
"We were having house-warming party that day when Dipika (wife Apsari Tillakaratne) got into labour pain and was rushed to the hospital. Soon I was holding the two sons in my arms. It was an exciting moment for me. Within 30 minutes Arjuna [Ranatunga] and other team members reached the hospital to see them," Hashan recalled.
"They both have Sachin as their middle names. I was a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar and he was a household name in Sri Lanka. It is incredible what Sachin has done for the game, and not just for India. So we had to choose the middle name from the letter S and I thought why not Sachin," Hashan added.
Been welcomed in the world by the world champion and growing up among the Lankan cricket stars, chances were almost nil for Duvindu and Ravindu not to grow attachment to the game. Both are left-handers, like their father, however, the two grew up to be specialist bowlers as opposed to a batsman, like Hashan. Duvindu is a first-class left-arm spinner and has represented Sri Lanka in the age-levels while Ravindu is a left-arm chinaman, and represented the country in the U-19 level. He is now involved with first-class cricket.
As a father, Hashan had put some basic survival tactics into his sons when they decided to take the game as a profession - they cannot take the surname Tillakaratne as steps towards success and there is no shortcut to hard work.
"I have always told them that they need to have their own identity and cannot move forward depending on my name. Hard work is key to success and there is no shortcut," said Hashan.
The two sons, despite their age, have already tasted the bitter pill. The journey so far has been tough, despite being sons to a former Sri Lanka captain. They had to overcome hurdles in order to make it to the age-level teams and both played for the U-19 teams but not in the World Cup. The two are also struggling to create concrete spots in their respective first-class teams but the father has never received a complaint from the sons.
"I always believe that it is always better to earn a thing than to gain it easily. That’s why we both are working hard to prepare ourselves. We will get our opportunity when we are appropriate," said Ravindu.
"There might be a difference in talent but there is no alternative to hard work. You need to work really hard to reach a height. We know we will get the result if we work hard," the left-arm chinaman added.
Both Duvindu and Ravindu dream of representing Sri Lanka some day and create another twin-brother story in world cricket. But father Hashan does not want his sons to hurry into it.
"They are slowly developing and I am not in a hurry. I want them to take time, prepare well and have strong ethics. It is not a 100m sprint, it's a marathon and they have to be patient," said Hashan.
According to Duvindu, the brothers do have the pressure of living upto expectation of their surname Tillakaratne but, "Yes there is a lot of expectation on us. Everyone wants to know how the sons of Hashan Tillakaratne are doing. But we have taken that as inspiration and this motivates us to perform."
Only time will tell what lies in store for the twin Tillakaratnes but at this point of time, they only have the option of carrying on their hard work with dedication, and make an effort to become an inspiration to their younger brother - Rajindu Tillakaratne - who is currently playing U-13 cricket and is being brought up to live upto the family legacy.