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From an outstanding fielder to a genuine match-winner - Tillakaratne Dilshan

From an outstanding fielder to a genuine match-winner - Tillakaratne Dilshan
Tillakaratne Dilshan will play the final two games of his international career during the T20I series against Australia.
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

Tillakaratne Dilshan decided to hang up his boots in a bid to help Sri Lanka prepare for the 2019 World Cup. In spite of having been on a purple patch for the majority of the last year, a couple of low scores against Australia made him realize that his time was up. Even in his final ODI he showed glimpses of his best and that included a fine low catch at backward point.

When Dilshan came into the Lankan team, it was his fielding which grabbed most of the attention. His batting was inconsistent, to say the least, and his bowling hadn’t quite taken off. He made a few useful contributions here and there, but they were few and far in between.

Nobody would have expected him to reach the heights he has managed to reach, back then. There was very little flamboyance in his batting, but he was an absolute livewire in the field. He would easily save the team 15-20 runs on a given day, if not more.

Having made his debut in 1999, he had eight largely unsuccessful years until he was promoted to open the batting with Sanath Jayasuriya in 2007. And there has been no looking back since then. Not only did he go on to become the fourth Sri Lankan batsman to score 10,000 plus ODI runs, but also became the player to have scored the most number of runs since turning 35.

There was no way on earth he could match the aggression levels of Jayasuriya, but Dilshan had his own approach. Once Jayasuriya had left, he took over the aggressor’s mantle and developed into a match winner on his own. Even though he had a compact defence, he was never shy of having a go at the bowlers to set the tone for the glamorous Lankan middle order of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena.

With T20 cricket evolving rapidly, Dilshan brought in his own repertoire of shots into the game. He is known to be the inventor of the ‘scoop’ shot, more commonly referred to as the ‘Dilscoop’. It was a shot which was as fancy as some of his beard styles and made people stand up and take notice. In spite of scoring runs on a consistent basis, it was the Dilscoop which made him popular in a line up where the accolades mostly went to Jayawardena and Sangakkara.

As the years passed by, his bowling became an important cog in his game and captains would go to him very often to break a partnership. When things got ugly in 2011, he decided to take up the captaincy and was sacked unceremoniously later on. He took everything in his stride and continued piling on the runs. Not only did he have success in overseas tours, but he contributed heavily to Sri Lanka’s T20 triumphs. The retirements of the glamour duo meant that Dilshan’s time was running out.The fielding was still sharp and the runs continued to flow.

He admitted that he could have played a couple of years more but it would undermine the overall objective of the team. He still has a couple T20 innings left to show his class and Sri Lanka would hope to give him a winning farewell in the format, where he is the country’s leading run scorer.

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