Life after Dilshan: How will Sri Lanka cope?

Tillakaratne Dilshan (left) has excelled in all the departments of the game.
Tillakaratne Dilshan (left) has excelled in all the departments of the game.
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

On 9th September, Sri Lanka will bid farewell to another of their cricketing pioneers in Tillakaratne Dilshan. But, just how badly will his retirement hurt the subcontinent nation?

Most people would say that the loss of Dilshan will hit Sri Lanka hard, and I tend to agree for the most part, but it’s not all dark times for Sri Lanka as Dilshan’s retirement from international cricket presents a huge opportunity for a number of young players to step up and fill the gaping hole left behind. It won’t be an easy task, but it’s not impossible either.

Before looking at the young talents that have the ability to be Dilshan’s successor, let’s first look at the impact the 39-year-old has had on Sri Lankan cricket.

Dilshan made his presence felt on the international stage in his second Test as he scored a spectacular 163 not out against Zimbabwe in November 1999. That was the first step he took into crafting his reputation as one of the most dangerous batsmen world cricket has ever seen.

After his superb performance against Zimbabwe, Dilshan’s career blossomed and he soon became a regular face in the Sri Lankan team in Tests, ODIs and upon making his Twenty20 International debut in June 2006.

In his illustrious career, Dilshan represented Sri Lanka in 87 Tests, scoring 5492 runs, which includes 16 centuries, at a respectable average of 40.98. He also featured in 330 ODIs, amassing 10290 runs, which includes 22 centuries at an average of 39.27. Dilshan was also a force with the ball in the 50-over format as he took 106 wickets.

As for Twenty20 Internationals, Dilshan still has two more left to play in the ongoing series against Australia, but so far he has accumulated 1884 runs in 78 matches at an average of 28.98.

No doubt these stats back up the claim that Dilshan was a force to be reckoned with, but his impact on Sri Lankan cricket goes well beyond his individual performances.

Dilshan made up part of Sri Lanka’s renowned trio, which also included Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Together, they formed a lethal partnership that guided Sri Lanka through many successful years that Sri Lankan fans will look back on fondly.

But, all good things must come to an end, and Sri Lanka marked the end of an era when Jayawardene retired after the team’s elimination from the 2015 World Cup. Sangakkara, meanwhile, bid the international game adieu after a Test series against India in August 2015.

In the aftermath of losing two of the best cricketers the country ever produced, Sri Lanka struggled to adjust to life as they had lost the two batsmen that were the anchor of their middle order. Since Sangakkara’s retirement, Sri Lanka have struggled as they have won two Test series, which included a surprising 3-0 whitewash of Australia on home soil recently, and lost two. They hold the same record in ODIs, but it is much grimmer when it comes to Twenty20 Internationals as they have lost three series and drawn one. In addition to that, they won just one game out of four in the 2016 World Twenty20 in India.

No doubt Sri Lanka are in the midst of a difficult transition phase, but they can salvage some hope from their 3-0 victory over Australia. In that series, many young players began to shine, most notably Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Mendis. De Silva was the top-scorer in the three-match series as he amassed 325 runs at an average of 65, while Mendis scored 296 runs at an average of 49.33.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathew has already pinpointed Mendis as a future star, saying: "He's going to be a big player for us. He's going to be the future of our batting. If he keeps going like this he will do wonders for the Sri Lanka team and I wish him all the very best."

Should players like Mendis and De Silva keep living up to expectations, there may yet be a bright future for Sri Lanka in all formats of the game.

However, will they be able to cope when Dilshan departs? The answer to this remains unknown. But, what is for certain is that Sri Lanka will definitely miss the man who invented the ‘Dilscoop’ as he is a batsman whose style is unlikely to be seen again for a long time to come

© Cricket World 2016