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Watson weighs Dilshan against Sangakkara

Daniel Brettig

May 4, 2011

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Tillakaratne Dilshan falls to Shaun Tait, Sri Lanka v Australia, Group A, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 5, 2011
Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, here dismissed cheaply in the World Cup, has had a mixed time against Australia, © AFP
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Players/Officials: Tillakaratne Dilshan | Shane Watson

Shane Watson has fired an early salvo ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka in August by questioning Tillakaratne Dilshan's chances of forging a captaincy as successful as that of Kumar Sangakkara, his predecessor. The Australians will have a new captain themselves in the form of Michael Clarke, but his deputy Watson wondered aloud at Dilshan's chances of emulating the results and the universal respect won by Sangakkara during his time as leader.

"Kumar Sangakkara is as impressive a cricketer as there is in the world," Watson told ESPNcricinfo. "He always handles himself so unbelievably well and he's a brilliant cricketer also. So it's going to be very hard for someone like Dilshan to live up to exactly what Kumar is as a person and also how he's been in the captaincy, it's going to be a big challenge for him."

Sangakkara gave up the job following the World Cup in order to prolong his playing career, leaving the captaincy in the hands of Dilshan, an undoubted talent but also a somewhat flighty performer at times during his Test career. He is also handicapped by being, at 34, a year older than the man he is replacing.

Australia were fruitful in their efforts to unsettle Dilshan during the dual series away and at home in 2004, holding him to an average of 30.11, with one century, across five Tests. He was not selected in the Sri Lankan touring party that lost two matches in Australia in November 2007, instead leading the Sri Lanka A team to Zimbabwe. He has been appointed to lead the Sri Lankans on the tour of England that precedes the Australia series.

The Sri Lanka series, Watson acknowledged, will be the first serious test of the new leadership axis after an undemanding first assignment in Bangladesh, where the modest hosts were swept aside 3-0 in as many limited-overs matches. "On our side of things we've got a big challenge as well with a new leadership group and us trying to rebuild and create a really exciting era of Australian cricket within our team."

Doubts will surround the composition of the squad as it is the first since the loss of the Ashes at home, and there are plenty of sound reasons for ushering the further regeneration of a squad that stagnated in Ricky Ponting's final 18 months as captain. Watson, who had said the Ashes defeat would define the careers of several players "on the wrong side", still felt there would be a selection reckoning for a series punctuated by three innings victories for England.

"There's no doubt the Ashes was there to be a defining moment for people's careers in certain ways, and for some people it has been and others not so much," Watson said. "Now there's a new direction Australian cricket is heading in [and] it's going to be interesting to see what happens over the next year or so. I really feel it's going to be an interesting time to be able to start to generate a new era of Australian cricket, and I'm very thankful that I'm now part of the leadership group and want to be a part of creating something very special."

For so long a figure of sympathy and even occasional ridicule due to a seemingly endless string of injuries, Watson is now next in line for the captaincy behind Clarke, and is intent on sharing the hard lessons he learned while struggling over more than six years between his international debut and finally securing a Test spot of his own.

"Looking back on things, I am very lucky to have been through the experiences I've had that turned me into the person and the cricketer I am now," he said. "I suppose I've got a little bit to help younger guys coming through and improve them not only as people but also to help them make the most of playing the cricket they are as well."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by 9ST9 on (May 7, 2011, 9:15 GMT)

Sanga is irreplacable - one of the few cricketers to gain respect and love from both the sub-continent and the rest of the world- a man who belonged to the old-school of cricket.Tactically Mahela was braver and better than Sangakkara. Dilshan is a T20 Era player hopefully he can emulate the success of his predecessor but sangakkara's charisma cannot be emulated.

Posted by soorajiyer on (May 7, 2011, 4:33 GMT)

Sanga is such a stylish batter and pure joy to watch.. Watto echoed his respect for Sanga and the article anything else but that!

Will I watch cricket when these legends leave? I really dont know.. There are too many across the world who make us watch cricket, but they might all be leaving in an year or twos time!! Ricky, Huss, Mahela, Sanga, Lax, Dravid, Sachin, Kallis - just cant imagine cricket without them!!

I thought the same a few years ago when Sir VIV, Richardson etc retired. Hopefully someone fills these gaps, but from the present look across the world there is hardly anybody :(

Posted by Meety on (May 6, 2011, 22:11 GMT)

I think Sanga is just about my most favourite non-ozzy cricketer.

Posted by allforone on (May 6, 2011, 8:06 GMT)

Yes, we do respect Sanga. Personally one of my favourite cricketers.

Posted by   on (May 6, 2011, 7:23 GMT)

Even Michel clarke also has to fill big shoes of Ricky ponting and its not easy Because Pointing is Legend better then Sanga .. Watto can clarke fill that ? i must say one thing There is no doubt about dilshan talent. he will deliver when sri lanka need. Sanga , Mahela , Pointing these players are legends no one can match to them They are world class batsmen..

Posted by Rosey86 on (May 6, 2011, 4:58 GMT)

I have massive respect for Sanga, and i believe Watson is just stating out loud the respect that he has, and that most Australian fans and players have of Sanga. He's just one of the gentlemen of world cricket, not to mention one of the supreme players of this generation and quite rightly Watson states that Dishan has big shoes to fill. And who here is going to deny that he hasn't? Clarke is also in the same position, but admittedly, Dilshan is in the difficult position of have two former captains, who happen to be his two best players to manage. Tough job.

Posted by Meety on (May 5, 2011, 21:41 GMT)

My dear Lankan fans - this article is more about how highly Ozzys rate Sanga than anything to do with Dilshan. Settle down guys, it has no real meaning other than a compliment to Kumar!

Posted by bala-chala on (May 5, 2011, 20:16 GMT)

It is very clearly a compliment to Sangakkara which has been twisted by the media to create some interest.

Posted by Something_Witty on (May 5, 2011, 16:25 GMT)

Guys this is just a misquote... obviously intended to create controversy. If anything Watson is paying Sangakkara a compliment, he's not having a go at Dilshan.

Posted by MangoDolittle on (May 5, 2011, 14:37 GMT)

SLG did not the get the point that Sanga said during his resignation. He is younger than Dilshan and wanted to find a younger captain for the next world cup. Dilshan's performance has diminished during recent times and it looks like he is more in to business and politics. It looks like he is very close to the administration. If not Sanga, Mahala, Mathews, who else? SL cricket has a leadership vacuum. Dilshan is NOT a leader. He will have to lead two leaders already in the team. This may not be good for SL.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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