Australia news May 4, 2011

Watson weighs Dilshan against Sangakkara

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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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 :(

  • Meety on May 6, 2011, 22:11 GMT

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

  • allforone on May 6, 2011, 8:06 GMT

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

  • 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..

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 :(

  • Meety on May 6, 2011, 22:11 GMT

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

  • allforone on May 6, 2011, 8:06 GMT

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

  • 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..

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ellis on May 5, 2011, 13:14 GMT

    Watson is not saying anything that many people have not said in different ways, or thgought about. Sangakkara is an intelligent, articulate, polished individual, who is also one of the best cricketers in the world. It is always going to be difficult for his successor to match that pedigree. And it does not matter whether that is Dilshan, or anyone else. Far too many thin skins who see hidden agendas everywhere.

  • on May 5, 2011, 13:13 GMT

    @ Jamie Mackintosh exactly spot on

    What Watson tries to say is that he is doubtful weather Dilshan would be able to fill Sangs shoes since Sanga has been such an icon in terms of respect he has earned and his playing abilities. And yes, it's a fair comment. The same responsibility lies on the hands of Michael Clarke who is a much more clam character.

    This is just trying to create a story out of nothing.

  • Morfi on May 5, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    @devpriya: Very well said, monsieur!! By the way, WHO is this Watson chap? Did anyone ask his opinion on Dilshan or anyone else for that matter?? Typical, I must say!!

  • on May 5, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    This is such a misquote. Stupid journalists trying to make a story of nothing. Watson is simply saying Sanga is such a good captain, and that Dilshan has big shoes to fill. He is not having a go at anyone.

  • Devapriya on May 5, 2011, 10:06 GMT

    People in glass houses don't throw stones - elementary, my dear Watson!

  • Dinrockz on May 5, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    mind your own business Watson... he's not captaining Australia is he???

  • inshaflive on May 5, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    Now watz wrong with wattoi!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • konaman on May 5, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    He is hardly even criticising him its just a catchy title. Sangakarra is a different class of player and Dilshan is being handed the captaincy at age 34, basically a fill-in captain until someone suitably young comes along. Sangakarra standing down left the team in an unfortunate situation.

    Dilshan has a big task ahead of him and even if he is successful by the time he crafts the team to his liking he will be in physical decline and his personal form will begin to suffer and decline.

  • on May 5, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    Let's wait and see. Sri Lanka has proved that there is always somebody there to lead when need arises. We have faith on you Dilshan!!!

  • on May 5, 2011, 7:26 GMT

    Ha Ha nice one Watto. We'll still beat you though.

  • Shen_Mark on May 5, 2011, 6:45 GMT

    If he can call loudly at the toss, and speak some rubbish at press conferences in richly flowing English, he'll be good enough. Elementary, my dear Watson!

  • Rickz69 on May 5, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    watson shud shut his mouth and know his role! Can i get a hell yeah?

  • bobagorof on May 5, 2011, 6:39 GMT

    Watson may call into question Dilshan's personal credentials and the way he carries himself, but in so doing he's exposed himself. I think it would have been better to say that Dilshan has a lot to live up to in following Sanga as captain, because Sanga is a model diplomat and successful leader. Leave it at that.

  • ygkd on May 5, 2011, 6:28 GMT

    Watson is questioning how Dilshan behaves? Isn't that the wrong way round?

  • on May 5, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    Why do the Aussies always bother about the opposition and its supposed problems?

  • RajithaS on May 5, 2011, 6:13 GMT

    Well Watson is right about one thing for sure... Australia are heading into a new direction. All the way down. Stop talking about a team that came into the World Cup Finals Mr. Watson and concentrate on getting Australia back on track. If you ever could that is. Good Luck mate.

  • mastermind_quad on May 5, 2011, 5:57 GMT

    spot on Watson ..... Sanga was superb as a captain and he is brilliant batsman once in a generation type in Sri Lanka ....Dilshan having hard task ahead ..All the best Dilshan

  • Nipun on May 5, 2011, 5:55 GMT

    Watson just keeps on using the same words all the time - "exciting era for Australian cricket,interesting challenges,etc etc" - has he simply memorised a script ?! & he would better worry about his own team-nobody remembers the last time Australia won a test series against a good team.

  • on May 5, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    Is Watson questioning the right captain? He's right that Australian cricket is heading in a new direction, down!

  • kewlkanna on May 5, 2011, 5:16 GMT

    Forget about Dilshan as a cricketer, but as a captain I don't think he can deliver as much as what Mahela and Sanga have. As a player too Dilshan is not consistent, but his allround abilities as a good batsmen, good fielder and a decent off spinner can help him. But yes as Watson said, Dilshan cannot be compared to the might of Sangakara. Sangakara is a legend whereas Dilshan is just another good player with great skills.

  • on May 5, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    i just wonder why dont australians look into their own collar before whinge about others.

  • on May 5, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    mind your own business buddy!!

  • jonesy2 on May 5, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    fair call from watto i reckon

  • on May 5, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    rubbish comments by Watson :P

  • profrm on May 5, 2011, 4:32 GMT

    Why do the Aussies always bother about the opposition and its supposed problems? If Dilshan is allegedly not likely to be as good as Sanga, where is the guarantee on today's showing that Micheal Clarke will be able to fit the even greater Ricky Ponting's shoes ?

  • on May 5, 2011, 3:52 GMT

    U started ur mind games already i hope dilla strong enough to face all this nonsense from aussies and pommies.

  • Meety on May 5, 2011, 3:40 GMT

    No sure that Watto should be talking about SLs captaincy situation. SL like Oz have had some generational change in the last 3 yrs losing Jayasurya, Vaas, Murali & Malinga. On the flip side I think Matthews & Tharanga have stepped up. Expecting a tight series with Oz coming out on top. Hopefully there WILL be some generational change in the squad. I am hoping its a slightly enlarged squad to accomodate some rookies who may not get a go, but inclusion would help their game. My squad - 1. Hughes, 2. Watto, 3. Khawaja, 4. Ponting, 5. Clarke, 6. M Hussey, 7. Haddin, 8. O'Keefe, 9. Johnson, 10, Hauritz, 11. Copeland; 12th: Smith, 13th: Katich, 14th: Ferguson,15th: Siddle, 16th: Butterworth & 17th: Cummins/Lynn/C Bailey/Lyon/Maddinson/Richardson. They'll probably only take 14 or 15, but I think there is more of a case for an extended squad for this tour then the pre-Ashes fiasco squad that was selected.

  • xylo on May 5, 2011, 3:17 GMT

    I believe Watson's statement has substance - Dilshan does not seem to have the natural diplomatic skills of Mahela/Sanga.

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  • xylo on May 5, 2011, 3:17 GMT

    I believe Watson's statement has substance - Dilshan does not seem to have the natural diplomatic skills of Mahela/Sanga.

  • Meety on May 5, 2011, 3:40 GMT

    No sure that Watto should be talking about SLs captaincy situation. SL like Oz have had some generational change in the last 3 yrs losing Jayasurya, Vaas, Murali & Malinga. On the flip side I think Matthews & Tharanga have stepped up. Expecting a tight series with Oz coming out on top. Hopefully there WILL be some generational change in the squad. I am hoping its a slightly enlarged squad to accomodate some rookies who may not get a go, but inclusion would help their game. My squad - 1. Hughes, 2. Watto, 3. Khawaja, 4. Ponting, 5. Clarke, 6. M Hussey, 7. Haddin, 8. O'Keefe, 9. Johnson, 10, Hauritz, 11. Copeland; 12th: Smith, 13th: Katich, 14th: Ferguson,15th: Siddle, 16th: Butterworth & 17th: Cummins/Lynn/C Bailey/Lyon/Maddinson/Richardson. They'll probably only take 14 or 15, but I think there is more of a case for an extended squad for this tour then the pre-Ashes fiasco squad that was selected.

  • on May 5, 2011, 3:52 GMT

    U started ur mind games already i hope dilla strong enough to face all this nonsense from aussies and pommies.

  • profrm on May 5, 2011, 4:32 GMT

    Why do the Aussies always bother about the opposition and its supposed problems? If Dilshan is allegedly not likely to be as good as Sanga, where is the guarantee on today's showing that Micheal Clarke will be able to fit the even greater Ricky Ponting's shoes ?

  • on May 5, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    rubbish comments by Watson :P

  • jonesy2 on May 5, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    fair call from watto i reckon

  • on May 5, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    mind your own business buddy!!

  • on May 5, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    i just wonder why dont australians look into their own collar before whinge about others.

  • kewlkanna on May 5, 2011, 5:16 GMT

    Forget about Dilshan as a cricketer, but as a captain I don't think he can deliver as much as what Mahela and Sanga have. As a player too Dilshan is not consistent, but his allround abilities as a good batsmen, good fielder and a decent off spinner can help him. But yes as Watson said, Dilshan cannot be compared to the might of Sangakara. Sangakara is a legend whereas Dilshan is just another good player with great skills.

  • on May 5, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    Is Watson questioning the right captain? He's right that Australian cricket is heading in a new direction, down!