Sri Lanka news December 2, 2015

The forgotten great

Bimalka Liyanarachchi
Tillakaratne Dilshan has produced some key big-match performances, including nearly taking Sri Lanka to the World T20 title in 2009, but has not got the credit he deserves

Tillakaratne Dilshan has amassed over 10,000 runs in ODIs to add to 5492 Test runs but has not received the credit he deserves © AFP

Tillakaratne Dilshan was recently picked in the ICC ODI team of the year. I wondered what he had done to make this elite team. A quick check on Statsguru gives the answer: only Kane Williamson has scored more runs during the concerned period, and Dilshan turned 39 this October.

If you ask a random Sri Lankan cricket fan to pick the greatest batsmen Sri Lanka have produced, chances are Dilshan wouldn't even enter the discussion. So why is this man so underrated?

Style of play cannot be the reason - he is an aggressive opening batsman as dangerous as anyone to play the game, especially the shorter formats. Is it the aesthetics? He probably did lag behind his more stylish and aesthetically pleasing team-mates, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. But he's no Graeme Smith or Alastair Cook.

In full flow, Dilshan is an attractive batsman to watch. Then, is it his performances in big matches? Dilshan has a top-class World Cup record and almost single-handedly won a World T20 title for his team in 2009. Only seven batsmen have scored more World Cup runs than Dilshan, and all of them are superstars - Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Brian Lara, AB de Villiers, Sanath Jayasuriya and Jacques Kallis. Yet, you'll struggle to find anyone who would put Dilshan in the same bracket as the players above.

His Test record is good without reaching the highest echelons of batsmanship, but as a white-ball player, he surely is one of the very best to play the game. Not withstanding his outstanding record with the bat, he was also one of the elite fielders in the game for a long while. His offspin remains as underrated as any other aspect of his game. But his contribution has been invaluable for his side, especially in conditions that suited his type of bowling.

Is it his maverick outlook to the game? Is it his weird and wonderful goatee patterns? Whatever it is, Dilshan surely does not get the credit he deserves. He might be skipped in a discussion on modern greats, but he surely should hold his own in a discussion on Sri Lankan greats.

Perhaps, he will get the recognition when he eventually retires. But knowing how his career has gone, he will probably go out with little fanfare. But the day he goes, I will ll stand up from my seat and applaud the man. I hope I am not alone when I do so.

Want to be featured on 'Inbox'? Send your articles to us here, with "Inbox" in the subject line.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andy on December 7, 2015, 19:10 GMT

    Dilshan I would say.. had an reincarnation once he was asked to open the innings. If I'm not wrong, the team management were thinking to drop him, if he failed as an openers. @john_bnsa: Sehwag earned his reputation from his very early stage to be a great hitter, as he changed the phase of test match opening, which was considered to be see out the new ball to take advantage & put the pressure on the new ball bowlers.. He didn't change his brand of his cricket either in India or away, irrespective of his success or failures. I don't remember such antics by Dilshan from his early days & Dilshan's test cricket career isn't something one would boast about. Here's where other greats overtake him, as most of the others referred have had a good test career compared to Dilshan. People tend to fall for the guys for their earlier era performances compared to later stages. Dilshan as a player grew after he was promoted as owner.. prior to that.. he along with Russel Arnold were the middle order

  • KUMARAVEL on December 7, 2015, 6:17 GMT

    According to me, Dilly very underrated odi and T20 player and Mahela was a hugely over rated odi player. Dilshan always looked like a small boy (a credit to his fitness levels) through out his career and lacks the elderly statesman attitude, maybe that is why he is not recognised as one

  • Nishantha on December 7, 2015, 4:51 GMT

    Dilshan has been a player who has given everything to his team. I honestly believe he is the best team man we have had for a long time. It doesn't really matter who captains the team he would play under anybody and give 100% every time. Not a player failed for a long time. even when not in great from scored runs through sheer grit. SL will realize his value once he is gone. The vacuum will be very hard to fill. Hope SL recognize his services and give him a good farewell.Truly respect him for his committment and perseverance.

  •   Aldon Daniel on December 6, 2015, 12:02 GMT

    "If you ask a random Sri Lankan cricket fan to pick the greatest batsmen Sri Lanka have produced, chances are Dilshan wouldn't even enter the discussion"

    I Disagree, Sanga, Mahela & Dilshan are known as Big Three in SL.

  • Dudley on December 6, 2015, 1:45 GMT

    Dilshan lost his venom in later years and his low strike rate at the top was an obstacle causing the young players later in the line-up to be aggressive and less cautious. His bowling too deteriorated as stats in the past three years will indicate. Players should should move as soon as they feel a decline in their performance. Great player Mark Taylor left at his peak and if I remember correct , Steve Waugh scored a century in his farewell game. Dudley Gunasena, Eastwood, NSW.

  • Brijesh on December 5, 2015, 18:04 GMT

    I don't think Dilshan has done enough to be classified as a great. He's a decent cricketer - more than decent in limited overs cricket but hovers around 'poor to average' in Test cricket. All the greats mentioned in the article were/are legends in the longer format. This is where Sanga and Mahela are at a different league. Another example is Yuvraj Singh - exceptional limited overs cricketer, but, average test cricketer. Michael Bevan is another. The story of these cricketers reinforces the fact that you need to perform in all formats to go down as a 'Great'. I'm pretty sure even Sri Lankans would not put him in the league of A. de Silva, Ranatunga, Murli, Sanga, Jayawardane and off late, A. Mathews. Why would the rest of the world consider him a great?

  • Chatty on December 5, 2015, 11:46 GMT

    It's a lot to do with his personality. He is a maverick in a country where conformity is valued. Mahela and Sanga basically played to the audience. Dilshan did not. He basically did not care. I actually respect Dilshan for that. Mahela and Sanga, while I like them very much, were basically politicians who manipulated to the journalists and the fans. Good for them. But I don't necessarily respect them for that, just the way I have no respect for politicians. Those who understand SL cricket, and its culture understand this phenomenon well. To them, Dilshan will always a great in SL cricket.

  • Surath on December 5, 2015, 8:34 GMT

    @ MOHAMED RAFEE ON DECEMBER 5, 2015, 5:34 GMT ; Still not late to get to 15000 ODI runs mate. Only thing is he needs to play at least until 2019 WC and I believe he can stay that long... He is undoubtedly the best fielder we still have. He is still in shape compared to Thisara, Malinga or even Anji. So YES, Dilly can get to 15000 ODI runs and achieve a better batting avg than Sanga.!!!

  • Brisbane on December 5, 2015, 7:53 GMT

    One of my favourite batmen of all time. I hope he gets something around 13000 runs atleast by the time he's done.

  •   Mohamed Rafee on December 5, 2015, 5:34 GMT

    Dilshan batted lower down the order for 10 years,till 2009.If he had been promoted or asked to open the batting since his inception,he would got 15000 runs by now.He didn't opportunities to bat properly for 10 years.If you consider his hundreds and fifties hit after 2009,it will be quite evident.Further,he was very elegant to watch even when batting lower down the order.