England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff May 25, 2011

Dilshan upbeat despite challenges


Few captains have begun their time at the helm facing the scale and variety of challenges that Tillakaratne Dilshan has before him ahead of his baptism as a full-time international captain. Not for him the comfort of easing in with a home series, with the heat and humidity of Sri Lanka and a slow, low track to suit his side. Instead, he lines up in Cardiff, where the temperature is half what it is in Colombo, and on a pitch with so little to interest the traditionally potent spin department that Sri Lanka are set to play four quicks. His team will meet a fully fit England side that has won six out of seven series over the past two years, and are now training their sights on the No. 1 ranking.

If that wasn't enough, his country's greatest match-winner has retired, as has his best fast bowler (and the youngster talked up as his replacement will be flying home due to a ligament inury), their most promising allrounder is injured, and no one in his bowling attack has a permanent place. Then there are the match-fixing allegations from a former captain, and the controversy over how long his players could stay on in the IPL before beginning preparations for the England series. There's a new coach and a new bunch of selectors as well.

Squad reboots after a World Cup are common, but rarely have they been this wide-ranging. Dilshan himself thinks that Kumar Sangakkara should have remained the captain, instead of stepping down after the World Cup. "After Sangakkara's decision I was a little bit surprised as I think he should have led for maybe another one or two years," he said on Wednesday, "but we all respect his decision and look forward to the future."

Since his elevation Dilshan has set about being an example to his young team. He left India early to be with the side for their entire preparation in England. He's also traded in the fashionable rap-star beard he sported in the World Cup for a more sober version, besides ditching the blond streaks in his hair and the ear-ring.

"I am going to take this challenge of leading a young team. I have young players, but I am a bit lucky as I have two ex-captains who I can go to for advice. This will be good for my captaincy over the next couple of months."

His pre-match conference was dominated by a list of things which disappointed him, though he found enough reasons to remain upbeat. For starters, Sri Lanka's performance in the two warm-up matches, winning both after being in a bit of bother. "Preparations are really good. In the last two matches we played really good cricket. Against the Lions and in the first three-day match, batting and bowling did a great job," he said. "Take the last match, we were well behind after two days, but after that we really batted well, and the bowlers did a great job after giving 400 runs in the first innings to bowl them out for 180. I'm really confident in our bowlers."

Amid all the changes, Sri Lanka's top five remains the same, and that settled bunch has plenty of experience as well. Dilshan has put some pressure on them by deciding that, in the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan, the team needs to play five specialist bowlers, with wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene likely to slot in at the unusually high position of No. 6. Following him in the order will likely be allrounders Farveez Maharoof and Thisara Perera, but the team still looks a bit light on lower-order batting. "We have set these six batsmen a challenge for this series, we have to play 6/5. Murali normally bowled 30 to 40 overs everyday, now we don't have that type of bowler so we need to have five bowlers in our team."

Despite all the problems, Dilshan insisted his side can challenge England. "This is a good challenge to test all our departments," he said. "If we play our brand of cricket, we can beat England." A whole assortment of setbacks means his hopes of becoming the first man to lead Sri Lanka to a Test series win in England looks exceedingly bleak.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hashan on May 26, 2011, 13:54 GMT

    Sl should hav given the position of prasanna to chandimal.bcoz i havnt seen prasanna doing well in a seeming or spinning wicket.In both wickets hes in trouble.And all of our main players are over 30.we should hav given chance to a younster.If we havnt given the position of kalu to sanga we cud hav miss a class player.....

  • nilan on May 26, 2011, 13:40 GMT

    @Man007 England lost to Ireland and Bangladesh in world cup, although those two teams didn't have any single quality player still be able win matches.Cricket is team game.Need to play all as a one team to win a match.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2011, 12:57 GMT

    Gosh the person who wrote this article is a real pessimist! fcourse we can win this series! All we need is to focus on how we play and play the best we can :)

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2011, 9:19 GMT

    Dilshan must be very lucky, having Sangakkara and Mahela around and supporting him.

  • Tim on May 26, 2011, 8:11 GMT

    I expect some high scoring draws given Sri Lanka's poor bowling and powerful batting. Only India could boast a better top 5 than Dilshan, Paranavitana, Sangakara, Jayewardene and Samaraweera

  • Denham on May 26, 2011, 7:55 GMT

    I have said this before and I shall say it again. Do not I repeat do not count the chicken before the eggs are hatched. We all know the results of the two side games the Lankan Lions played in and yes, the main two strike bowlers have left a void but Sri Lanka has ample back-ups. We must and should rid ourselves from the "MURALI" syndrome. Yes, Murali did wonders for us for years but the Lankan team must get used to winning matches without the greatest spin bowler who ever played the game of cricket in MURALI. Like the great Sun Tzu said "Never underestimate your enemy." I say, never underestimate your opponent.

  • chandana on May 26, 2011, 6:39 GMT

    Now that Sanga is not captain, why not take the gloves and drop down to 5. PJ is the better keeper but his batting is not classy enough in a 6/5 team especially now without Ange as well. Another problem we have is our bowlers, well most of them are the the typical NO 11 even at no 9!!!Gon are days of Rumesh R, VAss, Dharmasena who came in late but added that vital 20 to the total. Despite all the talk we dont have many test class batters. Dinesh for all his promise is not ready yet, especially in UK in early summer.

  • Manesh on May 26, 2011, 6:11 GMT

    It will be an easy 3-0 for England. Lanka cannot compete with just 2 quality players - jayawardhane and Sangakkara.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2011, 5:48 GMT

    'A whole assortment of setbacks means his hopes of becoming the first man to lead Sri Lanka to a Test series win in England looks exceedingly bleak.' now now mr. writer. what was the reason for finishing with these lines?...well its not a new thing..is it?..SL being underestimated as a second rated test nation despite all their perfromances and class..they got very little chance to play abroad over the years but cricinfo itself described how well they've played over the past decade to becme a leadin testpalyin nation from a bangladesh-like position. dont forget, their greatest strengths are inexplicable and out of paper..that is their desire to win and fightin spirit and have most of the times had the upper-hand against eng in recent past. so i'm pretty postive that lankans will shut down all those skeptics as they did in da warmup game. well its always best to say littl n wait n watch dear siddarth.its a pity dat a subeditor cant understand this simple little truth!

  • avindra on May 26, 2011, 4:45 GMT

    @HOTCHA- yeah dude, should donate one (prasanna) to pakistan! lol

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