ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai

Dilshan playing the Jayasuriya role

Scoring runs up front, taking wickets and contributing in the field; Tillakaratne Dilshan's impact in this World cup has been similar to Sanath Jayasuriya's in 1996. And he's had to work harder for his success

Sidharth Monga

March 31, 2011

Comments: 56 | Text size: A | A

Tillakaratne Dilshan reached a brilliant hundred in the chase, Sri Lanka v England, 4th quarter-final, World Cup 2011, Colombo, March 26 2011
Tillakaratne Dilshan saw Sri Lanka home with a century in the quarter-final against England in Colombo © Getty Images
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A placard often seen during Sri Lanka games in Sri Lanka says, "Arjuna 1996, Sanga 2011." They may as well draw another one along similar lines: "Sana 1996, Dilshan 2011."

There is one game to go still, but if comparisons were to be drawn with Sri Lanka's great triumph 15 years ago, it would be no disrespect to Sanath Jayasuriya if it were said that Tillakaratne Dilshan, playing some of the most mature cricket of his career, is matching him deed for deed. Jayasuriya in 1996 was all about impact; he was impactful enough to walk away with the Man-of-the-Tournament award for his 221 runs, seven wickets and two Man-of-the Match performances. Numbers don't always tell the story, but here they aren't too far off the mark. Dilshan has already scored 467 runs, taken seven wickets and he came pretty close in the semi-final to securing his third Man-of-the-Match award.

Now, for the story behind the numbers. One of Jayasuriya's special efforts in 1996 was his destruction of England in the Faisalabad quarter-final. Dilshan did much the same this time in Colombo; that after having opened the bowling and taken Andrew Strauss's wicket. When Jayasuriya failed with the bat, he chipped in with the ball. Dilshan has done that too.

For big games, Dilshan's game has come out bigger. In the semi-final, he all but killed New Zealand's spirit with his 73 and Jacob Oram's wicket in his five economical overs. It was tough to keep Jayasuriya out of the game when he fielded, and Dilshan has done even better, making diving saves in the circle in the first half of the innings, and then at the death cutting angles, firing in accurate throws, and keeping one-and-a-halves to ones.

In a way it has been more difficult for Dilshan than it was for Jayasuriya, who had just started to bat the way he did when the 1996 World Cup came around. Dilshan's game has been known to the world for more than two years now. Bowlers are better prepared for Dilshan than they were for Jayasuriya. Bowlers have become smarter too, and the pitches have been tired. Jayasuriya did score over Dilshan in terms of impact, striking at 131 runs per 100 balls as opposed to Dilshan's 93, but this World Cup has been a battle of attrition, and Dilshan has lasted longer than any other opener.

Most importantly, though, while Dilshan has Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara doing what Asanka Gurusinha and Aravinda de Silva used to do, he has none of the buffer that Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama and Hashan Tillakaratne used to provide. That is why Dilshan's sensible batting has been important. Under real pressure against Pakistan in a league game, Sri Lanka's lower-middle order cracked, and almost did a repeat against New Zealand in the semi-final, where a shorter target gave them some elbowroom.

Perhaps that's why, in the quarter-final against England, you could see how badly Dilshan wanted to be there at the end. He cramped up in the second half of that innings, and had to be carried back once the winning runs were scored. Yet not a single injudicious shot was played, no haste was shown. He was almost enjoying the pain. Against New Zealand in the semi-final, he showed remarkable restraint again. It is not an easy game to play for Dilshan, who like Virender Sehwag tends to become restless if boundaries are dried up.

Dilshan is doing a Jayasuriya, a very different version of him: scoring runs, taking wickets, fielding superbly, but is having to work much harder for it. He's also been a bit like his co-finalist Yuvraj Singh, who has single-handedly carried India's middle order and has almost been a full-time bowler too. Going into the finals, you can't look beyond the two if you were looking for the Most Valuable Player.

Not long ago, Dilshan was just a talent going to waste. Over the last two years and more, coinciding with his move to the top of the order, you see him and realise he is a man enjoying what he does. If Prasanna Jayawardene gets injured, he is ready to keep wickets in Tests, and then open the innings. He is never scared of bowling, and doesn't just bowl darts. He is a man who realises he has wasted a bit of time, and is now eager to make the most of what is left of his career.

Twice in two years now, Dilshan has carried Sri Lanka through to a world event's final. He will remember the World Twenty20 in England in 2009. In the final he stumbled, and so did the team. He will also remember the 50-over World Cup final in 2007, where his two overs went for 23 and he was himself run out for 14. The way he has gone in this tournament, Dilshan will give his all to try and make sure there are better events to remember this Saturday by.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 56 
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Posted by rejin on (April 2, 2011, 7:01 GMT)

@Nimesh Upayanga Sri Wickramasinghe who is the star and who is the sun

Posted by Arosha on (April 2, 2011, 6:44 GMT)

There's no comparison between J'ya & Dilshan at this stage, except what Dilshan had done in this world cup & what J'ya had done it 15 years back. Dilshan a has lot to prove to be compared with J'ya who had single handedly brought many many victories during a span of almost 15 years (From '95/'96 when he really started blossoming, to the Asiacup final in 2009 where his 90-ball 110+ almost flattened India. Not to forget his epic 189 in Sharjah, covering the entire list would surely run out the space here). Dilshan is talented, still has a long way to go to reach the hights of the greatman. True, a true heroic innings in a WC final was eluded for J'ya. But he nearly had it in WC'07 unless S'kara approach of not rotating the strike & eating up all deliveries to settle in the middle killed the momentum of J'ya at the other end who's doing much better initially. (S'kara took 40+ balls to get to 15 then, at the end he hit a few sixes & caught up to a certain degree, but killed the momentum.)

Posted by Sebi on (April 2, 2011, 6:11 GMT)

Very well Sid Monga, you have nicely written, though it look one sided but that is the real truth CUP IS FOR MIGHTY SRILANKAS. LORD OF SCOOP WILL SCOOP poor indian bowling arround and out of stadium. Sachin can tell some of his friends to collect cricket balls from Mumbai city.

Posted by jay on (April 2, 2011, 1:56 GMT)

Jayasuriya REVOLUTIONISED batting the way that WG Grace (back-&-front-foot-play), Ranjitsinghji (leg-side-play), Bradman (360-degree-play) and Sobers (free-spirited-360-play) did and Sehwag (heterdoxy becoming the new orthodoxy) is doing BY making heterodox baseball style shots part of the accepted canon of strokeplay - Dilshan is SL's all-round star at this WC but by making the comparison you are belittling Jayasuriya's revolutionary impact on the game of cricket

Posted by Atul on (April 1, 2011, 17:34 GMT)

I am an Indian Fan. i think Dilshan is god.. real good rather.. But Comparison to Sanath is unrealistic...Sanath has proved is over several years he may become something like him but now is not the time to do the comparison.

Posted by Sarathi on (April 1, 2011, 17:26 GMT)

both are mighty SRI LANKANS.watchout poor indians

Posted by lananad on (April 1, 2011, 16:50 GMT)

Keep up the good work Dilshan. Does'nt matter what others say or compare.Just be yourself and get the job done,whether it is orthodox or unorthodox does'nt really matter. What matters most is performing during crunch games under pressure. You have done that brilliently so far. All the best and good luck.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 14:53 GMT)

nice joke,hah! hah!.pls don't compare a star for the Sun.never ever like Sanath Jayasuriya.

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 14:28 GMT)

good luck tomorrow Sri Lanka!

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 1, 2011, 14:14 GMT)

Why does some unfortunate people think that the comments section is just a open invite to boast about their teams and how the team in the article is inferior to them? Why don't they realize that the harder they boast, the more insecure they look?

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