Sri Lanka news June 15, 2012

'Mahela may have to lead till 2015' - Dilshan

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka batsman, has said the current captain Mahela Jayawardene may have to lead till the 2015 World Cup in order to provide sufficient time for a successor to be groomed.

Angelo Mathews, the 25-year-old allrounder, is widely seen as a leading candidate to take over when Jayawardene steps down. Mathews has established himself in all three formats, but has struggled with injuries during his three-year career. Dilshan cautioned against thrusting the leadership on Mathews too soon.

"You can't give someone the captaincy all of a sudden. He (Mathews) has to be groomed under a good captain for two to three years," Dilshan said after a training session at the R Premadasa Stadium. "Not just on how to handle things on the field, but also off the field. Those are some of the things I learned. It's not easy, mind you. I hope Angelo will be a good captain, but he has time. He has to work under Mahela.

"Kumar [Sangakkara], Mahela and I are nearing our retirement age. After the next World Cup we would be gone. I think Mahela will have to shoulder the burden till the next World Cup."

Dilshan also defended his decision to step down as captain five months ago, following the tour of South Africa. He had never spoken publicly about the main reasons for quitting and said he wanted to remain tight-lipped about it till he gives up the game.

"There were many reasons for me to step down. I don't like to discuss them at this point as I am still involved in the game," Dilshan said. "But when I retire I will reveal why I quit."

Dilshan took over as captain from Kumar Sangakkara after the 2011 World Cup, led his team on tours to England, the UAE [against Pakistan] and South Africa and at home against Australia. His captaincy came under severe criticism as Sri Lanka lost both the Test and ODI series against all the four countries.

His form with the bat also dipped during his captaincy. Dilshan led Sri Lanka in 11 Tests since May 2011, of which his team won one Test and lost five. His own average during his tenure was 33.60, well below his overall average of 40.89. In the same period, he led in 21 ODIs, winning eight and losing 13. His batting suffered even more on the ODI front, as he averaged 20.95 against his overall figure of 34.68.

"At that point, with the way things were going, I felt that it's good to give up the captaincy and concentrate on my game," Dilshan said. "During that eight-month period I learned a lot of things. That experience taught me who people were. I think it was the right decision to step down."

Dilshan said he was the only realistic choice to captain Sri Lanka after Jayawardene and Sangakkara both had leadership stints. Mathews, who was named vice-captain before the home series against Australia last year, wasn't seen to be experienced enough to take over the leadership. Dilshan said he accepted the role because of the lack of options. Jayawardene took over for his second stint at the helm early this year before the one-day tour of Australia.

"I didn't want the captaincy and back then no one wanted to take over the captaincy," Dilshan said. "There was no leader and that prompted me to take over the leadership."

Reflecting on the positives of his captaincy, Dilshan said winning the Durban Test, Sri Lanka's first Test win in South Africa, gave him tremendous satisfaction.

"When I took over as captain, I wanted to give younger players opportunities. Most players made most of those opportunities and I am glad that those players are taking the initiative these days to win us games. That's my biggest achievement as Sri Lanka captain. The other thing that I look back with fondness is being able to win a Test match in South Africa which no captain has been able to do. Even that ODI series in South Africa we could have won, but we lost unfortunately due to rain."

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo