'Captaincy will be a challenge for Dilshan'
Former Sri Lanka cricketers and administrators have reacted with caution to the appointment of Tillakaratne Dilshan as Sri Lanka captain for the upcoming tour of England following Kumar Sangakkara's resignation from the post. Dilshan, who was the top run-scorer in the World Cup, was named captain across all three formats and ended speculation over whether he or 23-year-old allrounder Angelo Mathews would be named as Sangakkara's successor. Sangakkara, in a recent interview with ESPNcricinfo had said that Dilshan, if selected, was likely to do a "good job, because he has these little touches for success." However, not all have the same degree of optimism.
"He is an exciting player no doubt, but it is left to be seen whether he can transform that into his captaincy as well," Sidath Wettimuny, former Sri Lanka cricketer and former chairman of selectors, told ESPNcricinfo. "He will surely be tested, having to live up to the reputation of two past captains like Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara. Captaincy will be a real challenge for him."
S Skandakumar, former secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), criticised Sangakkara, saying that he had left SLC "no choice" but to pick Dilshan, following his sudden resignation after the World Cup. "When Sangakkara resigned from the captaincy after the World Cup final at short notice [and Mahela resigned from the vice captaincy] he created a Hobson's choice for SLC who had none other than Dilshan to fall back on," he said. "Dilshan has a cloud hanging over his behaviour on the Zimbabwe tour. But then again Ricky Ponting was no angel but handed the responsibility of captaincy, he rose to the occasion." Dilshan, who was named stand-in captain for a tri-nation series in Zimbabwe in May-June 2010 of a side that ran into disciplinary problems, was sacked as vice-captain without official reason after that.
Kushil Gunasekera, former SLC administrator, was more hopeful, suggesting that the captaincy would act as a catalyst to spur Dilshan on. "When skilful and talented players are given responsibilities they have potential to rise to the occasion," he said. "Hopefully Dilshan will fit into that category and showcase to the others as a role model and lead by example."
Since moving into the opener's slot in 2009, Dilshan has been among Sri Lanka's best players across all three formats. Ranjit Fernando, former Sri Lanka cricketer and former national selector, said that Dilshan's form, particularly over the last six months augured well for his new role. "He may not be the conventional captain that everyone expects him to be. But there is also a positive side to it," he said.
"The way he plays his cricket we can be in for some exciting times under him. In the past six months there has been a level of responsibility in him. He has played his cricket with a lot of responsibility without changing the characteristic of his play."