More valuable than the numbers suggest
Tillakaratne Dilshan's worth as a Test batsman is not apparent in his overall Test record. He scored 5492 runs from 145 innings at an average of 40.98, not figures that rank among the great batsmen of the modern era. But few have adapted their game to the requirements of their team as he has: of the 11 batsmen in Tests to have scored 2000 or more runs at No. 6, he is the only one to have also scored 2000-plus runs opening the batting. This, despite a batting technique that wasn't best suited for opening in Tests.
Dilshan is the sixth-highest run-scorer for Sri Lanka in Tests. He hit 16 hundreds in his career, which is the joint fourth-highest among Sri Lanka batsmen. He is the only player in Test history to score 300-plus runs and take four wickets in a single Test match. His best year in Test cricket in terms of numbers was 2009 - that year, he became only the third Sri Lanka batsman after Aravinda de Silva and Mahela Jayawardene to score five or more hundreds in a calendar year.
Dilshan averaged 42.54 as an opener in Tests, second-highest among Sri Lanka openers with a minimum of 1500 runs. Arguably, the most striking feature of Dilshan's batting in Tests was the pace at which he scored runs. On quite a few occasions, and not unlike Virender Sehwag - whom Dilshan was often compared with since he started opening for Sri Lanka - he got his team off to brisk starts. Dilshan is even ahead of his compatriot Sanath Jayasuriya - known for his free-scoring ways - in terms of strike rate while opening in Tests, though he opened in fewer innings.
Dilshan's frenetic pace of scoring runs was more suited to limited-overs cricket, though, and it gave bowlers enough chances to dismiss him early in his innings. Among Sri Lanka openers with at least 50 Test innings, Dilshan was the most likely to be dismissed within a range of 0-19 runs.
|Batsman||Inns||NO||Out between 0 - 19 runs||%age Inns out between 0 - 19 runs|
Apart from Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan batsmen have generally struggled outside the subcontinent, and that held true for Dilshan as well. Though he played a few memorable innings overseas - 147 against Australia in the first innings in Hobart and a quickfire 78 against South Africa in Cape Town - his overall record was quite ordinary. Among Sri Lanka batsmen who have scored a minimum of 1000 runs outside Asia, (excluding Zimbabwe) Dilshan ranks sixth in terms of batting average.
|Aravinda de Silva||25||46||1818||267||39.52||4||7|
Dilshan averaged 34.52 from 47 innings playing outside Asia, a sharp decrease of almost ten runs when compared to his average of 44.14 when playing in the subcontinent. That he could not express himself freely in unfamiliar conditions is evident from the drop in his strike rate: batting on these pitches, Dilshan scored almost 15 runs per 100 balls fewer than what he scored in the subcontinent.
The one country outside the subcontinent where Dilshan earned his bragging rights was England. He averaged 49.77 from nine innings in England - the highest among Sri Lanka batsmen with a minimum of 400 runs in the UK. This included an innings of 193 at Lord's as captain, his highest Test score. He is one of the only six captains from the subcontinent to hit a century at Lord's and only the second Sri Lankan captain to do so after Mahela Jayawardene.
|Aravinda de Silva||7||12||455||152||37.91||1||1|
Like most batsmen from the subcontinent, Dilshan was more comfortable facing up to spinners than to fast bowlers. Against spinners he averaged 54.95 as opposed to 39.22 against fast bowlers in Tests since 2002. His attacking style of play against spinners gave them enough chances too, largely the reason why most of the leading wicket-takers against Dilshan in Tests are all spinners; but he managed to take these bowlers for runs too. Only Shane Warne and to some extent Danish Kaneria had some success bowling against Dilshan.
|Enamul Haque Jr||6||160||3||53.33||65.0|
His stint as Sri Lanka captain mirrors his Test career - significant contributions hidden under otherwise seemingly ordinary numbers. Dilshan captained Sri Lanka in 11 Tests and the only match he won as captain was probably their most important win overseas, against South Africa at Durban, one of only four to have come outside Asia and Zimbabwe.
Shiva Jayaraman is sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo