'I can easily play for another 2-3 years' - Dilshan
Tillakaratne Dilshan believes he has a role to play in Sri Lanka's limited-overs teams after Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara retire at the end of the ongoing World Cup. With form on his side and no fitness concerns, Dilshan hoped to last another two to three years in international cricket.
"My ambition is to continue playing ODI and T20 cricket," Dilshan said. "After the World Cup I will have to discuss with my captain and the team management what my future role in the team will be. If they think that I have a role to play I will continue to represent my country. With my present form and fitness I guess I can easily play for another 2-3 years, even till the next World Cup in 2019.
"I retired from Test cricket two years ago to give an opportunity to another youngster," he said. "I will do the same in the other two formats also if I think I am not good enough to be in the side. I haven't taken that decision yet because two key players are retiring from ODI cricket and I believe my experience will be valuable to the captain and the team in the two formats. We have problems with openers. If I can help them fill that void using my experience I will quit."
Talking of his chances of stretching his career till the next World Cup Dishan said, "I will be 42 by then and if I can keep my fitness levels with that of the younger players I am capable of playing. Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq is still playing at the age of 40. It is not the age that is important but your contribution to the team."
At 38, Dilshan is still among the fitter players in the Sri Lanka team. An excellent fielder, an aggressive batsmen and a useful offspinner, Dilshan continues to be an asset for the team. Asked how he has been able to maintain the fitness standards, he said, "I don't do any special training other than what I do with the team. When I am not playing cricket for my country I keep myself occupied playing cricket elsewhere.
"I try to be involved either batting, bowling or fielding. I believe it is these habits that have kept me physically fit from injuries other than getting hit by a cricket ball. I like to enjoy life so I don't restrict myself from what I eat. I eat everything except that I eat them in small quantity."
Dilshan said the team wants to win the World Cup for Jayawardene and Sangakkara, but added, "We cannot achieve that if we keep thinking of it. We will only put ourselves under a lot of pressure.
"Our first goal is to get to the quarter-finals," he said. "If we can go and win the World Cup it will not only be good only for them but for the entire team and Sri Lanka cricket overall. That is how we won the World T20 in Bangladesh last year. Although it was the final appearance in T20 cricket for Mahela and Sanga our focus was not on them but as a team to perform well."
"I have played under Mahela's captaincy and learnt a lot, the way he speaks to the younger players, the way he gives them words of encouragement when they are struggling for form. Mahela is a great motivator to uplift the spirits of a cricketer when he is down. As a captain the way he conducts himself not only on the field but also off it, the way he dresses, speaks, eating habits, he is a very good example for the younger cricketers to emulate."
Dilshan said comparisons between him and the two were difficult although their careers ran parallel and they are among the three senior-most players in the team today.
"It was from 2009 that I really made progress in my career (when he was promoted to open batting) that was the turning point of my career," Dilshan said.
"Since 2009, I have scored 19 centuries and over 6000 runs in ODI cricket, he said. "Of the 20 ODI centuries I have scored we have won 16 matches and I am proud of that. As captain, I have scored centuries in all three formats a feat which no captain has achieved."
Dilshan is 575 runs and three wickets shy of reaching 10,000 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs. "If I can get to 10,000 runs during the World Cup that would mean I have to score over 500 runs which would be of immense benefit to the team and makes our chances of winning great," he said.
"Every youngster needs to have a goal to achieve something in the sport and know when to quit. It is better to have goals and achieve something than just play without any goals. We still talk of the achievements of Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga. For the next generation also we must leave something for them to attain. I am happy with what I have accomplished so far. There is a stroke named after me as well - Dilscoop."