Below are two Niroshan Dickwella truths and one Niroshan Dickwella lie.
- One time, in the middle of a match, Dickwella made the team manager Google Translate an insult into Urdu, so he could sledge Pakistan's players in their own language. (#Thoughtful)
- Another time, batting to draw a Test, Dickwella initiated an extended verbal tussle with an opposition player. When his senior partner told him to cool it, our guy responded: "Relax, I'm just helping them waste their own time."
- Recently a team-mate attempted to high-five Dickwella for a direct-hit run out. Dickwella missed his hand and smacked him directly in the middle of his face, then showed no remorse.
Which of these is the lie? None. They're all true. Or are they? This is a piece on Dickwella. All thrusters firing all the time, no time for facts, vibes only. There are other stories, unverified, and probably exaggerated, possibly by Dickwella himself. Of him setting a group of teammates on some off-field hijinks, for which one or two of them would eventually get in trouble, but not him. Oh, and remember that time he came to a press conference in Pakistan, and was mis-identified as Dhananjaya de Silva, but instead of getting annoyed, wore this enormous shi*-eating grin, and announced: "I'm not de Silva. I'm Dickwella. I'm already out. In the pavilion. Maybe in the second innings I'll get a hundred?" Raucous laughter. Viral video. Classic.
I guess we should talk about his 92 off 144 on Saturday? Supposedly that is the premise for this article. First that strike rate - 63.89; better than every other batsman's in his side by a distance (No one else touched 50). And then there is his batting against England's master of misery, James Anderson, who bowled 29 overs in this innings, of which roughly three billion were maidens. Every one of Dickwella's team-mates struggled to get Anderson off the square, leaving the ball, blocking the ball, respecting the ball, and generally worshiping dourly at the altar of this ageless, ultra-skillful, grump-faced, unerring, line-and-length-if-nothing-else-is-happening demi-god.
But who's got two gloved thumbs, a chronic over-appealing problem, and doesn't do reverence? Our man. Anderson bowled only 37 balls at him, but conceded 18 of the 40 runs he gave away in the innings (that's 45%), to Dickwella. Even in this particular innings, which is being hailed for the relative restraint Dickwella showed (which is a bit like thanking a tornado for not destroying all the buildings in town), he was still, in his own way, thrusters firing, no time for facts, vibes at a premium. There was one time in his 40s, when Dom Bess tossed a ball up and, initially shaping for a huuuuuge slog sweep, Dickwella bailed and punched it into an off-side gap. How many other batsmen choose mid-way through a big shot to go for a more conservative option, and still attacks the ball? What a dude.
There was talk before this Test that Dickwella should be cut loose, because not only does he not score often enough to justify a place as a batsman, his wicketkeeping has also been ropey. These are both valid complaints, even after this 92. But who can begrudge him these runs, and why would you not want him in Test cricket for as long as it still interests him? Dickwella is a supercharged atom in a Hadron Collider, smashing gleefully into stuff, creating or destroying, who knows? He's a bright light in the sky, maybe a glorious shooting star about to make your night, but equally, an aeroplane plunging desperately to earth. If you've seen him play, you've probably got strong feelings one way or another. You've slapped your forehead. You've belly-laughed. Admit this, though: it wouldn't have been the same without him.
Dickwella seemed destined to make his maiden Test century today, but spotting a wide, full delivery from Anderson - maybe the worst ball he'd got from him - he reached for it and toe-ended it aerially to mid-off. Late in the day, when Sri Lanka were fielding, he urged captain Dinesh Chandimal to refer an lbw decision against Joe Root that had no earthly chance of succeeding, and lost Sri Lanka a review. All thrusters. No facts. Damn it if you aren't hooked on them vibes, though.
Oh, what's that? You're asking if this innings, his highest Test-match score, may signal the arrival of a more mature and consistent Niroshan Dickwella? You know what? Get the f*** out of here with your dumb questions. That's not what this is about. Let's live life one day at a time. Even that's too much. One second at a time.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf