Tillakaratne Dilshan was recently picked in the ICC ODI team of the year. I wondered what he had done to make this elite team. A quick check on Statsguru gives the answer: only Kane Williamson has scored more runs during the concerned period, and Dilshan turned 39 this October.
If you ask a random Sri Lankan cricket fan to pick the greatest batsmen Sri Lanka have produced, chances are Dilshan wouldn't even enter the discussion. So why is this man so underrated?
Style of play cannot be the reason - he is an aggressive opening batsman as dangerous as anyone to play the game, especially the shorter formats. Is it the aesthetics? He probably did lag behind his more stylish and aesthetically pleasing team-mates, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. But he's no Graeme Smith or Alastair Cook.
In full flow, Dilshan is an attractive batsman to watch. Then, is it his performances in big matches? Dilshan has a top-class World Cup record and almost single-handedly won a World T20 title for his team in 2009. Only seven batsmen have scored more World Cup runs than Dilshan, and all of them are superstars - Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Kumar Sangakkara, Brian Lara, AB de Villiers, Sanath Jayasuriya and Jacques Kallis. Yet, you'll struggle to find anyone who would put Dilshan in the same bracket as the players above.
His Test record is good without reaching the highest echelons of batsmanship, but as a white-ball player, he surely is one of the very best to play the game. Not withstanding his outstanding record with the bat, he was also one of the elite fielders in the game for a long while. His offspin remains as underrated as any other aspect of his game. But his contribution has been invaluable for his side, especially in conditions that suited his type of bowling.
Is it his maverick outlook to the game? Is it his weird and wonderful goatee patterns? Whatever it is, Dilshan surely does not get the credit he deserves. He might be skipped in a discussion on modern greats, but he surely should hold his own in a discussion on Sri Lankan greats.
Perhaps, he will get the recognition when he eventually retires. But knowing how his career has gone, he will probably go out with little fanfare. But the day he goes, I will ll stand up from my seat and applaud the man. I hope I am not alone when I do so.
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