Mitchell Starc was fuming in at Dambulla, after having already tasted blood in his very first over in a pretty much routinely manner. It was the third ball of his second over. He was building up some pace. Given how the tour has gone for the Aussie pacer, respect is not what he asks for but demands.
Enter Tillakaratne Dilshan.
He moves across. There’s swagger. He whips it off his legs. There’s impiety. That’s not all. There’s more to it. There’s that irritating agony in the bowler’s countenance inflicted by an atrocious act of Tillakaratne Dilshan. There’s frustration.
Unorthodox, audacious and irritatingly successful. That shot, in his last ODI match, is what in a nutshell, the definition of Tillakaratne Dilshan – a vexing thorn in the opponent’s flesh.
Dilshan for long has been successful in getting under the skin of the bowler or the rival captain or for that matter even the viewer with his approach, technique and more importantly its success. His batting is flamboyant but devoid of any grace, effective but not a style that can be modelled upon. But he packed a worthy punch!
The slashes past point were denied any grace the moment the bat thwacked the ball, the cover drives were denied a place in the romantic’s mind the moment the ball hit the ground, the extravagant pulls were no poet’s dream. But Dilshan was his own man. He was unique and special.
Sri Lanka is hooked to produce talents who leave a mark on the game. Be it Jayasuriya, be it Malinga, be it Murali or be it Ajantha Mendis. Each one made the game richer with his invention. So did Dilshan.
Dilshan’s Dilscoop can easily be termed as cricket’s Produnova, for the amount of risk it carries and for its level of difficulty. Not only have very few tried to emulate it but hardly any have succeeded in it, let alone reaching the consistency of the man who invented it. No wonder Mahela calls him the starfish – an animal with no brain – for, one with brain would mind risking his head!
For a moment set aside how he did but think about what he did.
Of all the accolades Dilshan has received, the most apt and deserving one is the one given by the former Lankan skipper, Arjuna Ranatunga. “All captains wish they have players like Dilshan in their ranks,” Ranatunga said. Dilshan is any captain’s dream.
There is not one area in a game of cricket that he couldn’t contribute. Dilshan was an efficient bowler to say the least; a splendid fielder, if one has to keep it very simple; he kept wickets too and he captained when asked to. More importantly, in a cricket filed, Dilshan was always vibrant and alert, thus hugely influencing his team’s attitude and body language.
As his coach, Ranjan Paranavitana, pointed out, Dilshan was hugely flexible and accommodative. He didn’t have it easy. He has batted in all positions from 1st to 8th in both ODI’s and Tests, though it was at the top of the order he made his mark and contributed immensely for his team.
Sehwag is attributed to have revolutionised the role of an opener in Tests. Around the same period of time Dilshan wasn’t far behind in emphasizing the art of attacking batsmanship at the top. He scored at a rate of over 70 as an opener and did leave a big hole when he retired from Tests.
He tops the list with most runs scored after turning 35, with over 4000 runs at an average of 45. So with years under his back, the body didn’t age and mind didn’t tire, instead it cherished the harder yards. If not with his style, definitely with his methods, he stands as a role model not only for the youngsters but for the ageing ones too!
With over 10000 runs in ODI’s and now standing at the 11th position in the all-time list of highest run scorers, Dilshan is one of the stalwarts of this age.
“He’s equalled the services of Mahela (Jayawardena) and Kumar (Sangakkara). We are going to miss him a lot,” said Angelo Mathews. And that is a fitting tribute to Tillakaratne Dilshan.