x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Wanted for Sri Lankan cricket: the real Tillakaratne Dilshan

The captain has not played like he normally does, which is to take the attack to the opposition. That has been the core of Sri Lanka's disappointing run.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, needs to return to his aggressive best.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, needs to return to his aggressive best.

It was the perfect scenario for Indian cricket fans on that August night of last year: Virender Sehwag was batting on 99 and the men in blue needed one run to beat hosts Sri Lanka in Dambulla.

But following a chat with Tillakaratne Dilshan, Suraj Randiv bowled a no-ball to deny the opener a century. Randiv was duly suspended and Dilshan fined.

Dilshan was not even captain at the time, but many expected his abrasive nature to rub off when he eventually took over the leadership of the team.

He does not pretend to have the sophistication of Kumar Sangakkara or Mahela Jayawardene, but he is a gutsy cricketer.

Seven months since being handed the reins, however, Dilshan and his team are lacking the stomach for a fight. That has been at the core of their failures in England, at home to Australia and against Pakistan in the UAE. During the course of these defeats, he averaged 17.43 in one-day internationals and 24.81 over the previous two Test series.

Sri Lanka have been blighted by problems on and off the cricket field; their board is mired in politics, Muttiah Muralitharan has retired, Lasith Malinga struggles with a long-term injury and the youngsters, except Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews, have failed to take responsibility. A captain, they say, is only as good as his team.

But Dilshan has just not been the Dilshan we know, the spiky character who takes the attack to the opposition, with bat and ball, and with the "Dilscoop" – a brave shot that embodies his grit and invention. And it is that spirit the fans need to see him play with again.

ckadalayil@thenational.ae

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