And so, one of the last remaining players from the 90s completed his final act in international cricket on Friday (September 9). Tillakaratne Dilshan bowed out in Colombo, managing just 1 off 3 balls in his final international innings, but going some way to making up for it with a return of 2 for 8 in the second Twenty20 International against Australia. The result didn’t go Dilshan’s way, with Australia winning by four wickets for a 2-0 sweep, but those at the R Premadasa Stadium enjoyed a final glimpse of a favourite.
Over the years, Dilshan has fulfilled a lot of roles for Sri Lanka, and indeed in world cricket. His exploits with both bat and ball are striking, but adding to all that was his own firebrand attitude – which gave rise to several quotable quotes – his ever-changing, innovative hairstyles – which didn’t always make him photogenic.
We look back at the highlights of his limited-overs career, a glimpse of what cricket fans could possibly miss in the coming Dilshan-less days.
With the bat …
137 not out v Pakistan, Lahore ODI, 2009
The series is infamous for the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, but before that came perhaps one of the more mature centuries Dilshan has scored. It was the third and final ODI, and the series was tied at 1-1, but his 139-ball 137, comprising ten fours, set up a mammoth 234-run win after the bowlers bundled out the home side for 75. For a batsman who had a dominant reputation for being a dasher, this was a fine innings, and also his best ODI batting performance according to Impact Index.
Six consecutive fours off Mitchell Johnson, Sydney, World Cup 2015
Hitting six sixes in an over is obviously the stuff of legend, but smashing six fours is no mean feat either. Mitchell Johnson was the unfortunate soul to bear the brunt of Dilshan’s ire. The first three deliveries were full and pitched up, and Dilshan pounced. When the length was dropped, Dilshan pulled to the fence. And the last one was off a slower delivery, Dilshan judging well and driving through the covers. Johnson’s embarrassment can be imagined. Australia still won by 64 runs, but for a while there, it seemed Sri Lanka were in for something special.
96 not out v West Indies, The Oval, World T20 2009
To put this particular knock in perspective, it was one of only five two-digit scores in the match. The highest any other Sri Lankan managed was Sanath Jayasuriya’s 24, and for the West Indies, everyone but Chris Gayle (63 off 50) was dismissed for a single-digit score. Patience was the hallmark of the 57-ball innings, Dilshan hammering most of his 12 fours and two sixes after waiting for bowlers to fluff their lines. The Dilscoop was attempted, and this innings set the World T20 2009 alight. Sri Lanka reached the final with a 57-run win, and Dilshan won the ICC Twenty20 International Performance of the year award for the display.
With the ball …
4 for 29 v India in Dambulla ODI, 2005
It was a seven-match series, and this was the fourth ODI. It was the day Sourav Ganguly crossed 10,000 runs in ODIs but unfortunately, he couldn’t celebrate that feat. Even as he scored a half-century, Dilshan ripped through India’s spine with a four-wicket haul, scalping VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina. India managed 220 for 8 all the same, and then had Sri Lanka on the ropes at 95 for 6, but Mahela Jayawardene’s unbeaten 94 took them over the line. This is also Dilshan’s highest Impact ODI performance.
4 for 4 v Zimbabwe in Pallekele, World Cup 2015
Having smashed a 131-ball 144 as Sri Lanka posted 327 for 6, Dilshan ripped through the Zimbabwe middle order to all but kill their hopes after Brendan Taylor had led from the front in a 116-run opening stand. Four wickets in just overs, giving away just four runs. Any hope Zimbabwe would have had of building on that opening stand was ruthlessly doused.
3 for 37 v England, Colombo ODI, 2014
The crowds had gathered in Colombo as Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara were expected to play their final ODI at home, but it was Dilshan who starred on the day. After a composed 124-ball 101 that helped Sri Lanka post 302, he starred with the ball as well, nipping out the top-order duo of Moeen Ali and Alex Hales before returning to scalp Eoin Morgan as well. Sri Lanka won by 87, and Dilshan was the Man of the Match.
In the field …
It’s often been reported that when fielding, Dilshan would ask his captains to station him in positions that would see the most action. But given his ability in the field, those wouldn’t have been hard requests to oblige to. Sample these:
Rohit Sharma – Sri Lanka v India at WACA, February 2012
India had an unbroken 53-run association between Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin to thank for the four-wicket victory, but this screamer from Dilshan to dismiss Rohit Sharma had Sri Lanka firmly on the front foot.
Scott Styris – New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Jade Stadium, January 2006
Scott Styris sliced this and thought he had enough on it to go above Dilshan at point, but the fielder’s jump was timed to perfection, and the ball was plucked out with something close to nonchalance.
Clint McKay – Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval, June 2013
Incredible reflexes again, from Dilshan. Clint McKay knocked it back to the bowler, but despite going the wrong way in his follow through, he managed to redirect his jump towards the ball, clasping it while fully airborne.
The controversies …
Even when leaving the game, Dilshan didn’t shy away from controversies. His brief stint as captain from April 2011 to January 2012 wasn’t entirely successful – he has always blamed a lack of support. And in his last days as an international cricketer, he brought it up again, seeming to blame Angelo Mathews, the current captain, in particular.
“Angelo Mathews had a calf injury for a year that stopped him from bowling. That must be because of my misfortune, because after I had stepped down, we went to Australia after a week. In that week, Mathews started bowling. That must be because of Mahela’s good fortune,” he said ahead of his final ODI.
But perhaps the biggest controversy Dilshan was involved in had little to do with him, and everything to do with Ahmed Shehzad, who was picked up attempting to discuss with Dilshan a matter of religious sensitivity. “… if you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life… straight to heaven.” Dilshan’s reply was incoherent, but Shehzad went on the add, “Then, be ready for fire.”
The hairstyles …
… and the immaculately trimmed beard
And … a movie?
Cricketer biopics are all the rage now and though we’re as yet unclear as to whether there will be one on Dilshan, we can be sure of his calibre behind the cameras. In 2010, he revealed he had been working on a script for a film, but as with anything Dilshan, the promise was that it would be different to conventional scripts. And as far as promises go, this one has been maintained, in that the announcement was the last we’ve heard of the movie. And it’s been six years since. He’s one of a kind, is Dilshan.