The inventor of the famous 'Dilscoop' shot, Tillakaratne Dilshan along with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene was the backbone of the Sri Lanka Test and Limited-over squads until he played his last international match in September 2016. During an international career which lasted almost 17 years, Tillakaratne Dilshan played 497 matches scoring a mammoth 17671 runs which included 39 centuries and 83 fifties.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Dilshan spoke of the loss to international cricket due to retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, how both Pakistan and Sri Lanka will cope with the departure of senior players, Sri Lanka's chances in the Champions Trophy, his own future plans and assessed Angelo Mathews' progress as Sri Lanka captain.
By Amir Husain (30th May, 2017)
PakPassion.net : What are your recollections of playing against Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : I have great respect for both of these players for their achievements for their country. Both are great players and Misbah’s excellent captaincy record is amazing. We played against each other a few times and that was a very enjoyable experience. We shared a lot of good experiences but then once in a while, we also had some arguments which does happen in international cricket. I recently played against Misbah in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz tournament where he was simply brilliant. Both players will be missed by their teams and also by the international audiences.
PakPassion.net : How can Pakistan recover after the loss of their two top batsmen?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : I think the issues of losing top batsmen is not limited to Pakistan only. In 2014 and beyond, some top players have left international cricket and that has become a problem for many countries as they look towards the future, or try and build themselves for the next World Cup. The loss of more experienced batsmen will mean that the youngsters will need to step up to help out. However, teams need to be careful and ensure that there is some experience in the line-up to help the younger batsmen to come up the curve. We need to now wait and see who amongst the new players can raise their game and try and come up to the level of players like Misbah and Younis in the future.
PakPassion.net : Pakistan in a sense are facing similar difficulties as Sri Lanka did with the departure of Sangakkara and Mahela.
Tillakaratne Dilshan : I think trying to fill the gap created by the absence of two great players is not an easy task. There is a lot of experience which has left the team overnight and it will not be easy for Pakistan as is the case with Sri Lanka too. The trick there is to give maximum chances to the youngsters and help them build their confidence at the international level. There needs to be consistency in selection and also faith needs to be shown in players instead of bringing them on for a couple of series and then dropping them again. I don’t think that this is the way forward to rebuild teams. Settling down in international cricket is not an easy task as is, especially if you are from one of the Asian countries where the gap between both styles of cricket is huge. The younger players need to be given at least 2-3 years to find their feet and anything less will not be beneficial for the player or the team.
PakPassion.net : How do you see the chances of Sri Lanka in the upcoming Champions Trophy? Which team can win this tournament?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : We have a young team and they are inexperienced but a talented one. Playing away from the sub-continent, especially in English conditions, is not an easy task and that is where sides like England, South Africa and Australia will have a huge advantage. For Asian countries to win the trophy in England is not going to be easy. In fact, I will say that even playing 75% of their potential will not be enough and they will need to play out of their skins to win the Champions Trophy this year. I will hesitate to name any one team as the favourite as I believe all have the capability, but all I can do is wish all the teams the best of luck for this tournament.
PakPassion.net : How do you look at your own future, are you interested in coaching?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : I never look too far into the future but I do know that I am not looking for any permanent role. You have to remember that I recently retired after a long career. I want to give some time to my family now. The fact is that they sacrificed a lot for me during my playing days. This is now my time to repay them for their patience. I am going to spend more time with my family and have no plans to coach on a full-time basis and will continue to have this point of view for the next 6-7 years.
PakPassion.net : Are ODIs losing their charm in face of stiff competition from the more popular Twenty20 format?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : In my honest opinion, all three formats of the game need to be encouraged and must be continued. There is no doubt that people who would have not watched cricket are now enthusiastic about the game due to the advent of the Twenty20 game. One has to admit that only with the introduction of the Twenty20 format has the popularity of cricket started to increase at a higher rate. That is good news for cricket in general but the ICC must continue investing in and encouraging youngsters to play in the other two formats as each style of cricket has its own charm.
PakPassion.net : How do you see the future of the Sri Lanka team as it re-builds itself after the departure of some big names?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : I am very encouraged by our youngsters despite being short on experience. Their Test whitewash of Australia in the summer of 2016 is a great example of what this team can achieve even without the services of the recently retired players. I suppose what it comes down to is to allow the newer players more space and time to grow into their roles. You cannot be dropping them after one or two bad performances. Instead, let them settle down in international cricket and the results will follow. We also have to understand that there is a big gap in quality between our domestic cricket and international cricket. A player coming in from First-class cricket in Sri Lanka cannot simply walk into the national side and be expected to perform from day one as it will take him time to get used to the pressures of international cricket. One can only hope that the newer batch of players can come out strongly and establish themselves in the same way we took on the responsibility after the departure of Sanath Jayasuriya and others. Sanga, Mahela and I put in a lot of hard work and also helped the youngsters along but now that we are not there, the newer generation needs to step up and I am confident that they will succeed in doing so in the same way we did before.
PakPassion.net : How is Angelo Mathews doing as a captain in your view?
Tillakaratne Dilshan : I believe that in the last few months or so, he has been affected by injuries and not been able to play that much which is a concern. He is still new to the job and learning but what he really needs to do is to concentrate and try and fix his injury problems as that is hampering his progress to a great extent. As a captain, he cannot be in and out of the side with injuries as he needs to allow himself a consistent run as captain if he is to learn and improve. Obviously, he is now on his own in terms of experience as earlier the senior players would give him a lot of useful advice. Now that we are no longer there he has to make decisions for himself and take the team forward as the youngsters look to him for guidance. From what I see of him now, he is making good progress and putting in good plans for the team. He needs to take the help of coaches like Allan Donald whose vast international experience should be utilised for Sri Lanka’s benefit. Angelo also has the services of Head Coach Graham Ford and the 1996 World Cup winner Asanka Gurusinha who is their manager; both of whom can be utilised by the captain to learn and implement plans which will help the Sri Lanka team move in the right direction.