Dilshan opens up on lack of support during captaincy tenure

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Tillakaratne Dilshan cast aspersions on the conduct of former and present team-mates -particularly Angelo Mathews – soon after his final ODI, against Australia on Sunday. Prompted to speak on the challenges faced in his 10-month stint as Sri Lanka captain between April 2011 and January 2012, Dilshan suggested he did not have the support of some team-mates. He also said he had been hurt by his sudden removal as captain, following the year-end tour of South Africa, in which Sri Lanka lost both series, but won a Test in South Africa for the first time.

Dilshan had been named captain after Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene had both resigned from that post. It was Jayawardene who eventually replaced him after the South Africa tour.

“I didn’t actually plan to take the captaincy, but the SLC president asked me to take over for six months until we find someone else,” Dilshan said. “Unfortunately, we had also lost two bowlers. Murali [Muttiah Muralitharan] had retired. Nuwan Kulasekara was injured. Ajantha Mendis was injured. I didn’t have great resources.

“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.”

Mathews did bowl during Dilshan’s captaincy, but had a reduced workload. He did not bowl in nine of the 20 ODIs under Dilshan, and never delivered more than five overs in a match. This workload did see a substantial increase when Jayawardene resumed captaincy.

In Tests, Mathews did not bowl in 12 of the 16 innings under Dilshan, though at the time, he was not an integral part of the Test attack. Mathews had also suffered leg injuries even prior to Dilshan’s captaincy, most notably when he missed the 2011 World Cup final due to a quad strain, and has managed his own bowling load carefully since he became captain.

Though Dilshan said the manner of his ousting did cause hurt, he insisted he did not let “personal issues” affect his cricket. Sri Lanka’s first assignment after the South Africa tour was the 2012 tri-series in Australia. Dilshan top-scored in that tournament, hitting 513 runs at an average of 51.30.

“At the end of that South Africa series, I put everything aside. I went to Australia, scored 500 runs, and became Man of the Series. It didn’t matter to me who was captain. I wasn’t concerned about who ousted me as captain. I always play for my country. I didn’t worry about those personal things, but I was hurt.”

Dilshan’s own first assignment as captain had been Sri Lanka’s tour of England, but broke his finger during his 193 at Lord’s in the second Test. He suggested it had been with some reluctance that Sangakkara took on the captaincy for one Test, after that injury ruled Dilshan out for the game at Southampton.

“There actually wasn’t anyone who was willing to be captain. Everyone resigned after the 2011 World Cup. In England a ball hit my hand and I broke my finger, and the former captains were asked to lead, and they said no. After that only when it was talked about that someone like Sanath Jayasuriya or Thilina Kandamby be made captain that someone presented himself to be captain. But I guess there’s no point talking about those past things anymore.

“But I am proud that it is players that I brought into the team at the time who are winning matches now. About six or seven of the players today are cricketers who I’d given a chance to. At the time it was a problem for me, because people asked me why I was giving young players so many opportunities. But today, we should look at players like Dinesh Chandimal.”

Dilshan still has two more T20 matches to play before he becomes an ex-cricketer across formats. He said the decision to retire had been spontaneous.

“I hadn’t planned to retire, before the series,” he said. “Whether someone tells me to keep playing or stop playing, that’s not what’s important. What is important is what I feel. I started the series thinking that I’ll play for another year – at least in T20 cricket. But when I woke up on the 25th I felt that it was time to go.

“To be honest I could easily play for another year or two. But we have to look to the future. If I play for another two years and leave, there’s only 18 months before the next World Cup and that’s unfair to the team. A young player could be blooded in that time. Since I started opening six years ago, we haven’t found a permanent partner for me. I’ve opened with about 10 people – so that’s a problematic area for us. If I keep playing we won’t be able to get two batsmen settled in that place. I’ll be able to get some rest.”

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando