17 Interesting facts about Tillakaratne Dilshan –The unsung hero of Sri Lankan Cricket

most ODI runs
Tillakaratne Dilshan. (© Getty Images)

For a batsman who has scored more than 16,000 international runs, one does not stay away from the limelight as effectively as T Dilshan. From an effective finisher to an explosive opener, Dilshan has done everything that the team asked him to do, and even more. And not to mention, his handy off-spinners have troubled batsmen more than occasionally, especially in conditions favoring the spinners.

He gave his best for the country, and he has grown ripe with age, just like wine. He has announced his retirement from all international formats, and will go down in the history books as one of the greats of the modern cricket.

Here are the 17 Interesting facts about Tillakaratne Dilshan –The unsung hero of Sri Lankan Cricket

1.Birth 

T Dilshan was born on 14th October 1976 to a Malay father and a Sinhalese mother, in Kalutara, Sri Lanka.

2.Early Life

Dilshan had his education done firstly at Jaffna Sinha Madya Maha Vidhyalaya in Jaffna for a few years, before shifting to Kalutara Vidhyalaya. It was in Kalatura Vidhyalaya wherein Dilshan had his first exposure to cricket.

3.Conversion to Buddhism

Early in his youth, at an age of 16, Dilshan converted from Islam to Buddhism, his mother’s religion. His name before conversion was Tuwan Mohammad Dilshan, and according to his coach during early years, he and his brothers followed the Buddhism principles, despite having a Muslim name. Following the split of his parents, Dilshan legally converted from Islam to Buddhism.

4.International Debut and success

Dilshan made his Test debut against Zimbabwe on 18 November 1999. He scored 9 runs off his first match and was out LBW. But he launched into international limelight with an unbeaten 163 in his very second match, winning a player of the match award for his performance.

5.Dip in form and getting dropped

Following the success achieved in his second Test, Dilshan could never replicate the same form he had. Despite some small contributions here and there, he was woefully out of form and was eventually dropped from the Ttest team in early 2001. Though he was regularly selected in the ODI squad, post his debut against Zimbabwe in 1999, he was left warming the benches for the better part of 2001-2002.

6.Back into the team as a regular

Following Sri Lanka’s 2003 World Cup debacle, Dilshan was drafted back into the team, and cemented his place with a string of consistent performances. Despite being drafted in as a lower middle order batsman cum all rounder, he never complained in regards to lack of sufficient time on the crease.

7.Masterstroke Decision

Due to lack of partners for Sanath Jayasuria, Dilshan, who usually plays as No 6 batsman, was drafted in as an opener. And the rest is history. After nearly spending the entire youth of his career at the lower middle order, at the age of 31, he was promoted as an opener. And in the following 167 innings he has played as an opener in ODIs, he has scored an astounding 7084 runs at both No 1 and No 2 positions, at an average nearing 50 and strike rate above 90. And moreover, he scored 21 ODI centuries as an opener, in the span of 7 years.

8.Regular Opener

Following the retirement of Sanath Jayasuriya in the longer format in 2007, Sri Lanka consistently lacked a proper opening batsmen, despite trying out several combinations. And thanks to Dilshan’s revival at the top of the order, Dilshan was promoted as an opener in Test cricket in 2009. Even in the longer formats, he has done outstandingly well as an opener, scoring 2170 runs in 30 Tests he opened the innings. Thereafter, he established himself as the premier opener for Sri Lanka in all the three formats.

9.Dilscoop invention

In 2009 World T20, Dilshan added a new shot into his armory, a shot wherein the ball is literally scooped right over the wicket-keeper’s head. Apparently, he practiced this shot while training for Delhi Daredevils in 2009, and unleashed it to a great effect in the 2009 World Cup. The shot, which despite it’s similarity to a scoop over the short fine leg, was named “Dilscoop” after Dilshan, and has been adopted over the years by many other  players including AB de Villiers and Brendon McCullum.

10.Dream Year

Post the promotion as a regular opener in all the three formats in 2009, Dilshan took the role as bread and butter. He scored an astonishing 11 centuries in all the formats in that year, and was named as ICC T20 player of the series in the 2009 World T20 for being the top scorer of the tournament.

11.Personal Tragedy

Following a troubled marriage, his first wife, Nilanka Withanage, with whom he had a single son, divorced him in 2008. While Dilshan married Tele-actress Manjula Thilini during IPL, his former wife married Dilshan’s teammate, Upul Tharanga. Dilshan was given court summons to provide compensation to his ex-wife and their son from the marriage. Though Dilshan ignored the court summons provided, there was apparently a settlement wherein Dilshan would provide 20,0000 LKR each month as a compensation.

12.Dream World Cup run

Dilshan was the top scorer in the 2011 World cup, wherein Sri Lanka reached the finals. Along with Tharanga, he scored 282 runs for the opening partnership which is a World Cup record for the highest opening partnership in World Cup. He also holds the record for the first batsman to score 6 fours in an over, against Mitchell Johnson.

13.Retirement from Tests:

Dilshan played his final Test for Sri Lanka in the year 2013. Just a couple of years before his retirement, Dilshan scored his highest score in Tests, 193, against England in Lord’s. Dilshan scored 57 in his last ever Test innings, despite managing a duck in the first innings of the test. He retired making 5492 runs in 87 Tests, at a decent average of 40.98.

14. Retirement from ODIs:

Dilshan played his final ODI innings in 2016 against Australia. He scored 65-ball 42 runs in this farewell ODI game. The Sri Lankan opener has scored 10,290 runs at an average of 39.27 with 22 tons and 47 half-centuries.

15.Handy Bowler

Despite being known as an explosive opener, Dilshan is a handy off-spinner. Occasionally taking up the ball, Dilshan has taken 149 international wickets, with the best of 4/4 in ODIs.

16.Interesting Records 

Dilshan is what one can call as a late bloomer. Having scored 4500 runs post the age of 35 in ODIs, he currently holds the record for most number of runs scored after crossing 35. The other batsman to have scored more than 4000 runs post 35 is his former teammate Sanath Jayasuriya. Another record he holds is the most number of ducks in T20I cricket, having scored 8 ducks. Also, in 2011, he achieved the treble of centuries, having scored centuries in all the three formats of the game. He is just the 5th batsman overall to achieve the record.

17.Outside Cricket

Dilshan, along with Muralitharan, is a part of presidential task force to combat kidney disease. Also, he is a public supporter of Mahindra Rajapaksha, which has garnered mixed responses from his fans.