Tillakaratne Dilshan has confirmed he will play his final ODI in Dambulla on Sunday, the third of the series against Australia, and his last T20 international in Colombo on September 9.
His retirement comes in the wake of significant pressure from Sri Lanka’s selectors. Dilshan’s own performance has been outstanding over the past few years – he averages 49.18 in ODIs since the start of 2013, and had his most successful ODI year in 2015, when he scored 1207 runs at an average of 52.47. But with Angelo Mathews and the selectors now seeking to build a team for the 2019 World Cup, Dilshan was persuaded to retire. He had also been Sri Lanka’s top scorer in this year’s World T20 campaign, and remains, at 39, one of the team’s best fielders.
Dilshan had missed the England tour earlier this year due to personal reasons, and was seen in discussion with chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya ahead of the ODI series against Australia. He is understood to have expressed a reluctance to retire, but having scored 22 and 10 in the first two matches, has since changed his mind. Sri Lanka already have opening batsmen vying for his place. Both Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka have opened the batting in this series, and Dhananjaya de Silva, who has so far batted down the order in ODIs, has opened the batting for his club through the most recent domestic season.
Dilshan was a late bloomer at the top level. Having batted largely in the lower middle order for almost a decade since his debut in 1999, he blossomed as a limited-overs batsman when he became a consistent opener in 2009. Dilshan scored 1000 or more ODI runs in a calendar year four times since being sent permanently up the order, and never failed to amass fewer than 800 runs between 2009 and 2015. He was the fourth Sri Lanka batsman, after Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, to cross 10,000 ODI runs.
He has also been one of the premier T20 players over the past six years. Dilshan top-scored in the 2009 World T20, where Sri Lanka made the final, before going on to become the second-highest run-scorer overall in T20 internationals – playing in two more World T20 finals, one of which his team won. He is one of a handful of batsmen to have hit centuries in all three formats. The sole T20 hundred came in 2011 against Australia in Pallekele – a favourite venue at which he will appear one more time, in the first T20 of the two-match series.
Once promoted to the top of the order, Dilshan became reputed for the dynamism he brought to the opening role. In addition to the cover drives and pull shots – all hit with a rapid swing of the bat – Dilshan was also an innovator of the lap scoop, and began to regularly slog-sweep medium-pace bowlers. He alone plays the shot colloquially known as the ‘Dilscoop’, in which a length ball is uniquely deflected over the keeper, rather than over short fine leg.
Dilshan captained Sri Lanka across formats between May 2010 and January 2012, and though their first Test win under him came against South Africa at the tail end of that period, the team had endured a lull during his leadership. He has, however, been an effective bowler in the limited-overs format. His offspin has brought him 106 ODI wickets at an average of 44.84.