When Tillekeratne Dilshan was just 14 years old he had the makings of a professional and that he went on to clout a century in all three formats of the game (Test, ODI and T20), score more than 17,000 international runs and bow out as the only captain to win a Test in South Africa was proof of the player he was to become.
That was the unique side of Dilshan. But what makes him a commoner among Sri Lanka’s retired greats is that he has joined a list of players whose send-offs could have been much more to their liking than what befell them when they hung up their bats and balls.
Starting with Asanka Gurusinha who never had the grace of retirement he should have deserved, most of Sri Lanka’s impact cricketers eventually ended up as wounded warriors who went back to weep in their bedrooms.
Either most of them were misguided or merely took it for granted that they were iconic objects who did not see the writing on the wall to hang up in time. Or could it be that most Sri Lankans by nature are too emotional to get over their emotions which are all let out at a time public feelings run high.
In the case of Dilshan, he enjoyed no political clout, had to make the most of everything that came his way and one of his greatest expectations, an extension of his captaincy after he led his chargers to a historic win in a Test in South Africa in 2011, only blew in the wind.
His utterance to reporters after playing his last match on August 28 (Sunday) that he wanted to go on for another year and circumstances did not permit him to continue could mean, among other accusations, that someone in high authority had persuaded the swashbuckler to call it quits in view of the many youngsters knocking on the door which Dilshan himself will be the first to acknowledge, being the action man himself.
Among Dilshan’s most prominent of knocks was a 193 he made against England in the summer of 2011 at cricket’s spiritual home Lord’s while facing a battery of fast bowlers on a lively pitch with an aching finger to contain. It was an occasion that separated him from the life-on-the-edge type of character he used to be.
List of Impact Players who retired or forced to quit (post World Cup 1996):
Asanka Gurusinha: Last Test 88 vs Zimbabwe at SSC in 1996. Last ODI 32 vs Pakistan in Sharjah 1996. Was out of the country and ordered back to play club cricket for future selection to the team. He chose to retire age 30.
Roshan Mahanama: Last Test 50 and 0 vs South Africa at Centurion in 1998. Last ODI 21 vs Kenya in World Cup in England in 1999. Sri Lanka failed to enter the second round and he retired with much heartburn age 33.
Arjuna Ranatunga: Lost captaincy in 1999 after a disastrous showing in the World Cup in England. Last Test 14 and 28 not out versus South Africa at SSC in 2001. Retired age 38.
Aravinda de Silva: Last Test 206 vs Bangladesh at Sara Oval Colombo in 2002. Last ODI 11 vs Australia at World Cup in South Africa in 2003 in semi-final. Match lost. Retired age 38.
Hashan Tillekeratne: Last Test 74 not out and 17 vs Australia at SSC in 2004. Match lost and was captain. Last ODI 31 vs Zimbabwe in Sharjah in 2003. Match lost. Retired age 37.
Sanath Jayasuriya: Last Test 10 and 78 vs England in Kandy in 2007. Last ODI 2 vs England in 2011 London Oval. Match lost. Retired age 42.
Chaminda Vaas: Told to play his last Test against Pakistan at SSC in 2009. Took just one wicket in whole match bowling 39 overs. Last ODI vs India at Premadasa Stadium in 2008 taking just one wicket. Match lost. Retired age 35.
Muttiah Muralidaran: Last Test vs India in Galle in 2010 took eight wickets. Sri Lanka won. Last ODI vs India in World Cup final in 2011 in Mumbai. No wickets. Match lost. Retired age 38.
Mahela Jayawardena: Last Test 4 and 54 in 2014 vs Pakistan at SSC. Sri Lanka won. Last ODI 4 vs South Africa at Sydney 2015 World Cup semi-final. Match lost. Retired age 38.
Kumar Sangakkara: Last Test 32 and 18 vs India at P Sara Oval Colombo 2015. Match lost. Last ODI 45 vs South Africa 2015 World Cup semi-final in Sydney. Match lost. Retired age 38.
Tillekeratne Dilshan: Last Test vs Bangladesh 0 and 57 at Premadasa Stadium in 2013. Sri Lanka won. Last ODI 42 vs Australia at Dambulla 2016. Match lost. Retired age 39.