'Our bowlers will rise to the challenge'

'Our bowlers will rise to the challenge'

Royal Challengers Bangalores Tillakaratne Dilshan, named Sri Lankas new skipper, says he is confident of doing well

flamboyant Tillakaratne Dilshan says he is experienced enough to do justice to the captain’s role.Named the Sri Lankan cricket team captain following the voluntary exit of Kumar Sangakkara from the role after the World Cup, the 34-year-old has a tough task of matching the standards set by his immediate predecessor, both on and off the field. Currently part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the on-going Indian Premier League, Dilshan discusses his future challenges in a free-wheeling chat. Excerpts.

You had a wonderful World Cup but haven’t been able to replicate your feats in IPL IV...

Definitely, that’s a bit disappointing. I played well in the World Cup and I would have loved to carry the same form into the IPL but unfortunately it hasn’t worked. I could have done much better but unfortunately the way I got out in some games, I was very unlucky. I believe I am in good form and I am looking forward to the next couple of matches in the IPL. Hopefully things will improve before I leave for England.

It hasn’t a been smooth transition with issues like club versus country and match-fixing allegations from Hashan Tillakaratne cropping up...

I will not comment on Hashan Tillakaratne's allegations. I really don’t know what really happened there (back home). I am just looking to play my cricket and I have got a new job of leading the country so I am just focused on that. Yes, there are changes in the team, there is new coaching staff and also a lot of changes back home. I have a lot of things to sort out but I don’t think it’s too much of a hassle. And as for country versus club issue, I think the ICC and the BCCI should sit down and discuss and have a window for the IPL.  It’s really hard for any team to release players midway through the tournament. And also, there is a lot at stake for the players. So I feel it should be sorted out to ensure that IPL is held when most of the players are free.

Talking about IPL, would you say playing in the T20 league added a new dimension to your game?

When I started my career, for eight years I was batting down the order at six or seven but later I was promoted as an opener which I think was the turning point of my career. I started doing well as an opener in the IPL which was noticed back home. In IPL, I had the opportunity to share the experience of Virender Sehwag and Gautam (Gambhir) during my stint with Delhi Daredevils. They are all great players and I shared my ideas with them and that helped me a lot. I think IPL is a good platform as youngsters can learn playing with senior internationals.

Coming back to your captaincy, is it fair to say the role came to you because there were not many options in the side?

I don’t think I got captaincy because there was nobody else. I have led Lanka three-four times before and I have also led Sri Lanka 'A' teams and my club team. The thing is, Mahela (Jayawardene) and Sanga (Sangakkara) and I are of same age. I never thought Sanga would step down so soon after the World Cup.

I thought he would play three four years as captain and then we all will retire at the same age. After Sanga stepped down, and with Mahela not in race, I was the senior most player left with prior experience of leading the side. I think Lanka will have to groom another young player to take the captain’s role (once I am done). Under my captaincy, the youngsters will get a fair chance.

We have youngsters like Angelo Mathews who is good but we should give one person the responsibility of leading in all three formats and not different captains for different formats.

What is your rationale behind such a suggestion?

Well, there are countries with different policies but my personal view is that if one person leads the side in all the formats, it becomes easier to handle the team. In case of two captains, there could be a clash of ideas which may lead to many problems.

How different are you from Sangakkara and Jayawardene?

Even Sanga and Mahela were different as captains, their approach was different and their style of captaincy was different from each other. But the point is both were hugely successful as captains; in 2007 we were the runners-up in the World Cup under Mahela and this time also in 2011 we finished second under Sanga. I have my style of leading the side, but I have the advantage of falling back on their experiences.

You are taking over as the captain with your greatest match-winning bowler Muttiah Muralitharan having retired and your main strike bowler Lasith Mallinga having quit Test cricket... Do you think you are thin on bowling resources?

I spoke to Malinga and he said he has some problems with his knee. He said if he is going to play all the three formats, his career will be cut short. I think his retirement is a good decision. He is a good player and we have to get the maximum out of him in ODIs and T20s. And yes, we don’t have Murali but we can’t help it. It’s a huge vacuum but we have to look forward. We have a lot of youngsters and we have to make the most of them. I know it won’t be easy in England but I am confident that our bowlers will rise to the challenge.

Lastly, what changes can we expect in you as a person?

I have to change. For one, I am big fashion freak. I like to colour my hair and I love to sport a goatee but when you are the captain, you have to be more responsible and more presentable than anybody else. So in that sense yes, I need to change.