Manjula Thilini (R), the wife of Tillakaratne Dilshan (L), cries on his shoulder after Dilshan announced his retirement …
Former Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, who retired from Tests on Thursday, said his career changed for the better after he decided to open the innings in 2009. Dilshan said he would have liked to retire from Test cricket in Zimbabwe, but was unable to do so as that series was postponed.
"It's a good time to go. I have done well in my last series with an average of 60," Dilshan said of his last series against Bangladesh. Dilshan said he is leaving happy, having accomplished his personal target of 5,000 test runs and captaining the team.
Dilshan started his Test career in the middle-order and had a stop-start career, but he established himself as a vital cog of the Sri Lankan team after he was promoted to open. Talking about his days batting in the middle-order, Dilshan said he wasn't able to contribute much, adding that he was able to prove his value to the team after he started batting at the top of the order.
Dilshan had the ability to take the attack to the opposition and demoralise bowlers as well as change the match situation in a hurry because of his aggressive batting style.
Dilshan said it is vital that at least one of the opening batsmen is aggressive, even in Test matches. "When you get a loose ball you must not think that it is the first ball of the innings but hit it for four. You must put the pressure back on the bowler even if it is in a Test match."
"The 3-4 years I opened for my country I played with a lot of pride because I was able to give my team a lot of opportunities to win matches," he told ESPNcricinfo. "In the middle order, sometimes, by the time I came to bat there were hardly any partners for me and I couldn't contribute much. I proved how much my team and I benefited from the move to open."
"You need to score fast if you want to create situations to win. After I became an opener I proved that being aggressive I created many opportunities for my team to win."
Dilshan said he took the decision to retire from Tests because Sri Lanka is next scheduled to play a home Test only in 2015, adding his exit would also help the team management groom a youngster to replace him. "I started (Tests) in Zimbabwe in 1999 and planned to retire in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, we don’t have any test matches in Sri Lanka until 2015, and that’s why I decided to retire without saying goodbye from the ground," he said.
He also said it would give his replacement the opportunity to play along with and learn from the experienced duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
"We have a lot of talented young batsmen coming and they should be given enough opportunities to make the grade in Test cricket. There are two Test series coming up one in the UAE against Pakistan and one in Bangladesh and it is easy for a young batsman to get adjusted to the wickets there before he goes to England next summer. It is with that intention that I stepped down so that whoever takes my place in the Test team has time to adjust and gain the experience," he said.
Dilshan led Sri Lanka in 11 Test matches, winning one, drawing 5 and losing 5. The highlight of his captaincy was leading his team to its first win against South Africa in South Africa.
In a career spanning across 14 years, Dilshan played 87 Tests and scored 5492 runs, including 16 centuries at an average of 40.98.
Dilshan will continue to play limited-overs cricket for Sri Lanka, and hopes to stay with the team until the 2015 World Cup.