Dilshan’s form a blood orchid or a rough diamond?

First off, sorry if the title sounded like an object oriented programming statement. I am writing this in the aftermath of Delhi Daredevils dropping Dilshan after he failed to impress in 4 outings, the last of which he struggled to get bat to ball and missed two of his scoops miserably.

In this blog post I will be looking into few players whose recent lack of performance has been attributed to lack of form. But is it simply a form slump or something more sinister? Only time will tell.

Form is more a mind thing than a physical thing, when you are positive without ‘wanting’ to be positive and your body is in sync with the mind then the player is in form. That’s why classy players are brimming with confidence and often fall for the trap of being over-confident. We at home scratch our heads and wonder why in hell they would play a shot like what they did and get out.

As a player I can tell you that when you’re in that zone you see the ball and you hit it and is guided by instinct. You might get out once or twice looking foolish but it is better to be in that frame of mind than to doubt your ability and get stuck on your mind about what to do about a ball that’s just been bowled at 140kmph. A player not in the zone is caught ball watching and the body isn’t in sync with the mind. Your feet don’t move nor your balance seem right and the things you took for granted like being in proper positions to play back/front foot shots have seem have to abandoned you. This my friend is the tell tale sign of the form loss. When you know this fact it is even harder to concentrate and trust your ability. That’s why players don’t like to read news papers when they’re in bad form. Hearing those two words puts your mind in a state where it should not go. Some players are supremely confident of their ability and this comes with experience as well. I suppose that is called class. Their ability both physically and mentally to be in the zone time after time. That’s why players like Tendulakar, Mehela and Ponting can graft runs when they’re not in form and others simply get out. I’m sure having good solid techniques help as well.

This being said some humans are better at doing certain things better than others and naturally with age those abilities are limited. A 65 year old Sanath will have better hand-eye coordination than most of us. In this context form and class is of international standards.

I will take 3 examples to clarify different instances of class, form and simply age catching up. I hope this will shed some light on why some players have bright patches while some are more consistent and try to understand why star players fail. Behind every disappointment there is a story to be heard.

Ajantha Mendis a star or a super-nova?


Mendis started his career with a bang but has struggled to tie batsman down with his 101 variations once the batsmen figured him out. All what the batsmen do now is play him straight and negate what ever little movement he gets. When he first started playing, his carom ball turned sharply and fizzed, his googly turned appreciably and the ‘offie’ turned even more. Remember the googly balled to Laxman and the off break that bowled Gambhir after pitching 6 inches outside leg? Since that home series Mendis has not fizzed off the pitch nor troubled anyone with massive turn. Maybe it was the dry pitches in Sri Lanka or he is crumbling under the pressure of expectation and not practicing the most important virtue of a spinner: patience. I wonder if he is scared of batsmen getting runs off him. Even Murali in that aspect fails. The fact is he can not take 5-fors every match; like Murali so rightly says he must be treated like any other bowler. He bounced back in the final of the provincial T20 tournament after the pretty ordinary lead up. So fingers crossed he has regained his lost mojo and practices patience when it really matters. I strongly believe he is a class bowler and simply needs an attitude change.

Sanath Jayasuriya’s best before date

Sri Lankan cricket owes Sanath for putting it on the map and he with Kaluwitharana transformed how people approached one day batting. He is nearly 41 now and that fast hand-eye coordination that made foot work obsolete seems to have left Sanath recently.
He no longer has the same power in the forearms nor has the same fast instincts. I’ve never seen him miss deliveries outside off stump as he does nowadays. Lack of form? Sanath has gone though lean periods in the past but he still gets a quick 30-40 every 5 games but has not been the case for a while now. There is no bigger Sanath fan than me but sadly it seems time has caught up with him. It is not his fault but effects of gravity on a 41 year old body has made it slow and is making him look below par. This is a perfect example of a Class player being weighed down by age.

Dilshan’s Form and Haley’s Comet

DilshanFew players in the current era are more instinct driven than Dilshan. His philosophy is ‘see ball, hit ball’. In the 2009 IPL he turned a corner and was seen taking on the best bowlers in the world and being successful. It was a pleasant surprise for most Sri Lankan cricket fans. During the succeeding months he only went from strength to strength and displayed some amazing shots that required incredible hand-eye coordination and precision. A year on and again in the tournament which brought him the limelight Dilshan seems a shadow of the man who rocked the show last year. He never was a batsman with proper technique or footwork, but had a fast eye and even faster hands. The only batsman that comes to mind whose style is similar is Virender Sehwag. Sehwag is a proven class act and ‘form’ doesn’t really matter.

When Dilshan was plundering bowlers all over the world the commentators were constantly saying that he was in the form of his life which is not a phrase associated when describing a Sehwag or a Sanath as it is the norm for them. Why Dilshan then?

True that Dilshan changed his attitude towards the game and got support from Sangakkara (Who I think doesn’t deserve the harsh criticism he gets but that’s a topic for another day) in getting opportunities at the top but who can say that he wasn’t only going though a purple patch that only blooms like the blood orchid or is seen as often as Haley’s comet?

Dilshan has to prove us wrong. I was surprised at Dilshan’s revival last year but it made my year and he took Sri Lanka to the brink of T20 world cup victory and carried Sri Lankan batting for the year. He toured the world in so many colors and represented as many teams as one could. But is reality catching up with Dilshan? For the sake of Sri Lankan cricket I hope not. This is the time Dilshan needs us the most. He will have the face the harsh reality of franchised teams when he fails in 2-3 games and gets dropped. Only a national team will nurture their players and work for a long term goal. Franchises are only concerned about the short term gains.

Dilshan has to prove he has class by coming back from his slump, or he will fall into the category of players who are great when they are in form but fail whenever they aren’t. He will have to show all of us how mentally strong he is. Whether he gets another chance in the IPL 2010 remains to be seen.

With the 2010 world cup T20 looming, I speak for all of you when I say that I hope all three guys regain that ‘mojo’ which makes them champions.

– Dasith Wijesiriwardena

P.S. Special mention of Chaminda Vaas who has been the surprise package and the most successful Lankan after two weeks. His cousin bought me a pint when he bowled Sanga for a duck. LOL!

Tillakaratne Dilshan Photo by Saera Fernando

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