Tillakaratne Dilshan says he invented -- or perhaps discovered, for it's conceivable that someone before him in the history of the game did hit play the "hook" or "flick" above the wicketkeeper's head -- by accident. It's not a pretty shot, but it's very difficult to play and equally effective, for no captain places a fielder behind the wicketkeeper..
In our times, there's been only one previous instance of a batsman hitting this or a similar shot. India had got 274 against Zimbabwe at Faridabad in 2001; Zimbabwe were 210 for eight and the obsequies were ready to be performed. Then in walked Douglas Marillier and proceeded to do what no No. 10 batsman could possibly do in an international match. He smashed 50 off 21 balls and turned the match on its head -- over the stunned wicketkeeper's head, in fact. He would simply step away from the stumps towards off and hit the ball over poor Ajay Ratra's head. In 5.2 overs, Zimbabwe Nos. 9, 10, and 11 made 67 runs, impressive for even Twenty20 cricket, and won with two balls to spare. The Indians walked off the field in stunned bewilderment.
Dilshan's shot is different in that he actually hits the ball over the wicketkeeper's head, giving it a solid wallop; it's almost like a hook, only mightily disfigured and almost indefensible for the fielding side. Marillier, if my memory serves me right, used to simply raise his bat and guide the ball over and out of the wicketkeeper's reach, like a lob in tennis.
Dilshan also brings another aspect to this -- he seems to have made it a percentage shot. Many other inventive shots carry a high degree of risk. The reverse-sweep or the flick shot, for instance. But for Dilshan, the hook above the keeper -- called Dilscoop by the Sri Lankan media -- has worked with remarkable consistency.
Consistency is another surprising element Dilshan has brought into Twenty20 cricket. He's had scores of 53, 74, 46, 0, 48 and 96 not out in the six innings he's played in the World Cup. Playing high-risk cricket, trying to get a six, a four, a two or a single off every ball in T20, is like performing ballet in a field with minefields. Demise is certain, it's only a matter of time.
Thus, Dilshan's average of over 63 in this tournament is really remarkable. I'm not sure if we can really draw a pattern here, if we can cite one batsman as superior to the other in Twenty20 cricket, which has been devalued by its manic character. But Dilshan was very successful in the IPL in South Africa too, with 418 runs from 13 innings, averaging over 41.
Perhaps we need still more time, and still more data, to reach conclusions about Twenty20 cricket. Perhaps we'll never reach any definite conclusions about it, perhaps it's best to simply sample its joyousness and resist the cricket fan's and writer's love for statistics and over-analysis. T20 cricket, replete with "amazing" incidents none of which will be memorable, will provide no or few memories that last long. The Dilscoop and the consistency of his inventor in the summer of '09 would be one of them.