Pressure mounting on skipper Angelo


by Rex Clementine


Several prominent individuals within Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) are losing their patience with national captain Angelo Mathews and they will have a word with the captain once he returns home from the current tour of England.

Apart from two wins against lowly Ireland, Sri Lanka have had a dismal outing in their tour so far. After drawing both their warm-up game, Sri Lanka lost the first Test at Leeds inside three days and went down in the second Test at Chester-le-Street by nine wickets inside four days. The rain affected final Test at Lord’s was drawn and the tourists are trailing the five match ODI series 0-1 after their humiliating defeat in Birmingham by ten wickets inside 35 overs. The first ODI was a tie and the tourists now need to win the remaining three games to win the series.

While there’s absolutely no threat to Angelo’s captaincy, some of his moves have left a bad taste in the mouth.

The day before the Lord’s Test in London a fortnight ago, Mathews stunned all followers of Sri Lanka cricket by skipping training. The Lord’s Test is an iconic moment for any cricketer and Mathews became the first Sri Lankan captain to stay out of training the day before the Lord’s Test match. The skipper missed the captain’s pre-match media conference too sending coach Graham Ford to attend the event.

Ford justifying the captain’s decision said that since the second Test the team had done enough training leading up the final Test.

That argument would have been accepted on most occasions, but not when your team was trailing 2-0 in the series. A team with many youngsters needed someone to lead from the front. Mathews set a bad example here.

The Sri Lankans did exactly the same thing during the World T-20. After the defending champions were knocked out of competition in India with a game to spare, the team opted not to train before the dead rubber against South Africa and crashed out of the competition with just a solitary win over Afghanistan.

It also surprised many as to why Sri Lanka did not play a warm-up game between the second and third Tests. There was an eight day gap between the Tests and the tourists would have benefited by playing an extra warm-up game. We wonder whose decision it was to scrap the warm-up game?

The fielding coach nominated for the tour was not the one eventually who took wings to England. Mathews preferred a particular fielding coach and insisted on taking that person. Eventually, the captain vetoed SLC’s decision.

During every media conference, Mathews speaks on the need to improve the team’s fielding. But the fact of the matter is fielding is not a discipline the captain places a high premium on. Under Mathews, Sri Lanka’s cricketers spend more time playing football than fine tuning their fielding skills. Today he is the captain of world’s worst fielding unit. There’s absolutely no honest effort to improve fielding.

Irked by the dropping standards in this vital discipline, SLC has decided to look around for a full time fielding coach. Sunday Island learns that a former Test cricketer from Africa will take over as the team’s fielding coach in September.

In the past, Mathews has been criticized for putting personal milestones ahead of the team goal. Before he became captain, Sri Lanka were trying to level the series when Australia toured the island in 2011. Instead of going for quick runs at SSC and setting up a decent target, he took his time to reach his century. That criticism isn’t entirely fair as he generally allows his team-mates too for personal milestones while the team’s needs get a back seat. Mathews earned the wrath of former Chairman of Selectors Duleep Mendis when he refused to take a single so that Dinesh Chandimal could complete a century at Lord’s five years ago.

As captain, he has been over cautious. Mathews’ first option in a Test match is not to lose the contest. He loves flat tracks and draws.

The Sharjah Test against Pakistan two years ago is a case in point. Sri Lanka were 1-0 up and Pakistan had 59 overs to chase 302 runs. From the start, Mathews spread the field and was concerned not to give away boundaries. In the end, Pakistan went onto secure a memorable victory with nine deliveries to spare.

If you thought that the experience would have helped him to mature and become a better leader, it was not the case.

During last year’s home Test series against Pakistan and India Mathews followed similar tactics. After every World Cup, cricket teams rebuild. Sri Lanka had a fine opportunity to usher in youth following the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. But they went backwards by bringing back aging players.

Kapila Wijegunawardene’s selection panel had got the flack for those decisions, but Mathews too had a decisive role to play as he had requested the personal whom he wanted. In the end, Sri Lanka failed to invest on youth and to add insult to injury went onto lose their first home Test series to Pakistan in nine years. India also triumphed on Sri Lankan soil after 22 long years.

Mathews undoubtedly is the best man to lead Sri Lanka. For over a decade, SLC had nurtured and groomed him. But he needs to change his ways and should bring in more commitment and passion to this young team. Skipping training the day before the most important Test match of the year, that too when you are 2-0 down in the series, is not the example you need from the captain.

His predecessors’ loyalty was with Perera Gardens and not Maitland Place. Building up a new team, Mathews needs to avoid Perera Gardens like the plague.

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