Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st T20, Sydney January 25, 2013

Mathews' campaign begins afresh

Uncertainty surrounds Angelo Mathews' prospects of succeeding Mahela Jayawardene as Sri Lanka captain in all three formats

Two weeks ago, Angelo Mathews may have thought that Saturday's Twenty20 international at the Sydney Cricket Ground would effectively be his first match as Sri Lanka's captain in all formats. He might have dreamed of building his team in the coming years and made mental notes about how each young talent should be fostered. Perhaps he even looked forward to the Bangladesh tour in March as an opportunity to find his feet at the helm and begin shaping a side consistent with his ideals, attitude and identity. He will likely have to wait. The top brass at home have all but confirmed Mathews will not be entrusted with the Test captaincy.

So embroiled is Sri Lanka's politics in its cricket that before the selection panel who will choose the new captain has even been appointed, the sports minister has already declared that Sri Lanka will have a separate captain for Tests. As the minister appoints the selectors and authorises each team they name, there is little cause to doubt him on that. There is a chance too, that Sanath Jayasuriya, who is also part of Sri Lanka's government, will be a selector, and perhaps their chairman.

Through all this the minister has also voiced his discontent with players who "hug all three formats of the game" and called for three distinct teams for each format. Mahela Jayawardene's souring relationship with SLC was played out in the papers in last month's leaked letter saga, and his Test place now seems less secure than his form and record warrants. He had quit the captaincy with the intention of mentoring his long-term replacement but neither the man he expected to take the reins nor Jayawardene himself may be positioned in the way he had imagined in the months to come.

It is amid all this uncertainty that Mathews must now pursue his first victory as captain. The two Twenty20s are almost a post-script at the end of a long tour but there is still plenty on the line for Sri Lanka, not just in terms of results but also in how Mathews comes off as a leader.

A 2-0 victory would give Sri Lanka some consolation after a difficult tour. They were woeful in the Tests and failed to close out the one-day series and will be desperate to leave Australia with at least one trophy of their own. The bowlers in particular have played some excellent cricket in the past two weeks, and they will feel a shared ODI series was not a just reward for their efforts. Sri Lanka will be playing to keep the No. 1 ranking they earned at the World Twenty20 as well, and need at least a drawn series to hold on to it.

For Mathews, the Twenty20s are about showcasing his capacity for leadership. His nerveless navigation of difficult ODI chases has made his stoicism plain but there is still immaturity about his game and, increasingly, the air of unfulfilled promise. It is perhaps why, two years after he was initially considered for the captaincy, there is still widespread hesitance about the prospect of him taking the reins. There is no doubt that he has the unequivocal support of the side's seniors and the respect of the younger group as well, but his own game has not progressed rapidly enough to announce his readiness for the added burden. Each time he walks to the crease in Tests, he also drags an ever-worsening conversion rate behind him.

Tactically, he is also something of a mystery. Rarely in his 20 months as vice-captain has he been seen weighing in on on-field decisions, and although he led his Sri Lanka Premier League squad to the final of that competition, he was blessed with one of the best attacks in the tournament who struck form early in their campaign. He does, however, deserve credit for coaxing good cricket out of them.

A 2-0 victory in the Twenty20s is unlikely to be enough to change the minds of the men who call the shots in Sri Lanka's cricket, but for Mathews it would be a decent start as he builds a case for the Test captaincy. He won Sri Lankan hearts as a youngster with a single innings at the MCG in 2010, but if he is to earn respect as a leader, it must come through consistency over time, with positive results for the team, as well as with the bat.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anand on January 27, 2013, 3:53 GMT

    #Gloryof96 who is this Samaranayaka? unheard of during that era. 6'4" inch tall Ravi was way ahead than many, however bowlers such as Sanath Sirimanne,Mahinda Halangoda,Kapila Wijegunawardene could have been picked straight from school. Pinch hitting has been originated in NZ with Mark Greatbatch and it was a Team led by Whatmore that initiated to open bating with two pinch hitters during 95/96 Benson &Hedges Series in Aus. It was the only series that the 2 were successful to a certain extent. Kalu was a complete flop in the WC, Sanath failed miserably in all important matches: 1st Match, Semi & Final. You can't win a series without consistency when your success rate is 1:7 (i.e. ability get a score over 50 only once out of 7 innings played).

  • Chintaka on January 26, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    @A_HITMAN, let me tell you about Madugalle. He is the KCIRP< who told Anusha Sam (aka Yakka) "you will never play while I am Captain" .... why ..... that's his Kandy Trinity mentality. Yakka was one of the most promising pace bowlers we had at that time but Madugalle favored his fellow Trinitian Ravi Ratnayake!

    Sanath Jayasuriya is of the same mentality although he is not from Trinity, SLC SHOULD NOT and MUST NOT get guys who have chips on their shoulders.

  • Shehan on January 26, 2013, 13:33 GMT

    "Sanath Jayasuriya, who is also part of Sri Lanka's government, will be a selector, and perhaps their chairman." That sentence is missing some important part in it Andrew. It would have been nice if it was "Sanath Jayasuriya, who is also part of Sri Lanka's government, ONE OF THE BEST CRICKETERS PRODUCED BY SRI LANKA IF NOT THE BEST, will be a selector, and perhaps their chairman." You should not forget the fact that Sri Lanka owes more than half of its' achievements in international cricket to that man, Mr Andrew. His appointment will make lot of good to the outstation cricketers who are getting ignored by the Colombo centered selectors. Jayasuriya was the first sri lankan cricket captain to come from an out station school. Every coin has two sides! Also , no one has more international cricket experience than Jaysuriya for this important job. Let's hope for the best.

  • Nipuna on January 26, 2013, 13:25 GMT

    The main problem for in SL side is that they dont have a permanent customer in 27-32 to be the capatain for next four years

  • Nami on January 26, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    @Prem2248 Mate, the openers were back in the pavilion within the 1st 10 overs in almost every match of that 6 innings... Well in that 10 overs if they score something around 80 the match is almost over. Reckless hitters are needed to the shorter format. That's why Sri Lanka became so popular in 96. There was a new brand of cricket being played. And Ranatunga deserves credit for starting it. if that was unsuccessful why would Waugh copy it with Gilchrist. Even today Gayle can take a one day match within 10 overs. Samaraweera is a great player but having him also in the team with Mahela, Sanga Hashan and co is way too many. I never say Madugalle was a bad captain. But Sri Lanka had a better option in Ranatunga. (credit needed to be given for Gamini Dissanayake for taking that brave decession when Ranatinga was a son of an opposition MP) Bdw. Lanka De silva averages 53 in ODI

  • Lakpriya on January 26, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    @ PkZindabaaddon't count the chicks before the eggs hatch, that is exactly what your great Wagar Younis once said when Aravinda and Arjuna were at their last stages in the careers. There are enough young players in SL who have better potential than what Sanga and Mahela had when they at the same age. You just wait and see.

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    not as the captain.... he has to earn his spot as a player first....

  • Rohana on January 26, 2013, 6:23 GMT

    Three Captains for all 3 format will be better option for the betterment of SL cricket. However, initially two captains would be better option. Angelo for Test and ODI and my personal view, Chandimal good choice for T20 format as he led several successful SL-A tours. Especially his last tour as SL-A team leader, SL-A team beat Australia-A. Fast bowlers like Lasith or Kulasekara should not be considered as SL team leaders as usually fast bowlers usually face injuries, leaving filed or they usually stay bit far places at ground means bit difficult to communicate with blowers at regular intervals. Therefore, those factors should be considered by new selection panel.

  • emily on January 26, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    With little options remaining Mathews is the best candidate. It seems so pathetic that there no other guys to step forward to do the role. Once Dil, Sanga, Mahela goes Srilanka will fumble in a big time. just feel sorry for Srilankan fans who are very exuberant in watching cricket, don't have much to celebrate when the stalwarts retire or thrown out of the team. The future looks bleak with the likes of Chandumal, kushal who don't have what in it for an international player. Sorry guys.

  • rob on January 26, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    As far as I can see Angelo is an allrounder who is slightly better at bowling than batting. In the entire history of the game there have only really been 2 allrounders that can been classed as "great" batsmen. Sobers and Kallis. That's it. The reason I say this is that I think it may be impossible for Angelo to become the 50 converting backbone that you want him to be. .. don't get me wrong, I think he's an excellent player, but he's an allrounder, not a batting maestro. .. he's your version of Watson in my opinion and Watto has a poor conversion rate as well. Worse than Angelo's I would say. .. I reckon he will be a very, very handy cricketer who is capable of playing some great knocks but he won't have the consistency of a Sanga or Mahela. .... In my opinion.

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