Sri Lanka batting coach backs Mathews to break out of the funk
Angelo Mathews has batted 11 balls at this World Cup, and made a grand total of zero runs. Kusal Mendis has faced all of three deliveries, getting out to two of those, and hitting a streaky two past slip off the other. Together, the pair are supposed to comprise Sri Lanka's middle-order engine room, but in both matches so far, they have hastened collapses, and copped criticism in vast volumes. But they are too good not to come right soon, insists batting coach Jon Lewis. Mathews knows how to get himself out of these funks. And young Mendis just needs a bit of love.
"I think with Angelo, you've got to have faith in the guy who has done as much as he has over such a long period of time, and he tells me that he's in a good place," Lewis said ahead of Sri Lanka's match against Bangladesh. "He's comfortable with his game. You know, at this stage I've got no reason to doubt that the runs will come for him. You can't expect him to go on not producing big runs soon. It's going to come for a player of his quality."
"Kusal could do with a little bit of a confidence boost. For him it's just a case of getting through those first 20 balls, because in the build up to the World Cup, in Scotland, he played very well. The two warm-up games against excellent bowling attacks, he was in good form. He only got 20s and 30s (24 and 37), which was a bit of a downer - it would have been a good opportunity to get a big score. But there was nothing about his form in those two games that suggested that there's anything to worry about. He's had two low scores, and yeah, it will be good if he had some more runs behind him. But he's probably only 20 balls away."
Although a developing Test batsman, having hit 1000 runs in the longest format last year, Mendis, 24 now, hasn't quite cracked ODIs. Late last year he went through a stretch when he made three consecutive one-day ducks, and then a five. A free-flowing player at his best, he has made only one ODI hundred, and averages 27.77 after 63 innings.
"In Tests and T20s, Kusal's numbers at the moment look good, but in 50-over cricket, his numbers aren't where a player of his ability should be, yet," Lewis said. "He's still quite early in his career to be fair to him. I know he's played a lot of games, but they do rack up quite quick. I think his conversion from 20s and 30s into 80s, 90s, hundreds is the big step forward he needs to make. He looked in really, really good touch in the warm-ups, but got 30-odd in both games, so those are the sorts of days when you've got to get a hundred because you know you can't be in good touch every day.
"It would give him a lot of confidence if he can get those big scores. He's only got the one hundred so far in his career, and I think that was against Bangladesh. So maybe that's a good omen, and he'll get a second one tomorrow."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf