Angelo Mathews January 19, 2014

'As a captain you need to listen to people'

Sri Lanka's Test captain Angelo Mathews talks about his evolution as a batsman, the lessons he has learnt as a leader, and his goals for his team
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As a captain and batsman, you rarely seem fazed by the match situation. Where does that come from?

It's coming [from] within myself, I think. I don't really blow out my emotions. I just try to absorb it and I try not to be too harsh or rude to the players on the ground because after all, we all make mistakes. We must appreciate all the hard work the players do, so I keep all the emotions to myself.

As a batsman it has been coming to me since the age of 16, I suppose. I used to captain the Under-15s, Under-17s and Under-19s, so I've got this thing in my head saying that when I'm batting, especially, I should carry on till the end. I should not give my wicket away, because I'm a sort of a player who can always catch up. I don't really mind taking a few balls to get set.

Because I'm batting at No. 5 or 6 it means I have to finish up games more often than not. It's not easy. You can't say I'm not under pressure. There's a lot of pressure when I go to bat, and a bit of nervousness. There are butterflies in your tummy but it's just that I actually don't blow away my emotions.

Would you say that you've got more self-belief than the average cricketer?
No. Most of the players do believe in themselves. I'm one of those. I believe in my ability. I'm not into personal goals. I want my team to win all the games, so I do whatever it takes for the team to win.

How do you think becoming a captain at 25 has affected your game?
I think it has affected it in a good way. I've taken more responsibility, I think. I mean, I used to be a very free-flowing scorer, and sometimes as a captain I tend to take a lot of responsibility and reduce the risk. Whereas when I first came in, even in a Test, I used to just jump out of the crease and slog a few sometimes. I think I've improved quite a bit in that way.

You've got a lot to focus on with the captaincy and your own batting. How do you see yourself as a bowler in the future?
I think it's all about managing yourself. I've been hit by a few [batsmen] in the past. That has nothing to do with my bowling. If I'm fit I try to bowl as much as I can. The schedules we have now, we hardly have any time to rest and have a few days off. You need to manage yourself, and you might have to reduce a bit more bowling and training, and you might have to do a bit more gym work. So I'm doing everything possible to keep myself fit.

Mahela Jayawardene has said that the biggest priority as captain is ensuring you contribute as a player. Is that something you agree with?
Yes, definitely. As a captain you're not only going there to handle the team in the middle, you play a major role in performing as well, have a bit more authority within the team. I agree with that. You need to perform as a captain and try and stamp your authority on the team. You have more respect when you perform.

What goals do you have for your career?
I just want to be as consistent as I can. I don't have huge goals in mind but I want to be the best allrounder in the world. I'm working hard trying to get there, but I still have a long way to go. I've gotten into a routine where I feel I'm giving myself the best chance to perform well in the middle.

In the past you've spoken of a difficulty in converting fifties into hundreds. After your 157 not out in Abu Dhabi, do you feel you've resolved that?
You need to concentrate really hard. Sometimes when you bat with the tail you have to play shots. If you get set with another batsman, you can go for some runs. But you need a lot of concentration for that and I think I'm working really hard on that. That's the secret for a batsman. I mean, when you saw Mahela in this series, in the first Test he failed and I thought his comeback was brilliant. All of us can learn something from that. The guy is so mentally tough. He's a tough character and the way he went about things was amazing.

What are the characteristics of a good leader?
Self-belief, having confidence in the team, killer instinct, and also not giving up. Those are the things that you need to have as a player and as a captain, because we all know how hard Test cricket is. You need to fight your way through all the time. You get those phases where you feel like you can't handle it. But you need to hang in there. You need to fight it out and ultimately you'll be the winner.

"I just want to be as consistent as I can. I don't have huge goals in mind but I want to be the best allrounder in the world"

You've shown those fighting qualities, in ODIs especially. Where does that come from?
I believe in myself. I try to fight all the time. Especially when the pressure is on, you need to keep fighting. We as players sometimes just give up. Being able to fight is one of the things that's in me.

What do you think are your strengths as a captain?
As a captain you need to listen to people. I don't think you can handle each player in the same way. To help players you need to understand what they say and try to get the best out of them the way you want.

Are there leaders you admire, and if so, why?
I was just a little kid when Arjuna Ranatunga was captain and I used to watch him on TV and he used to stand with authority. He used to be a great leader. He is one of the best leaders that Sri Lanka has ever produced. Also Mahela and Sangakkara, the way they handle stuff. When it comes to player management they are pretty brilliant.

What have been some of the biggest lessons for you in your 11 months as captain?
Again, it's to do with player management. With players, you can't put your foot down and say, "You should do this. You should do that." As a captain you need to be able to listen to them. You need to be able to talk them through whatever they want to talk, and try and get the best for the team.

Mahela and Sanga are great resources to have in the team. How have you used them?
I get a lot of advice from the seniors, Dilshan, Mahela, Sanga, and when it comes to bowling, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath also give their opinions. But when it comes to decision-making, it's me and the coach. It doesn't really matter if they're seniors or juniors. You should be able to get their ideas as well. There will be instances where a junior comes to you and says something very important and you need to be able to listen.

You took charge at a time of upheaval around the team, and there was a contracts crisis before you played your first Test as captain. Did that affect the way you looked at the job?
No, not really. When it comes to the players, when they pass that white line, when they get out onto the field, we just want to win. It doesn't really matter what happens outside.

Sri Lankan captains haven't had long life spans recently. Is this a job that you'd like to do for a long time?
I haven't planned anything as such. I'm just enjoying my stint currently. The future is totally up to the selectors. I have no personal targets when it comes to captaining. I just want to do my best for the country and have the team win all the time.

What are some aspects of Sri Lanka's team culture that you feel are vital and want to protect?
We enjoy each other's success, and that has been the biggest part in our cricket. The culture is so different to other countries. We help each other out. The bowlers help the batsmen, the batsmen help the bowlers. So we all work for one target and it's about winning. We help everyone all the time and we drag everyone with us.

In what ways do you mean the culture is different from other countries?
I really haven't been part of other teams, but in most teams there might be instances where they go for individual goals, individual targets, whereas our team is all about winning. It's all about the team. Team comes first before any individual and that has always been our policy. That's the best thing that I like about my team.

Sri Lanka's international schedule has come under huge threat from the domestic T20 leagues in the past few years. How can Sri Lanka deal with those challenges?
As players we can't decide on anything. It's totally up to the cricket board and the tour organising committee. We've signed the contracts and we are obliged to our contracts. Whatever the board decides, we have to do it, and as players it doesn't worry us at all because we want to play for the country and when we go out there it doesn't really matter if it's some other big tournament.

Others in the team have spoken out about not having enough Tests.
Yes. Test cricket is the ultimate form of cricket and we'd like more of them in our calendar. We've got a few coming this year as well, and we hope that we'll be winning more Tests.

The selectors are grooming a leadership unit, with Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne being looked at as future leaders. How has splitting the captaincy affected the way you lead in ODIs and Tests?
I haven't even thought of it because when it was announced that I was the Test and ODI skipper I said to myself, "You've been given a great responsibility and you have to live up to your expectations." So I'm not really looking at captaining all three formats or just one format or whatever because the selectors decided what's best for me and I've got to go with that. But I exchange ideas with Chandimal and Thirimanne. They are two great players and they think about it in a positive way and also have a lot of ideas.

What are the major challenges for the team in the coming years?
There are so many tours coming up and I think we would like to be in the top three in Tests and ODIs. We've got to work really hard towards getting there. It's not easy because all the teams are quite even and you have to have that slight mental edge to win against all opponents. All the tours are tough and it's going to take a lot out of us if we have to keep winning.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ratmobile on January 23, 2014, 13:52 GMT

    I hope Mathews learns to be more possitive and creative as a Captain. He is an extremely negative uninspring Captain at present in all forms. He is so far trying very hard to challenge to be the worst Captain Sri Lanka has ever had. That so far sits with Tillekeratne closely followed by Mendis and Aravinda. Captaincy means being able to lead teams by being inspiring to your team mates and being creative in the field to get wickets and force the issue to take wickets. Even Murali would have struggled to take wicktes the way Mathews captains the team on the field. Mathew so far has proved an inacapable, unispiring, unintelligent capatin. Sri lanka seriously need to think if he is capable to be a captain of an international team.

  • on January 21, 2014, 8:19 GMT

    Instead of aiming to be an allrounder, I think Mathews should just focus on his batting. His bowling records in limited overs are mediocre at best, and his test boeling record is just pathetic. If he focuses solely on his batting, then he will be a hugely valuable asset in the batting order...

  • Dilmah82 on January 20, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Well I hope Angelo has learnt some lessons from this Pakistani series. A captain can't be negative, and defensive, waiting for the opposition to make mistakes. You need to try and force the issue, and aim to win every game!

  • InternationalCricketFollower on January 20, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    Did not look like he had a 'killer instinct' on the 3rd test against Pakistan. Negative tactics are highly unlikely to work in Cricket. This is not baseball.

  • CricSriLanka on January 20, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    Even in the most recently ended Ind v SA series, in the first test, MSD had everyone in the deep (as state in the comments feedback in the penultimate over) and in the same match the world #01 team went for a draw than getting those 16 off the last 2 overs. So what Angi and SL doing is correct! Being safe!

  • sachinssnn on January 20, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    I don't think any SL captain can bring the ultimate glory like Arjuna did...but i see a glimpse of Arjuna in Angi...Anyway SL fans will love cricket no matter what happens...Wish Angi all the best to become a good captain, God bless you lad...

  • Sinhabahu on January 20, 2014, 2:05 GMT

    The series is SL's to win or draw, so Angelo is doing what he has to do to ensure a series victory for the country at the end of the day. The killer instinct doesn't always mean a lightning strike like a viper; sometimes you have to slowly squeeze the life out of your prey like a python instead ;)

  • on January 19, 2014, 23:00 GMT

    "I don't have huge goals in mind but I want to be the best allrounder in the world." Run that by me again?

  • on January 19, 2014, 20:47 GMT

    For me sirilankans winning or pakistan winning is the same...!

  • on January 19, 2014, 17:20 GMT

    OMG The Pakistani contingent of commentators... what a whole lot of rubbish... All this talk about negativity. Angelo Mathews has read the game well and the decision making has been spot on. Who do you think is sleeping better tonight... Misbah or Mathews? A home series loss just a night away.

  • Ratmobile on January 23, 2014, 13:52 GMT

    I hope Mathews learns to be more possitive and creative as a Captain. He is an extremely negative uninspring Captain at present in all forms. He is so far trying very hard to challenge to be the worst Captain Sri Lanka has ever had. That so far sits with Tillekeratne closely followed by Mendis and Aravinda. Captaincy means being able to lead teams by being inspiring to your team mates and being creative in the field to get wickets and force the issue to take wickets. Even Murali would have struggled to take wicktes the way Mathews captains the team on the field. Mathew so far has proved an inacapable, unispiring, unintelligent capatin. Sri lanka seriously need to think if he is capable to be a captain of an international team.

  • on January 21, 2014, 8:19 GMT

    Instead of aiming to be an allrounder, I think Mathews should just focus on his batting. His bowling records in limited overs are mediocre at best, and his test boeling record is just pathetic. If he focuses solely on his batting, then he will be a hugely valuable asset in the batting order...

  • Dilmah82 on January 20, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Well I hope Angelo has learnt some lessons from this Pakistani series. A captain can't be negative, and defensive, waiting for the opposition to make mistakes. You need to try and force the issue, and aim to win every game!

  • InternationalCricketFollower on January 20, 2014, 14:00 GMT

    Did not look like he had a 'killer instinct' on the 3rd test against Pakistan. Negative tactics are highly unlikely to work in Cricket. This is not baseball.

  • CricSriLanka on January 20, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    Even in the most recently ended Ind v SA series, in the first test, MSD had everyone in the deep (as state in the comments feedback in the penultimate over) and in the same match the world #01 team went for a draw than getting those 16 off the last 2 overs. So what Angi and SL doing is correct! Being safe!

  • sachinssnn on January 20, 2014, 3:31 GMT

    I don't think any SL captain can bring the ultimate glory like Arjuna did...but i see a glimpse of Arjuna in Angi...Anyway SL fans will love cricket no matter what happens...Wish Angi all the best to become a good captain, God bless you lad...

  • Sinhabahu on January 20, 2014, 2:05 GMT

    The series is SL's to win or draw, so Angelo is doing what he has to do to ensure a series victory for the country at the end of the day. The killer instinct doesn't always mean a lightning strike like a viper; sometimes you have to slowly squeeze the life out of your prey like a python instead ;)

  • on January 19, 2014, 23:00 GMT

    "I don't have huge goals in mind but I want to be the best allrounder in the world." Run that by me again?

  • on January 19, 2014, 20:47 GMT

    For me sirilankans winning or pakistan winning is the same...!

  • on January 19, 2014, 17:20 GMT

    OMG The Pakistani contingent of commentators... what a whole lot of rubbish... All this talk about negativity. Angelo Mathews has read the game well and the decision making has been spot on. Who do you think is sleeping better tonight... Misbah or Mathews? A home series loss just a night away.

  • on January 19, 2014, 17:07 GMT

    nice batting my mathews against Pakistan. he is the sole difference between sri lanka winning and not drawing this series. his today's batting is just adorable because it's not always important to win all the matches. it's important to win this big series. nice job mathews

  • Karnain on January 19, 2014, 16:52 GMT

    I respect Mathews' ideas, but a great lead will never be afraid to take calculated risks when it requires. The way SL approached the 3rd test against Pakistan doesn't show any killer instincts to me!

  • on January 19, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Mathews is a great all rounder. He won several matches for Sri Lanka..All in all those are the players who really play and we are giving our views.Test team may have a good future. But we know what Mathews did to get his first century and Chandimal's thing. Our team has individual goals sometimes( malinga, dila). they prefer IPL mostly.Sanga couldnt win the world cup '11 when it was almost in our hands, So mathews will have to work hard on captaincy. Why mathews keeps chandimal in the team all the tym. He( Chandimal) is useless mostly because he is overrated. Mathews could have accelerated a bit while protecting the wicket today ( 3rd test match vs Pak). His fielding mindset should be improved. When Misbah was batting with Ajmal, he should have targeted Ajmal. But he went with a defensive approach with all fielders near the boundary line.It allowed Misbah to get singles off the last bowl of the over and get the strike again. As he has captained when schooling, he myt be ok with it..

  • Niketh2000 on January 19, 2014, 16:12 GMT

    Killer instincts, and all your fielders on the boundary (that's 9 fielders), do you think that goes along Mr.Captain?

  • not_a_Flattrackbully on January 19, 2014, 15:25 GMT

    Mathews is a good captain. He's the player who can put his name after sanga and mahela. Still under graduate.. But as a student he showed many skills and abilities. The thing that he said about self believe is very true. I saw it from him on many. I like sri lankan people. They are very simple. Waiting for a moment to enjoy. Fun making. But i think they want that mental edge to win big tournmnts. It's not about their ability. Good luck!

  • on January 19, 2014, 15:00 GMT

    Hy wait a minute.. how can you tell this is evolution how can u judge a player this soon as he hasn't played enough matches to prove his self he did 100 using more than 200 balls last time this is not evolution i don't want to post any negative comments but please maybe if he did not score in next 2 odi's maybe everyone start saying that he is not a good player give him some time before pumping him up Thanks

  • on January 19, 2014, 14:59 GMT

    what angelo said about team coming first is totally true because sl win most matches by working as team..everyone contributes...we dont have many stand out players..all contribute equally:)

  • on January 19, 2014, 14:51 GMT

    Actions speak louder than words mate. Where is ur "killer instincts" in the third test against Pakistan??

  • on January 19, 2014, 14:20 GMT

    he is a very good player under pressure but sometimes wjen he comes to crease he pased more balls wihout runs.finally match is going to difficult and other players also going to more pressure.last odi sachithra and prasanna played exellant innings under pressure and how they managed pressure is brilliant.that time mathews played lot of balls and got out.he dont think he is the only one can end the game.sachithra prasanna kula ect they can also the finished the game.every time when he come to crease get run balls runs then match wining is may be easy. he is not the superman in sl team. (dont look at the main screen everytime when batting/balling becz concentration is goes down) all the best mathews and go sri lanka......

  • TheKeeper on January 19, 2014, 14:15 GMT

    This chap is the ultimate captain - watch where he will be in 10 years. I predict that AM will be considered one of the greats of the game when he retires.

  • KingOwl on January 19, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    I like Mathews, just like every other SL player. I hope he will become a great captain and the best all rounder in the world (it will be very tough for him being captain and all rounder as well). But I have great faith in his batting ability and he should make a good captain too. But there are things I disagree: SL cricketers play for individual goals, just like other teams (even more so than some other teams). They also prefer the IPL to test cricket - Angie should refrain from talking too much about that. He is not fooling us. Besides, not good to lie to fans. We know what their preferences are and we understand. Just don't try to bluff. Not cool.

  • cricketsubh on January 19, 2014, 13:15 GMT

    mathews need to find some young batsmens i donot think they got batsmen to score runs in australia,southafrica and england mahela and sanga can not play for to long so he need do build a team with out both of them

  • kanagsrat on January 19, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    Angelo mathews playing always to win and for the team? Please angelo you're fooling noone, sure you're a good batsman, allrounder- pretty hopeless, but otherwise, remember when you purposely took an age to get from the 90's to score your first ton? Remember when you selfishly did that? Also, when you aided chandimal in that century agains england, when we shouldve won the game comfortably, it got more closer than it should. So please stop saying you're purely a team man and not at all worried about invidual accomplishments

  • gsingh7 on January 19, 2014, 10:29 GMT

    now if he can bat or bowl consistently , h e will become a good test player. sometimes he seems to drag whole team down by slow batting and medium pace bowling. sl need good test cricketers to rise from their mid table position in tests and odis.

  • the_blue_android on January 19, 2014, 7:32 GMT

    Now if he could bat or bowl, he would make a great captain!

  • Master_Mihil on January 19, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    Mathews is a natural leader and a very calm and cool character, and doesn't have reputation to upheld and i think that is a pluss for him and Sri lanka. As long as his individual performances are good and consistent he would have a vary long stint at captaincy. All the best Angie!!

  • Sinhaya on January 19, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    Angelo is a natural leader. He though can be casual at times when a partnership is threatening. I guess the reason being that since SL bowling is a weak point, cant blame the captain as the saying is "captain is as good as the team". Angelo must adopt the ploy of playing 3 spinners for home tests. He can surely play Pradeep as the main pace bowler and Mathews can be the 2nd paceman. Spinners can be Senanayake, Tharindu Kaushal and Rambukwella. I am referring to the period after Herath quits which is likely in another 2 years from now.

    No doubt a good start for his captaincy since the beginning of this year. With upcoming tours to Bangladesh, Asia Cup, T20 world cup, England and NZ, I am sure Sri Lanka will impress.

    A major area he must address his the part time bowlers for tests. Right now we have too many wicket keepers. Hopefully Shehan Jayasuriya can be in the test team as he is a good bowler too besides being a fantastic top order batsman.

  • Great_Chucker on January 19, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    Remember CL20 in Eng recently what a master innings from this great player against India...LOL

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  • Great_Chucker on January 19, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    Remember CL20 in Eng recently what a master innings from this great player against India...LOL

  • Sinhaya on January 19, 2014, 5:03 GMT

    Angelo is a natural leader. He though can be casual at times when a partnership is threatening. I guess the reason being that since SL bowling is a weak point, cant blame the captain as the saying is "captain is as good as the team". Angelo must adopt the ploy of playing 3 spinners for home tests. He can surely play Pradeep as the main pace bowler and Mathews can be the 2nd paceman. Spinners can be Senanayake, Tharindu Kaushal and Rambukwella. I am referring to the period after Herath quits which is likely in another 2 years from now.

    No doubt a good start for his captaincy since the beginning of this year. With upcoming tours to Bangladesh, Asia Cup, T20 world cup, England and NZ, I am sure Sri Lanka will impress.

    A major area he must address his the part time bowlers for tests. Right now we have too many wicket keepers. Hopefully Shehan Jayasuriya can be in the test team as he is a good bowler too besides being a fantastic top order batsman.

  • Master_Mihil on January 19, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    Mathews is a natural leader and a very calm and cool character, and doesn't have reputation to upheld and i think that is a pluss for him and Sri lanka. As long as his individual performances are good and consistent he would have a vary long stint at captaincy. All the best Angie!!

  • the_blue_android on January 19, 2014, 7:32 GMT

    Now if he could bat or bowl, he would make a great captain!

  • gsingh7 on January 19, 2014, 10:29 GMT

    now if he can bat or bowl consistently , h e will become a good test player. sometimes he seems to drag whole team down by slow batting and medium pace bowling. sl need good test cricketers to rise from their mid table position in tests and odis.

  • kanagsrat on January 19, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    Angelo mathews playing always to win and for the team? Please angelo you're fooling noone, sure you're a good batsman, allrounder- pretty hopeless, but otherwise, remember when you purposely took an age to get from the 90's to score your first ton? Remember when you selfishly did that? Also, when you aided chandimal in that century agains england, when we shouldve won the game comfortably, it got more closer than it should. So please stop saying you're purely a team man and not at all worried about invidual accomplishments

  • cricketsubh on January 19, 2014, 13:15 GMT

    mathews need to find some young batsmens i donot think they got batsmen to score runs in australia,southafrica and england mahela and sanga can not play for to long so he need do build a team with out both of them

  • KingOwl on January 19, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    I like Mathews, just like every other SL player. I hope he will become a great captain and the best all rounder in the world (it will be very tough for him being captain and all rounder as well). But I have great faith in his batting ability and he should make a good captain too. But there are things I disagree: SL cricketers play for individual goals, just like other teams (even more so than some other teams). They also prefer the IPL to test cricket - Angie should refrain from talking too much about that. He is not fooling us. Besides, not good to lie to fans. We know what their preferences are and we understand. Just don't try to bluff. Not cool.

  • TheKeeper on January 19, 2014, 14:15 GMT

    This chap is the ultimate captain - watch where he will be in 10 years. I predict that AM will be considered one of the greats of the game when he retires.

  • on January 19, 2014, 14:20 GMT

    he is a very good player under pressure but sometimes wjen he comes to crease he pased more balls wihout runs.finally match is going to difficult and other players also going to more pressure.last odi sachithra and prasanna played exellant innings under pressure and how they managed pressure is brilliant.that time mathews played lot of balls and got out.he dont think he is the only one can end the game.sachithra prasanna kula ect they can also the finished the game.every time when he come to crease get run balls runs then match wining is may be easy. he is not the superman in sl team. (dont look at the main screen everytime when batting/balling becz concentration is goes down) all the best mathews and go sri lanka......