Australia v Sri Lanka, Champions Trophy, Group A, The Oval June 15, 2013

Jayawardene praise for Mathews' captaincy


There are few better experts on captaincy in Sri Lanka than Mahela Jayawardene, who was so well-respected in the role that the selectors effectively forced a second stint upon him.

In his first four years in the job, Sri Lanka enjoyed a period defined as much by the allure of their cricket as their success in Tests and ODIs. Test series victories over India, England and South Africa (the 2006 loss remains their last defeat away from home), an Asia Cup title and an impressive 2007 World Cup campaign were among his achievements as a leader, and Sri Lanka rose to No. 2 in the world rankings across all formats soon after his initial resignation.

Late last year, Jayawardene announced he would not captain Sri Lanka beyond the year-end tour of Australia, because it was time for Sri Lanka to produce a young leader while he and the other seniors remained in the team to provide guidance. Angelo Mathews has long been the heir for Sri Lanka, and he took over the ODI and Test captaincy in February.

Mathews has the unreserved support of both seniors and the younger group in his side, and his nerveless temperament in high-pressure situations had made his leadership potential plain early in his career. He has only played five ODIs since taking the reins but, as Sri Lanka attempt to progress to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy, Jayawardene emphasised the importance for Mathews to be among the runs and wickets, even as he learns the art of leadership at the top level.

"The most important thing is that Angie contributes as a player, which I've told him as well," Jayawardene said. "He's a part of the XI, so it's not just about him as a captain - that's a secondary thing that will naturally come to him when he is making calls around the field. There are a few senior heads out there as well, who can help him with that."

Mathews had had mixed results as captain before arriving in England. Bangladesh drew their first-ever Test against Sri Lanka on a flat pitch in Galle under Mathews' watch, before winning their first-ever ODI on Sri Lankan soil, to draw the one-day series. Mathews had captained his side to a 2-0 Twenty20 victory in Australia in January, but the Twenty20 captaincy has since been handed to Dinesh Chandimal in the February leadership shake-up.

He has seemingly grown more confident in his role during the Champions Trophy. He failed with the bat, and did not bowl in the loss to New Zealand, but marshalled his side with assurance in the field, as they almost defended 138. A leadership decision to promote Nuwan Kulasekara to No. 5 then paid dividends in the win against England on Thursday.

"He looked pretty good, the way he handled the New Zealand game and the England game on the field," Jayawardene said. "He's not rattled by tough situations and every game that he plays, he enjoys his captaincy. He's not trying to think too far ahead of himself and he's handing situations in the moment. That's the best way to go about it, because there's less pressure that way. He's gaining experience, so we just need to help him out. So far, everything looks pretty decent.

"I'm sure we would have got a lot of criticism if the decision to promote Kule didn't work, but that's how the game goes and it worked for us."

Jayawardene also played a key role in Thursday's victory, linking Sri Lanka's secure start with their final flourish with a brisk 42. Before the tournament began, he had not played international cricket since January, due to a fractured finger, but appears to be finding form as the pointy end of the tournament approaches. In past campaigns, Jayawardene has been Sri Lanka's big-match performer, having hit a World Cup final hundred as well as a semi-final ton. He also top-scored in last year's World Twenty20 semi-final in Colombo.

"It was very good to get on track and to be contributing like that because that's what the team wants from me," he said of the innings against England. "The finger is looking pretty good. A few hits here and there it swells up a bit, but other than that it's pretty good. It was a good knock in the middle. I wish I could have finished the game off with Kumar, but hopefully I can do that in the next game."

Sri Lanka play a virtual quarter-final against Australia on Monday, and Jayawardene said Sri Lanka's recent success against Australia will provide a psychological edge for them. In the last 10 ODIs between the teams - all of which were played in Australia - Sri Lanka have won 6. They drew the ODI series 2-2 earlier this year, but were favourites to win the fourth ODI in Sydney before 45 minutes of drizzle rendered the SCG playing area unusable in the eyes of the match officials.

"I think in the last two years or so we've been very consistent against Australia and we've played them very well. We managed to handle a lot of situations better than them, so hopefully we can continue that. That said, in a tournament like this, things are different. We need to play to our strengths like we did in the England match."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anand on June 17, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    Well, concept of captain and coaches in cricket is over analysed, it is really down to the players and hitting form, and making it count. Question really should be if Matthews could walk into the team as a player. The author, and Mahela think so, but i would like to challenge that. Matthews just seems to fall short of a good finisher as he comes down lower in the batting order, neither is he going to give any opposition batting sleepless nights.

  • Madhusha on June 17, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    mathews should play more as a batsman ..our middle order is sometimes get seriously weak .. . then he can push whole batting to a good position...We have fine aspects of bowlers....

  • Charth on June 17, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    Angalo is a good player if he has his believe in him self. Mostly what he do is scoring more dot balls to establish him self and get out in a crucial situation with stupid shots (Ex: T20 World Cup Final). He need to improve a lot! He has to believe him self. If he can be a player who played in SLPL Final (73* 27 Balls 8x4, 4x6) It will be great. He is a great fielder too. But.. Go and watch domestic matches in Sri Lanka.. How many talented youngsters waiting for their chances ? I can't find any recent reasonable contribution behalf of team by batting or bowling. His captaincy isn't that great what we would've expected to be in a world class team. Im serious, we love cricket and our nation, but we can't walk without cloths? so we better talk the reality. Just think a bit. I wish him a good luck & "cricket without politics" in Sri Lanka. Take a look at this.. This is not a learning academy, It's world class team, yes! I accept there should be a chance to young Angelo, I think mostly he s

  • Satish Chandar on June 17, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    As far as i consider this CLT20 alone, Angelo's captaincy for the 2 games was excellent.. First game, he bowled Dilshan ahead of himself when lefite was batting and got rewards and used Malinga to great level to bring him back to good rhythm.. Second game, picked another man in front of himself while batting and it proved a masterstroke again.. The handling of bowlers was good and field settings was decent as well..

    If Mathews can improve his own cricketing form a bit more, he can be there for more time to come..

  • Milroy on June 17, 2013, 2:47 GMT

    Hey come on...stop making negative comments about Matthews and suggest a good replacement for him?? or bring Jayauriya back!!!!

  • Suranga on June 17, 2013, 1:00 GMT

    As a Sri Lankan I like to see good for nothing Mathews, thirimanne n Chandimal on the bench. But my other options r not in da squad. So, Like to see Kaushal, Dilshan, Sanga, Mahela, Mendis, Mathews, Thisara, Kulasekara, Sachithra, Herath, Malinga. it would be great if Kaushal and thisara can bat between 30-50 overs..:)

  • Dru on June 16, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    Its early days to make any judgements on Mathews as a captain after 5 games but he needs to make useful contirbutions with bat or ball or both. Its alot to handle trying to get his game right along with his captaincy, where most captains are usually well established in the side before getting the captaincy. Mathews has been around for a while without really putting up too many big performances which is a concern. He is consodered a finisher of sorts but those opportunities dont come along regularly. The main role is to be a reliable batter whcih I think he is yet to establish.

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2013, 14:15 GMT

    Lets hope Sri Lanka will not self destruct against the Aussies on monday. The seniors should take responsibility on themselves and not leave it to the new comers to bail them out . Knowing the Aussies they will come hard at SL both verbally and physically and try to cow them out, to which SL should retort in kind and not take one backward step.

  • Tony on June 16, 2013, 13:00 GMT

    Has Mathews justified his place in the side? Of course not! All those saying he is young give him a break are forgetting that there are plenty of other young talented players fighting for a spot he is occupying. 4-5 years ago when A.B. De Villiers was 24, he put on one of the best ever test partnerships with JP Duminy to win against the Aussies in a world record chase. Meanwhile Mathews makes a meal out of scoring centuries (last century in 2011) compared to his peers who are years ahead of him in terms of maturity at the crease, ability to face the short ball and his batting technique facing swing bowlers. They criticised Sammy for not contributing to the team but look at that quickfire 50 he scored in the champion's trophy, when will we see at least that side of Mathews, or will it just be like a Watson who'll fail to convert 50's into centuries his whole career...

  • Dummy4 on June 16, 2013, 12:10 GMT

    As a Cricket Lover, i think Mathews Batting is not going good due to Captaincy and Bowling.. He should focus on his Batting at this point of time and stay away from bowling till he gets his form.. It will help him as well as team also.. As a captain, he is new and needs some time to groom.. All the best for him..