'Captaincy won't change my game' - Mathews
Angelo Mathews will embark on a new stage of his career when he captains Sri Lanka in the Twenty20 against New Zealand in Pallekele, but says the burden of leadership will not affect his game. Mathews has been groomed for the captaincy since being named vice-captain in July 2011, and has been given the post of Twenty20 captain for one year, after Mahela Jayawardene stepped down following the World Twenty20.
"Because I am captain my game will not change. Whether you are captain or vice-captain you have a way of playing the game and that won't alter because you have been given added responsibility."
Mathews already bears a heavy workload in Sri Lanka's limited-overs team, where he is looked upon as a finisher in the batting order, as well as a reliable seam option - sometimes called upon to open the bowling. With Jayawardene set to reassess his Test and ODI captaincy at the end of January, Mathews may be tasked with leading all three teams next year, in addition to contributing across all three disciplines.
"When Mahela was captain in the T20 format he managed me quite well," Mathews said. "All the bowlers need some sort of management when it comes to preparing for tournaments and to prolonging their careers. It will be the same but in the ODIs and T20 formats I will be bowling but in Tests I will have to manage my workload.
"The seniors have played a major part up to now with me. TM Dilshan, [Kumar] Sangakkara, Mahela and even [Chaminda] Vaas and Sanath [Jayasuriya] all of them have helped me quite a lot. They have always told me to keep it simple and try and be calm as possible when tense situations arise."
Mathews also said his team must perform well against New Zealand in order to prepare psychologically for their tour of Australia, which begins in December. Sri Lanka play three Tests, five ODIs and a T20 international on that tour, which begins two weeks after the end of the second Test against New Zealand.
"We lost the World T20 final to West Indies due to a mental factor. If we are to be successful in the future we have to get over that mental block. We have a lot of matches coming up for us. After New Zealand we go to Australia which is a big series so we need to perform well."
The teams have had poor preparation leading into the tour, with the north-east monsoon having arrived in force, leading to one of the wettest starts to the rainy season in recent memory. Neither side been able to train since arriving in Kandy, and their practices in Colombo have also been hindered by bad weather. West Indies were the last team to tour Sri Lanka in November, and that tour was plagued by incessant rain, which made a result impossible in all three Tests and forced the postponement of the ODI series till late January.
"Hopefully we'll get the game going tomorrow," Mathews said. "The toss will play a big part. If the Duckworth-Lewis rule comes into play it is always beneficial for the team to be batting second."
Sri Lanka last met New Zealand at the same venue during the World Twenty20, when the match was decided in a one-over eliminator. New Zealand also tied with eventual champions West Indies, also at Pallekele. Mathews said Sri Lanka were wary of the threat New Zealand posed, particularly in the shortest format.
"We've had meeting before the game and we have analysed all their players. New Zealand has always been a very forceful team in international cricket wherever they play. We can't take them lightly we need to step our game and rise to the occasion."