Sri Lanka news February 14, 2013

Mathews targets improved rankings


Sri Lanka's new Test and ODI captain, Angelo Mathews, has said he aims to arrest the team's slide in the ICC rankings, and hoped to count his side among the best in the world in both formats in the next few years

Mathews succeeded Mahela Jayawardene, who stepped down after the tour of Australia, after spending almost two years as vice captain in all formats. Dinesh Chandimal was named his deputy in Tests and ODIs and captain of the Twenty20 team. Sri Lanka have been the top-ranked Twenty20 side in the world since their run to the World Twenty20 final in September, but slipped down the Test and ODI rankings after having been second on both tables in 2009. They have also failed to win a Test series away from home since 2008, and have won only four Tests since Muttiah Muralitharan retired in 2010.

"My main ambition now is to see the Sri Lankan cricket team in the top three in the next few years," Mathews said. "We've dropped down to sixth place in Tests and fifth in ODIs. It won't be easy, and it will take some time. Myself, Chandimal and the selectors will have to work closely to achieve that."

Mathews had been Sri Lanka's Twenty20 captain since the end of the World Twenty20 in 2012, but the new selection panel, headed by Sanath Jayasuriya, opted to give that position to Chandimal instead. Chandimal has not showed great promise in the Twenty20 format, but Jayasuriya said the selectors split the captaincy in order to help build a young leadership core, as well as to ease Mathews' burden.

"We thought that it would be too much for Angelo to give him the Twenty20 captaincy as well, as we wanted to allow him to concentrate on the Tests and ODIs," Jayasuriya said. "We thought the best person for the Twenty20 captaincy was Dinesh Chandimal, who has a long future in the game. He will also get some experience of captaining Sri Lanka in case Angelo gets injured."

Mathews' first assignment as captain will be the two-Test home series against Bangladesh, for which the selectors named a 20-man preliminary squad. The selectors sought to create a break from the past by selecting a young squad for their new captain, but Mathews was grateful for the presence of some senior players, most notably Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan, who have all captained Sri Lanka in the past. 

"I think you need both experience and youth in a team, because you can't have XI new players in a match. I think the selectors had that balance in mind when they chose the team, and they've done a good job of that." 

Of the older players the selectors omitted, Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene were the most notable exclusions. Jayasuriya was non-committal on whether there was an avenue back into the side for these players, but focused instead on the opportunity to develop fresh talent. He also said the 20-man squad would be whittled down to 15 in the lead up to the first Test. 

"We need to start giving the youngsters an opportunity, and a series against Bangladesh is a good one to give one or two new players a place," he said. "Players like Kithuruwan Vithanage and Ashen Silva have been making runs in domestic cricket, and Jeevan Mendis has also scored well recently.

"We want to make sure these young cricketers to experience the atmosphere in the Sri Lankan team, and this is a good opportunity to allow that, because it's a home Test series. They can work with the Sri Lankan team until about 10 days prior to the Test, when we will name the 15-man squad.

Chandimal, 23, was impressive in Tests and ODIs, but failed to make himself a regular in either side throughout much of 2012. He acknowledged the added responsibility more leadership would bring, but suggested that his new roles would be a boon to his development, rather than a hindrance.

"There's pressure every time you play a match, but I think the captaincy is a boost for me personally, and a validation of my past performances," Chandimal said. "I've been a captain in Under-19 at school level as well. I didn't think I would be captain this early in my career, but that's a source of pride for me."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • emily on February 15, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    I think dropping sam werre was a mistake as he should be the one ideal for leading. mathews doesn't have enough quality to class as a international cricketer.breaking into top 3 is out of question but play for further sliding down the ranking as quality in this side is very low in my opinion.

  • Inigo on February 15, 2013, 5:34 GMT

    They only gave the captaincy and some (Metro-ant) speak big before things happening. Give the guys a break and lets wait and see what they do. Don't think you are the best pundits of cricket. Be cool and support the guys. Who knows, things might become very good for SL..........

  • associate cricket fan on February 15, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    We need quality fast bowlers to break into the top 3. Except pakistan i cannot see any subcontinent team reaching the top 3.

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2013, 5:03 GMT

    2013, being a non World T20 year, means that there will be very few T20 Internationals thus there won't actually be a need "to ease Mathews' burden."

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    This is a fresh re-start for Sri Lanka. Matthews will be an excellent captain.

  • Mohamed on February 15, 2013, 3:10 GMT

    Talk less and work hard. Just have Bangladesh and Zimbabwe tests this year. So stop talking about rankings. trying winning all four tests. I.E. getting 20 wickets in a match. Get the bowling combination right. Whoever says what Sanga, Mahela & Dilshan trio can stick for few more years and dont see anything wrong. And about mickey mouse T20 I can careless about it. Anyone could do anything. Good Luck!

  • naminda on February 15, 2013, 3:07 GMT

    To Metro-ant Mark Tailor also scored his 1st ODI century in latter part of this Captaincy (after losing the WC 96) give the these boys some time and they will also do well

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    My words of advise to the new test Captain - Cancelling test series to play the IPL or ODI triseries involving India will not get Sri Lanka moving up the Test rankings. Also finding a few decent fast bowlers cant hurt. However all hope is not lost . Although the Proteas & Poms seem a world apart atm the difference between Australia & Pakistan, West Indies is Micheal Clarke If Pup has a hamstring problem here or a back niggle there that stops him from taking the field early in a test series the Aussies will be in for a warm time. India & Sri Lanka both have 'pace attacks' that lack both bark & bite. While West Indies continually choose to play 1/2 or a whole bowler short. the number 3 spot is there for the taking if Sri Lanka sort themselves out quickly

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    @ Alex Olson seeing that with our top 3 averaging less than 15 & a bowling attack operating 1/2 a man short in the last Frank Worrell Trophy it still took runs from tailenders & Wade for Australia to beat us. We bowled England out for less than 50 & won the last Wisden Trophy in the Caribbean, We won 1st innings points twice on our last tour of India without Gayle & with a 3& a half man bowling attack while dropped catches stopped us from winning our last series vs Pakistan I would definitely take those odds Especially if WICB had not renewed Gibson's contract as coach.

  • Anthony on February 14, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Somewhere in the world Darren Sammy is cheering. No longer is he the "odd man out" among Test captains.

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