Mathews 'not afraid' of losing captaincy

Angelo Mathews: "Let everyone blame me, it's fine. I can take it but let's not blame the other players." AFP

Angelo Mathews, who is nominally in charge of Sri Lanka until after the 2019 World Cup, has said that he would have no protests if he was sacked from the captaincy following his side's horrendous Test showing on their tour of South Africa.

Sri Lanka lost all three Tests by heavy margins, leading for calls for Mathews to resign even though the limited-overs leg of the tour is barely underway.

Mathews, who became Sri Lanka's youngest Test captain, at 25, left the tour after the second T20 in Johannesburg on Sunday after suffering a sprained ankle but he dismissed suggestions that he had given serious consideration to stepping down after four years in charge.

"I haven't thought about it," he said in an interview in the Colombo Daily Mirror. "I will not run away from pressures. Anyone can say anything. If I feel this is the time or if the selectors say, I'm open to it. Whatever others say, I'm not bothered.

"It's not in my control. If the selectors or Sri Lanka Cricket think they need a change and believe someone else is ready to do the captaincy, it's not at all a problem for me. As long as I enjoy the game, I will keep playing. I just want to try and perform well as a team and I will always help whoever is captain in the future as well."

Sri Lanka Cricket's CEO Ashley de Silva also stated that prior to the tour Mathews had indicated he might need time off for family reasons. His wife Heshani is expected to give birth to the couple's first child shortly. Injury had brought the date of his departure forward a little.

After a third T20 in Cape Town on Wednesday, with the series tied at 1-1, Sri Lanka and South Africa embark upon a five-ODI series, with Upul Tharanga taking over from Mathews. A stronger performance over 50 overs would leave Sri Lanka in better heart ahead of the Champions Trophy in England later this year.

"I know I am answerable but, as captain, I have done the best possible," Mathews said. "I worked closely with the coach [Graham Ford]. I always discussed with the selectors when it came to the team. It has been a collective effort. But if someone wants to put the blame on me, so be it."

Mathews' early experience of the job was a good one. He led Sri Lanka to a first Test win against England and had support from players of the calibre of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Those senior players have gradually retired from view, leaving him to lead a largely inexperienced side which struggled to compete in the South Africa Test series.

"Players like Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva have not played much Test cricket, forget about playing outside Sri Lanka," Mathews said. "So, we need to give them opportunities. Let everyone blame me, it's fine. I can take it but let's not blame the other players. They need support and encouragement and not to be put down."

For the moment, he continues to lead in typically pugnacious style, tries to win matches and awaits his fate in philosophical fashion.

"I'm not here to be captain forever and I will never be captain forever," he said. "This is just a passing cloud. I am not afraid to lose it and I don't need it forever. I'm not afraid to step down or lose it or to keep it. I can play under any captain no matter who he is. As long as I perform, I have a lot more to give to the team and the country."