The rift that presently exists between Angelo Mathews and coach Chandika Hathurusingha must be repaired as soon as possible, so that Mathews can return to the ODI side quickly, the former Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara has said.
Hathurusingha and Mathews have been at odds in the past week, with Mathews expressing surprise that Hathurusingha would play a part in removing him from the captaincy as well as drop him from the team, only 10 months after Hathurusingha had asked him to take up the limited-overs leadership. The coach, meanwhile, has explained why he and the selectors had chosen to omit Mathews from the side, drawing attention to Mathews' supposed lack of fitness, and his poor record in running between the wickets.
Sangakkara, who has been a long time advocate of Mathews and has also repeatedly stated his admiration for Hathurusingha as a coach, says the two need to patch things up as soon as possible, for the good of the Sri Lanka side. Dinesh Chandimal, the new ODI captain, may have a role to play as well.
"I think this breakdown of communication needs to be sorted quickly," Sangakkara told ESPNcricinfo. "It needs to be sorted through direct, honest and clear conversations between captain, the management and the player concerned. They need to make sure, also, that the public also has the right idea of why this decision has been taken, especially at an emotional time. What they have to be careful is that it's not a knee-jerk reaction to the team's performance at the Asia Cup, but it's actually a worthwhile decision for the side.
"But I really think that with Hathurusingha's strategy, Angelo will find himself back in the side very soon."
Mathews has not been omitted from Sri Lanka's Test squad, so will need to work with Hathurusingha in November when Sri Lanka play England in three Tests, in any case. But for Sangakkara, Mathews is vital to Sri Lanka's ODI side as well. Though Mathews has temporarily given up bowling in limited-overs matches, due to a slew of leg injuries, he should resume his role as an allrounder, said Sangakkara.
"Angelo's performances in the past suggest that he's a player of great value to the side. I think it's very important to get Angelo bowling again. I think it does his confidence a lot of good. It does the Sri Lankan side a lot of good. And whoever is captain - whether it's Angelo or Dinesh Chandimal - it gives them a lot of options to use a multi-skilled cricketer in different situations. All of that is going to be absolutely vital to their chances at the World Cup."
Mathews' running between the wickets has especially come into focus, after Hathurusingha suggested the number of run-outs Mathews had been involved in was a "world record", though perhaps what he meant was that Mathews had run out too many of his batting partners. Sangakkara, however, who frequently batted with Mathews during his own career, said he did not consider Mathews to be a poor runner between the wickets, but suggested Sri Lanka would reduce the number of run-outs they suffered if they fielded a consistent top order.
"The running is not a stat that I've really looked at - I wasn't the best runner between the wickets either," Sangakkara said. "I think that in a batting line-up where you've batted in the same positions consistently, communication improves between batsmen. They understand each other's games, and understand how the other batsman runs, and how they react to quick singles or turning back for a second or a third. One of the things you seen when you have bad running between the wickets is bad communication - maybe a player doesn't know what his partner is looking for in terms of gaps and singles. That's another reason I think Sri Lanka needs to very quickly settle down with a consistent batting line-up."
If Mathews does eventually make it back into the Sri Lanka ODI side, Sangakkara would prefer to see him in a different batting role. "For me, looking at the World Cup, I think Angelo needs to be batting higher up the order, at No. 4. I think he should take a lot of responsibility in defining innings, especially with two new balls in play. He has the ability to do that."