Sri Lanka Cricket and Sanath Jayasuriya, the head of the national selection committee, have backed captain Angelo Mathews after SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala announced that he would remain captain until the 2019 Cricket World Cup. The decision came despite criticism following Sri Lanka's recent 3-0 Test series defeat in South Africa.
Addressing a media conference on Wednesday, Sumathipala confirmed that the opinion of his administration was shared by Jayasuriya and the rest of the selection committee.
SLC and the selectors had a post-series review with Mathews, coach Graham Ford and manager Ranjith Fernando soon after the Test losses, to discuss their preparations for the T20I and ODI series against South Africa, which start from January 20.
Sumathipala also denied rumours that Mathews' captaincy was discussed, and stated that he remained the most suitable candidate to lead Sri Lanka at the 2019 World Cup in England.
"Mathews too, must understand this responsibility and should work to rebuild the team," Sumathipala said. "We hope that the South African pitches for the T20I and ODI series will be more familiar to our players."
Sumathipala praised the Sri Lanka pace attack, especially Lahiru Kumara, who bowled consistently at close to 145kph throughout the series. "We have selected the best 11 out of 20. If we are afraid of losing, we will not learn to win. It is quite pathetic to accept that we could not go beyond the 150-mark in three innings. We not only failed in the batting, but we missed some crucial catches where we could have put pressure on the South African batting.
"The truth is that we were not capable of facing the pace and bounce. We have to find a solution to this. We are quite satisfied with coach Graham Ford's service. Instead of pointing fingers at people, we have to re-unite to get the team on a winning path," Sumathipala said.
Jayasuriya said it was not surprising that Sri Lanka lost to South Africa on their fast pitches. "We had included a bunch of young cricketers to South Africa, thinking about the future of the national team," Jayasuriya said. "They need time to mould. So we have to accept the loss. We have just begun.
"As the Sri Lanka team is full of young blood, it is not a surprise that they faced a setback in South Africa. Even though we have given them the best squad, things did not turn out as we thought. We wanted one of the top-four batsmen to play a long innings and score a hundred. At least two or three batsmen should have played a long innings. But it did not work," Jayasuriya explained.
He added that the blame should not go to the captain for the loss. "This is not a time to blame and destroy Mathews' captaincy. This is a time when we have to strengthen Mathews," Jayasuriya said. "As a former captain I know how these allegations can badly affect Mathews' morale, especially during a series. We have to support Mathews, correct our faults and face the T20I and ODI series' with confidence."