Tharindu Kaushal's indifferent outing at Galle raised concerns over whether he could become Rangana Herath's spin-bowling successor, but Herath himself could still play for some time yet, Angelo Mathews said. Herath played a leading role in a second successive Galle victory for Sri Lanka, this time claiming match figures of 10 for 147.
Herath is now 37 (five years older than Dhammika Prasad, who was Sri Lanka's second-oldest player in this XI) and has said he would assess his future and retirement following next year's World T20. Mathews had also suggested that Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene had more international cricket in them, but both batsmen have now retired, leaving Mathews with a green Test top order.
"I believe, Rangana can play few more years because he is also working very hard with our trainer and now he has reduced lot of weight," Mathews said. "We mustn't look at his age but at his performance. That said, I accept the fact that other bowlers also should come up. If they want to achieve what Rangana has achieved, they need to work hard."
Among those needing work is Kaushal, who returned figures of 1 for 94 in this Test match. He had been particularly disappointing in the first innings, where he failed to find a consistent length, and proved expensive. He also overstepped six times.
Kaushal was recently banned from bowling the doosra, following biomechanical Tests in Chennai. Both Mathews and the Sri Lanka team's coaches believe he can be penetrative even without that delivery, particularly as he turns the offbreak substantially. However, his lack of control and subtlety appear to be frustrating his career.
"Tharindu Kaushal was pretty disappointing - he was not bowling at his best," Mathews said. "We wanted to go with Kaushal, especially on this wicket. It was a tactical move. We wanted someone who can really give it a rip on this wicket. Unfortunately, he was pretty poor in this game.
"He's still working very hard with spin coach Piyal Wijetunge. We just wanted him to bowl his offspinners on the spot. If he does that, he's going to get lot more wickets than with his doosra. But he didn't do that well. He can keep improving.
Mathews suggested the team was wary of asking Kaushal to make too many changes so early in his career. "When it comes to pace, he doesn't change his pace that much. We didn't want to change him upside down, because the way he bowls, he's going to get lot of wickets."
Mathews issued glowing praise to the top-order batsmen that formed the bedrock of Sri Lanka's first innings 484. The top four had had a particularly lean series against India, against whom Sri Lanka did not cross 400. Opener Dimuth Karunaratne made a career-best 186, and for much of that innings batted in the company of Dinesh Chandimal, who hit 151. The pair put on 238 for the third wicket.
"We had some individual brilliance to lead us to victory," Mathews said. "To start off with, Dimuth and Chandimal were brilliant. They batted us to a position where we could hardly lose. After getting 480-odd, it gives the bowlers some cushioning to go out there and enjoy themselves. We haven't put up a total like that for quite some time.
"We can't keep talking of the past all the time, so we've decided to take up the challenge and responsibility. After Sangakkara and Mahela left the team, we needed those guys to stand up and take the responsibility. I'm glad that they did it."