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News

Mathews makes a statement with push-ups celebration

Gesture possibly directed towards head coach who left him out of the limited-overs setup on fitness grounds

Getty Images

Getty Images

In what was probably another dig at the decision to cut him from the ODI team in September, Angelo Mathews performed 10 push ups upon reaching an outstanding rearguard hundred in Wellington. He then flexed his biceps in the direction of the dressing room, from where coach Chandika Hathurusingha - who had been involved in the decision to drop him - was no doubt looking on.
Mathews had been axed as ODI captain then dropped from Sri Lanka's limited-overs teams entirely based on what Hathurusingha and the former selectors said were fitness grounds. Mathews had had several injury layoffs over the past two years, with his hamstrings and calves giving him particular trouble.
Following Mathews' omission from the limited-overs sides, Hathurusingha had also called into question Mathews' running between the wickets, describing the number of run outs he had been involved in a "world record".
In late September, Mathews had publicly given voice to the sense of betrayal he had felt at being suddenly cut from the limited-overs teams, and had carried that hurt through to his next international outing - the Tests against England last month. Through the course of that series, Mathews struck three fifties, and at least twice made a gesture toward the dressing room, pointing to his bat and making a yapping motion with his gloves, to signal that he was letting his bat do the talking.
The push-ups though, were the most colourful message yet. Mathews batted out testing spells on the third evening and all through day four, to finally reach triple figures off the 248th ball he faced. Having raised his bat, he immediately dropped to the ground, performed 10 quick push ups, got up, pointed to his head, then flexed a bicep. Partner Kusal Mendis, with whom he had put on Sri Lanka's biggest ever stand against New Zealand, watched on, grinning.
Although the celebration was ostensibly a jab at Hathurusingha, Sri Lanka's coaches may reflect that dropping Mathews achieved exactly the results they were after. He has been a fitter and more productive player over the past six weeks, and has even begun bowling in internationals for the first time in nearly two years, sending down four overs in the first innings of the ongoing Test.
"We've seen a re-igniting in Angelo now, which was not there in the last year," bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake said after stumps on day four. "Even though we saw a hundred against India, in the past six or seven months we've something entirely different. We're seeing a different Angelo now. It's brilliant."
Mathews had also top-scored for Sri Lanka in the first innings, with 83. This was his first Test century in over a year.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf