Angelo Mathews stepped down from the captaincy of all the three formats for Sri Lanka after their 3-2 ODI series loss to Zimbabwe at home. Dinesh Chandimal and Upul Tharanga have been named by the SLC as the successors. Chandimal will be heading the Test side whereas Tharanga will be responsible for the limited overs. This decision was not completely unexpected but can be seen as a new stepping stone for the Sri Lankan cricket.
Mathews declared this decision stating the series loss as “one of the lowest points”. He had been the captain in all the formats since 2013 retirement of both the Lankan veterans. Aged 25 then he was considered an able cricketer for the job. Time and again he has proved his abilities as the captain in instances like the England series of 2014 or the Australia whitewash in 2016. In all, he captained in a total of 34 Tests, 98 ODIs, and 12 T20s.
It was not all high for the Sri Lankan team under Mathews. In 2015, Sri Lanka slipped on to their lowest ODI ranking of the decade i.e. 8th. What was more humiliating is the fact that they were ranked below Bangladesh for the first time. The 2015 World Cup campaign followed by the 2016 T20 World Cup was all a stain on the Lankan cricket history. Followed by the whitewashes from New Zealand and South Africa, the Sri Lankan team surely faced some lows during the past few years.
“Yes, there have been significant poor performances, and I’m humble enough to accept it. In the past also there were instances where I wanted to step down but I didn’t want to let the team down at that time, mainly because there were no replacements. The team’s interests supersede my personal interests.” Mathews said.
“There were two things working in my mind. The first is whether this was the right time considering the team. My honest opinion is that there are candidates who can take over the reins. I’m pretty sure that they will be more successful and better captains than me. I also wanted to give my successor enough time until the World Cup, to build up a team. Those were the main reasons for me to step down.”
Mathews has been the victim of many injuries during the last two or three years. He missed some crucial matches of this year’s Champions Trophy too due to the hamstring injury. He had been absent from the squad in the South Africa series where too they had to face defeat.
“I have at all times played in the exclusive interest of Sri Lankan cricket, and have not at any time compromised my national duties for any personal gain,” he said, reading a portion of his letter of resignation to the board. “I have at all times given utmost priority to making myself available over any franchise commitment, and have at times pre-terminated franchise commitments in order to fulfill national obligations. Subject to me being selected for national duty, I would ensure my fullest commitment to the national cricket team. Moreover, I would at all times support and guide our profusely talented young team, as well as my successor, in every way.”
The SLC selectors appointed Chandimal as the Test captain and Tharanga as the ODI and T20 team captain. Chandimal has been a trustworthy Test batsman for the Lankans for many years and has been groomed as a captain for the side assisting Mathews at his job. Though being in and out of the ODI side, he has been a regular for the Test team.
“I want to take this team and Sri Lanka forward, so I will put my heart and soul into the job,” Chandimal said after the announcement. “I’m very thankful for the job that Angie [Mathews] has done for us. Captaincy is not an easy job and he was an excellent leader for us over four-and-a-half years. He’s also a terrific batsman and a match-winner for us, and I have huge hopes that he will continue to be one in the coming years as well.”
Tharanga quite contrary to Chandimal has had a career full of ups and downs. He was dropped from the team for poor performance in 2016 but brought back soon after. He has held the captaincy for the ODI side for 14 matches in Mathew’s absence in South Africa and the Champions Trophy.
“I don’t want to say that as a team we’ve done poorly in the recent past, but we have had some ups and downs,” Tharanga said. “Some matches we do well, and others we don’t. In future, we have to be more consistent. We all want to take Sri Lanka forward.”
Though giving up captaincy, Mathews will still remain an active member of the team as stated by him. His motive of providing the new captain ample time before the 2019 World Cup might be the turning point for the declining Sri Lankan dominance in world cricket.