Fit-again Angelo Mathews overlooked for vice-captaincy

By Hilal Suhaib

Angelo Mathews
Angelo Mathews overlooked for vice-captaincy. AFP/File/Emmanuel Dunand.

June 21, 2011 (Island Cricket): The approach of the new five-man selection panel, headed by Duleep Mendis, has been needlessly confrontational and highly confusing, to say the least. If not appointing a vice-captain for the Test tour of England was strange, their handling of Lasith Malinga was catastrophic for Sri Lanka. Now, the appointment of Thilina Kandamby over Angelo Mathews as vice-captain, in the ODI and T20 squad, is baffling.

Earlier this year, Mendis gave Malinga an ultimatum to return to Sri Lanka from the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament, or face the risk of not playing again, when the fast bowler informed the selectors that he was unavailable for Test selection for the 2011 tour of England. Malinga said that he would continue to play limited-over cricket, including T20 matches for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, but was forced to take time off from the longer format in order to prolong his career.

“Although I am sufficiently fit to play both ODI and T20 cricket, I have a long-standing degenerative condition in my right knee that needs to be carefully managed,” Malinga said in a statement in April.

He said that his previous attempts to get back into Test cricket resulted in injury concerns, which threatened the longevity of his career.

“I did try to return to Test cricket after a three-year absence last year, following requests from the team management and the selectors, but it left me unfit nursing severe knee pain for two months,” Malinga said.

Recovering from a knee injury, he followed medical advice, and chose to reduce his workload by taking time off from Test cricket. But faced with Mendis’ headmasterish directive, the 27-year-old was forced to prematurely announce his retirement from the five-day game, so he could remain in India to honour his IPL contract, instead of returning to Sri Lanka as ordered by the chief selector; Malinga had previously hoped to make a comeback to Test cricket after sufficient rest.

Duleep MendisThere were better ways to deal with the situation. Issuing such ultimatums to professional sportsmen displays poor judgement, especially when Malinga has been unable to play Test cricket consistently over the last 12 months due to his degenerating knee.

Therefore, his decision to miss the England Test series was expected, provided that one has followed his injury-prone career closely. It is, perhaps, something that the new chief of selectors has not done.

The recent appointment of Kandamby as vice-captain by Mendis’ selection panel is equally puzzling. His inclusion in the squad, over batsmen who have averages superior to his - in recent domestic competitions - is another bizarre move.

Kandamby’s team-mate at the Sinhalese Sports Club Thilan Samaraweera, who hasn’t been selected for the ODI squad, averaged 76.00 from five matches in the Tier-A Premier Limited Overs Tournament this year. In comparison, Kandamby averaged just 29.66 from five matches in the same competition.

Similarly, in this year’s Inter-Provincial Limited Overs Tournament, the new vice-captain managed 76 runs from four matches.

It is, however, possible that these selectors looked at his record from the Tier-A Premier first class competition, where three-day matches are played, and where the left-hander averaged 50.20 from ten matches, with two centuries.

But the need to appoint a vice-captain, whose place in the squad is hard to justify, appears even more ridiculous when the selectors have utilised Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara - both experienced former captains - to fill in the leadership vacuum in recent times.

In April, when the Test squad to England was announced, a statement from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said that “prospective candidates are nursing injuries”, and they chose not to appoint a vice-captain. That move backfired, forcing Sri Lanka to turn to Jayawardene and the reluctant Sangakkara for help when Tillakaratne Dilshan was injured.

Interestingly, Mathews has been tipped as a future captain, and was likely the only prospective candidate to be injured when the Test squad was announced. Even though Mathews is fit enough to be included in the ODI and T20 squad for the series against England, Mendis’ selection panel has overlooked the highly skilled all-rounder for vice-captaincy.

Kandamby has not played for Sri Lanka for close to a year, and since making his debut in 2004, he has been unable to secure a place in the team, until now.

“Angelo would have been the obvious choice, but at this stage he is not 100% fit,” Russel Arnold, who is currently in England as part of the Sky Sports commentary team, said speaking to Island Cricket.

Thilina KandambyArnold felt that Kandamby’s inclusion in the ODI side was long overdue.

“For me, Kandamby should have been the man the middle order was built around, even leading up to the last World Cup,” he added.

“This is a vote of confidence given to him by the new selection panel, and it should help him re-launch his career.

“Since he has been around for awhile in domestic cricket, he is well known and respected by all the other players around him. Be it senior or junior.”

However, Mathews’ agent Charlie Austin disagrees with the view that Mathews is still injured.

Austin told Island Cricket that Mathews is “fully fit to play as a batsman and fielder, having recovered from the Grade-2 quad strain he sustained in the World Cup.”

“During his recovery period, he also travelled to Melbourne to get some treatment on a long-standing knee problem from surgeon Dr. David Young,” Austin added.

“That injury is also now much better, but given a hectic schedule this year he’s not going to rush back into bowling full-time, until everything is 100% OK.”

Mendis, along with team manager Anura Tennekoon failed to respond to Island Cricket, when questions were put to them regarding Kandamby’s appointment.

© Island Cricket

Comments

Shehara's picture
Member since:
22 February 2011
Last activity:
5 weeks 6 days

:/ What a crazy move. You feel bad for Kandamby because he will be under lot of pressure.

The Slinga's picture
Member since:
28 April 2010
Last activity:
2 years 33 weeks

Listen to this guys. Dilshan is still injured and wont play in the T20 and Kandamby will captain! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!

abcofcric's picture
Member since:
22 February 2011
Last activity:
2 years 24 weeks

How old is this Kandambi?

Marcian's picture
Member since:
8 December 2010
Last activity:
4 weeks 15 hours

The appointment of Kandamby as vice captain over Mathews is the most ridiculous decision made by any selection panel in the history of our cricket. I still cannot understand the thought process of Duleep Mendis? Is it his decision or was it made for him by a politician - I wonder?

There was a strong case he [Kandamby] should have been in the world cup squad over Silva and/or Kapugedera - fair enough.

I have a feeling Mathews will never be appointed captain. Mendis and Co must be having long-term plans for Kandamby - to lead the side until the 2015 world cup. He will only be 33 by then.

By the way, Tony Greig, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan were all-rounders, and very good captains; there is no burden as long as one has a good cricket brain, and clearly, Anjelo Mathews oozes cricket acumen.

Anonymous's picture

I'm never one to talk about discrimination against Tamils in sport after what murali did for the country, but damn this just seems so blatant. Sri Lanka cricket headed for the dogs :'(

Kichibana's picture

It is wrong to come to a conclusion about a batsman's ability based on just five matches in the domestic competition. And mere average doesn't make a good batsman. Jayasuriya was once the most feared batsman in the world but his average was only in the thirties then.

The stats given about Samaraweera's high average also proves that it matters little. Consider Arnold's comments. I feel Arnold and the selectors have a better understanding of international cricket than the analyst. Samaraweera is not suited for ODI cricket. What guarantee is there Mathews can secure a place on his batting merits alone? Charlie's agenda is no secret. He wants one of his players to be captain. After Mahela and Sanga he is not dictating terms now for a change.

Malintha's picture

Reply to Kichibana,

Samaraweera and Kandambys stats from the limited over domestic tournaments show the selectors' ridiculous method of selecting a player. Not that Samaraweera is better or Kandamby is bad?

Short-Leg's picture
Member since:
13 December 2009
Last activity:
1 week 2 days

Were not fools ok? Russel Arnold is a commentator. He needs SLC to keep his job. SLC has to approve commentators. Dont expect him or any Lankan commentator to be openly critical about SLC or selection process.

CrikFan's picture
Member since:
20 April 2011
Last activity:
45 weeks 1 hour

Anee manda sarath !!!!

Kichibana's picture

Short Leg,
You are wrong. SLC can dictate terms to Ten Sports, but not to Sky or whoever the English producer is. They cater to England and what we get is a mere feed from that. On the other hand, if Arnold is biased, why ask him for his comments?

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