End of the reign of Captain Mathews?

This team, this captaincy has without a doubt finally begun beating down the man who is, arguably, our most valuable current player.

Mathews was one of the few players in our side that stood strong when everything was crumbling around him. He took took a seemingly impossible victory from right under the Australians noses in Melbourne, he helped manufacture that most cherished win in Headingley two years ago and in the World T20 game against England just a few months ago, in another extremely shambolic batting display, he played what was one of the greatest T20 innings I have seen, albeit that ended with the Lankans being defeated. These are just some of the instances where he made us, the cricket loving public, believe in the greatness and talent of Sri Lankan cricket.

However, despite his immense talent with the bat and the ball, his talent, or lack of thereof, when leading the team is something that has been agreed upon by many, both former cricketers and spectators alike since the start of his tenure as captain.

2014, the 3rd Test against Pakistan in Sharjah. On the final day the Pakistanis needed to chase a little over 300 runs in around 60 overs. the pitch wasn't a road, there was some spin and movement on offer for the bowlers That match, on that pitch, defending that total, a draw or a Sri Lankan victory should have been the only possibilities, but it was not to be. Mathews, placing nearly all his fielders on the boundary, allowed Azhar Ali, Misbah-Ul-Haq and Sarfraz Ahmed to gain an unlikely victory and draw the series.

The same occured nearly an year ago, this time in our own hilltop backyard of Pallekele. That time though the series ended with a 2-1 defeat for us Lankans.

Then just yesterday, Mathews allowed the game to drift away from us with his poor captaincy. Yes, the fielding was atrocious, as though the players were saying "haha April Fools (despite it being May). Our superb fielding on day 1 was just a joke, here we are as hopeless as usual". That however is no excuse for relaxing the field and allowing Moeen Ali to comfortably rotate the strike however he wanted and shield the tail. Chandimal, the wicket-keeper, was clearly struggling with his thumb injury since towards the ned of day 1 and even early on in day 2, well before he dropped that regulation catch. Why didn't Mathews give the gloves to either of the TWO other keepers in the team that are too full time wicket keepers.  There is just no excuse for Mathews.

When Mathews took over the reigns we knew he would never be a great captain, we knew that he would never been as stubborn as Arjuna, as innovative as Mahela or as crafty as Sanga. We did however, hope that he would learn steadily over time and become good enough a captain to select the best team available to him and lead them to many victories. A couple of years into the leadership of Captain Mathews and it is apparent to many of us that he has learnt nothing.

Hardly anyone has shouldered any responsibility in this team, with the exception of perhaps Kusal Mendis and to a minor extent, as much as I don't like him being in the side, Lahiru Thirimanne. The lack of self belief in our team was evident every time they took to the field. The slumped shoulders, downcast eyes, reluctance to go after the ball, it was as though they would much rather be anywhere but there. Once upon a time Mathews stood out among these demoralised cricketers, he exuded a certain regalness, a certain stubbornness that said to the opposition and supporters, I will not back down, I will not lose. Alas, this is something I no longer see in Mathews.

The Mathews we see before us seems broken, in both mind and spirit, he seems tired, he seems defeated. Perhaps this is because of the seemingly eternal slump the team appears to be in, maybe it could be about something we don't know about.Is he on the point of being dismissed as skipper? Is there disharmony in the Sri Lankan camp? Is there interference in the selection or running of the side?

Should Mathews be dismissed as captain? If he is who do we call upon to replace him. Chandimal struggles to find consistency, Thirimanne struggles to find a place in the XI, Herath is on the brink of retirement. Who do we have currently that has a modicum of seniority and some captaincy credentials?

At the end of the day it is an extremely tough call whether to replace Mathews as skipper or not. Given the unpredictable nature of Sri Lankan cricket, both on the field and on the administrative/political side anything could happen.

So this could very well be the end of Captain Mathews.

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