Mathews why block Comfort Zone to halt SL runs, denying right spot for right guy in Productive Zone?

Listen to the recent interview BBC had with Mathews. What does he mean by not letting a batter to bat in his "Comfort Zone"? Is it a deliberate move (apart from minimal exposure) to negate further the productivity of a well credentialed in form Opener like Tharanga in both formats?? This is happening, despite Mathew's regular choices like DK / KS Worst Openers in Tests & KJP in Odis hitting the World's WORST Openers Records after enjoying 65+ consecutive chances over past 3 yrs under the "COMFORT" of Mathew's leadership. Otherwise, what is the logic behind blocking the best available resource for the right job to get the maximum yield for SL? What does he achieve by not allowing such Opener to bat at his Most PRODUCTIVE ZONE, despite suffering severe upfront problem with constant failures he preferred at the top in both formats since 2014? If a player is in the team as a Specialist Batter, he should bat among Top FIVE. So what is the logic behind sending team's most runs (5k+) & Tons (14 x 100) made Opener at No7 or below? How come Mathews conveniently ignored SL's 3rd best productive opener for the job?

He tries to brush-off his consecutive failures in 20+ series, across all formats during past 3 years, quoting the solitary 3-0 success in home series vs Aus. But in reality, it was a series played on home turf tailor made for our spinners, especially Herath who harvested record making 28 wkts for 357 runs @ 12.75. The whitewash was purely due to spin king's exceptional bowling effort that exploited the spin phobic Aussie new kids & the individual efforts of youngsters Mendis & Dhananjaya, who pulled victories from the jaws of defeat with their remarkable innings (reversing usual upfront collapses induced in every vital inning by long-term regular failures DK /KS combo, preferred by Mathews). I am still trying to figure out if there was anything at all Mathews did significantly well in the middle to win that series as skipper? As the regular skipper, he certainly has the final say in picking his batting order & playing XI, apart from squad selection. Overlooking assertive players like Asela (all rounder similar to himself who did well in previous Zmb test series) & Dickwella (productive opener), preferring DK/KS/KJP yet again in top order to perish, pushing Tharanga to lower order again & limiting his chances to 2 tests, despite making an unbeaten 110* & 79 in previous series (similar to overlooking him for humiliatingly doomed NZ series, just after making 92 & 45 in the decider to win the test series Vs Pk in Aug 2014).     
He never had any legitimate answers to the questions regarding total isolation of senior players from the team since he became the skipper. Regarding Tharanga's repeated overlooks without consecutive matches to settle in both formats & ultimately restricting his scoring chances by sending him at lower-order as No7,8,9 even in the rare occasional chances given to him were   mostly solitary chances. He was never allowed to open in 2 consecutive tests in a series since 2014 (since 2013 axing UT was allowed just a solitary 3-match consecutive-stint as opener up to 2017 SA series & in Tests UT was given just 10 scattered tests),. Opener UT was brought back to tests after 7y in 2014. Since 2014 June recall, he had scored 818 runs @ 41 Av from 11 Tests played  to date & apart from 115 v BD & 110*,79 v Zm, he had scored 2 near tons & 50s as Opener Vs SA (83) & Pk (92, 45,46,48) and a series defining effort vs Pk in 2014 the decider were included in that impressive yield. He was later pushed to No7 in his last 5 tests & shattered his progress further by axing 5 times within 10 tests scattered over 3y. Can you compare this progress with any of those sixty plus opportunities wasted regular failures like Thirimanne, Dimuth, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Perera? 
Since Jul 2013 match winning career best unbeaten 174* in Kingston to his superb 119  @ 132 sr in 2017 Feb in SA, Tharanga had scored 543 runs @ 36 Av- 82 sr from the 16 random innings played as Opener (mostly solitary) occasional ODIs spread over past 3.5 years. UT's Opening career was virtually paused until 2017 SA series – 4 Odi matches. Only once he had opened in 2 consecutive Odis in a series since Aug 2013 axing at the age of 28 yrs. How many Hundreds have we seen from any ODI opener against a formidable opponent (other than Dilshan), occupied the spot close to 100 odis played by SL during past 3.5 years, since UT's 174* made just before his axing in mid 2013?

Although talks like a saint, Mathews is completely responsible for it. He had no real answer to justify his wrongdoing. Clearly, it is NOT a matter of denying any batter his "Comfort Zone" due to better performers found in that spot (sounding like denying a favor due to much more productive options available), as Mathews says…! But in reality it is a clear cut case of selective harassment to the career of a well proven SPECIALIZED opener, denying his due spot over three years, despite experiencing long term repeated failures with preferred guys, regularly occupied the Opening spots to sink SL side (with the courtesy of Mathews). This is one of the biggest problems seen with Mathew's leadership. Mathews had wasted a valuable resource, apparently due to his personal phobia (& he always preferred failures like DK 31 Av/ KS 29 Av/ LT 25 Av in Tests & KJP 26 Av in odis  & DK /Thisara Perera even in 2015 WC, due to his close affinities). His priorities are questionable as a player leading the national side.

Even knowledgeable international commentators such as Kepler (SA), Nazer Hussein (Eng), M Holding (WI), Symcox (Zmb) etc had recently questioned about the logic behind wasting such an experienced opener like Upul Tharanga restricted to the the tail, while entire top-order failed.This disparity cost SL numerous series upfront including 2015 WC due to repeated failures at the top (preferring DK 32 Av & KS 30 Av/ DK 15 Av, KJP 26 Av in odis,  28 of KJP's innings ended in single digits), .

Despite his immaculate batting form, always Treating him equal to a rookie in the fringe fighting to find a spot in the squad, Mathews seems to have conveniently forgotten that Upul Tharanga (more experienced senior player than even Mathews) already has a proven track record backed with hard earned credentials & wide experience as Opener maintained over 8 years in 160 odis, scoring 5184 runs @ 34 Av with 14 x 100+ & 25 x 50+ scored against each test playing nation in every condition prevailing world-over. He had dealt with best in the trade of seam bowling in their own dens. His latest being the unblemished stroke play filled 100 (73 balls) extended to 119 @ 132 SR with 11 x4 -7 x 6 all around the stadium, against mighty SA pace,swing,bounce & spin in their own den to shut off the big mouths of humbug critics who count the nicks instead of runs made by him. They selectively pick slightest occasional nick/edge of him to to blow up as a big flaw, ignoring the fact, that is common to any opener who always deals with the new cherry to make quick big runs with array of immaculate shots, mainly in the off (once Sanga had said in a speech, when asked Brian Lara about his frequent mode of dismissals in the slip cordon, he had defined it as the usual way the left-handed Openers mostly get out). Anyhow, Tharanga seems to be extremely cautious about it now, as seen from his recent chance less spectacular tons made Vs SA & BD. In SA whole series(Odi /Tests/T20) he never got out edging the ball. In Aus T20 he had nicked the ball behind just once to a superb delivery from Cummins ! 

In reality, unfortunately SL couldn't hardly find any Opener (Kjp  26 Av/ Dhanushka 26 Av / Dimuth 15 Av etc) who could achieve even 30 average maintained in 10+ innings after tried out in nearly 100 odis, denying opportunity to Upul Tharanga during past 3.5 years. 

Openers UT/ND were able to put up 3 CONSECUTIVE 1st wkt stands worth 45 or more (45, 60 & 139 ) in Odis.This was the best consecutive starts seen since World's ninth most productive UT/Dilly opening combo was disrupted by axing UT at 28 yrs in mid 2013, robbing 3+ yrs of his prime career without allowing hardly any exposure at the top, under Mathew's.
Even in Tests, regular Openers were responsible for tilting consecutive tests upfront vs Strong opponents in all conditions during past 3 yrs. Dimuth (68 ings/ 33 Av/ 4x tons/ 17 ins per ton) & K Silva (64 ings / 30 Av/ 3 x tons/ 21 ins per ton). This is world's Worst (Lowest averages, Least number of 100+ scores & Worst ings per ton ratios) record among all openers who played 20+ tests since 2012. Both had wasted unbelievable number of chances given to them exceeding 65 consecutive test ings over 5y, despite showing no improvement. Recent low series Av – Dk V Sa 19, Au 6, En 25, In 11 / Ks Av V Sa 26, Au 22, Wi 16, Ind 14.

Worst ranking test openers DK/KS were given a ridiculous amount of chances (as KJP in ODis) exceeding 65 consecutive innings over 3 years. These players are not "Young" or "New" as Mathews trying to justify his appalling preferences, projecting 10-15 year plans forgetting SL is already in a pathetic abyss under his 4 year leadership with no hope even for next 5 years.There was no visible improvement in sight until significant improvements (unbiased team selection, right choices according to the situations in toss, bowling changes, appropriate field placements to attack & defend as needed & overall proactive positive approach) recently seen under Herath & Upul's leadership. Mathews is 30 now & the productive new guys like Asela, Milindha are same age as Tharanga 31-32. All these players have at least 5-6 years remaining  in their active careers.Therefore age cannot be a decisive factor in selections as Mathews trying to cover up his misdoings. After all Mathews had preferred Opener Kaushal Silva (31 yrs) for 30+ consecutive test chances under his leadership, despite hitting the bottom of the world rankings, still struggling with a sorry 30 Av.

Good International opener who can equally handle all conditions is a rare bread. It is a specialized job needing lot of skill as well as wide experience to evaluate conditions & adjust tempo according to the match situation.. SL had invested a lot on Tharanga since 21 years of age as opener & as a potential skipper. But Mathews already ruined three years of his prime time career without harvesting the benefit of that investment for SL. No matter how you look at it, this fact remains the same. 


Leave a Comment