After Mahela Jaywardene has decided to give up captaincy after Australia tour, history is awaiting for Mathews to bring new dimensions in Sri Lanka cricket.
From 24 to 26, is the age period in cricket, when most players start to find their game, start to cement their place in their teams, and start to attract the followers as well. In Australia, David Warner is in a smooth process to establish himself as a permanent opener, as a successor of great Matthew Hayden, after being regarded as a twenty-20 specialist, in his early years. In England, Eoin Morgan has been team’s ‘men for crisis’ in last two years or so. In India, Virat Kohli has announced himself as the ‘most promising batmen’ amongst next-generation players, while a technically sound Cheteshwar Pujara became an ideal successor of great Rahul Dravid, barely within few months, in test format.
In Sri Lanka, Angelo Mathews, aged 25 years and 194 days precisely, is on the verge of becoming the captain of his team, in all three formats. After current captain Mahela Jaywardene announced his decision to resign after the Australia Tour, a day before the Hobart test against Australia, Mathews is expected to lead the team from February 2013, when Bangladesh will travel the little island.
On the eve of Hobart test, Mathews himself shown desire to lead the team in longer formats as well. After all, it’s a dream to captaining the team, every cricketer sees in his career. But, as in Mathews case, it’s not a unexpected call. Actually, he has been regarded as ‘next captain’ for Sri Lanka, since one year now. Just recently, he was appointed as twenty-20 captain of the team. and now, within next few months, he will be ready to write a new chapter in Sri Lanka, will try to make a team for the future !
At just 25, one can easily say that isn’t it is too early to named him as a full time captain? Is he ready to lead the team? But, whole Sri Lanka, including cricket board and two greats of the game- Mahela Jayawerdene and Kumar Sangakkara- are quite confident about the young men’s abilities. As Mahela said, ‘I think Angelo is the one everyone has earmarked and I think he’s good enough.’
Reason is quite simple behind their trust on Mathews. Though, on his debut in Harare Sports Club in 2008 against Zimbabwe in a 50-over match, he just contributed a ‘golden duck’ after facing nine balls, in next few years, he has been established himself as a ‘player for crisis’. He came into the team as an all-rounder, but now he barely bowls. But his true value lies in his batting, where he provides everything, his team needs on a particular day. He can smash the bowlers; can hit the fours and sixes, in last overs easily. But his biggest quality occurs, when his team crumbles against opposition. As he did in Melbourne Cricket Ground in November 2010, where he scripted one of the greatest victory in cricket history, with the help of number 10 Lasith Malinga, with unbeaten 77. That particular innings established Mathews as one of the most trusted ‘finisher’ of the limited-over game.
That particular reputation has come a long way now. In a team, loaded with more super stars than players, it’s quite an incredible achievement, to be regarded as a ‘crunch situation player’. Mathews has earned it with his temperament, with his ability to adjust the game, regarding different situations. His statistics also shows that, he is a ever improving cricketer. In 28 test matches, he has scored 1493 runs, with a impressive average of around 41. in 50- over matches, he has made runs with an average of around 35.
And, that’s why; he becomes an automatic choice for captaincy. Reputation of play worthy innings in tough situations, has earned respect for himself from the senior players, but from the youngsters as well. And, it’s going to be important for him, indeed, as he will have to cope up with a group of young players, when the seniors will step down. In most probability, ageing superstar’s like- Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela jayawardene, Tilakratne dilshan- won’t be a part of the 2015 World Cup, held in Australia. Mathews has been selected as a ‘captain material’ for the purpose to build a team for future, and in 2015 World Cup, he will lead an entirely new looking team. That’s when, respect from his young colleagues, will become valuable.
That’s why, Sri Lanka board, current captain Mahela jayawardene and selectors are nurturing him with care. Mahela, during his announcement of stepping down from the captaincy in Hobart, said that he is taking the decision, because he wants to assist Mathews in his early days as a captain. And, that’s the kind of culture, which isolates this team from the others in world cricket. In India and Pakistan, every player wants to be a captain. In Sri Lanka, every player wants to contribute in team’s sake. That’s the sole reason, why Mahela has decided to give up the captaincy. He knows, that as a international captain, early days won’t be easy for Mathews, especially with the brittle bowling attack. So, he wants to guide the Mathews, while he is still playing.
So, the stage is ready for Mathews. In just four years, he has established himself as a complete cricketer. Now, he has the biggest challenge in his career- to establish himself as a commanding leader. That’s what, every Sri Lankan is hoping from him!