Mathews named long term ODI/T20 captain; Chandimal recalled

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Former captain Angelo Mathews was reappointed Sri Lanka’s ODI and T20 captain by the national selectors in a move that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) President, Thilanga Sumathipala described as a roundly unanimous decision by the national selectors on the recommendations of Head Coach, Chandika Hathurusinghe and SLCs management headed by CEO Ashley de Silva.

The whole exercise was based on the new coach’s new strategy of a short term, medium and long term plan of optimising the national team to winning heights. Hathurusinghe chipped in to say that ‘I thought Mathews is the best person to captain the ODI team.’ My only concern is player fitness, but we have a long term plan in place,” he grated. Mathews, aged 30, in turn responded that he was honoured to take the job back after long deliberation in the national interest.

“It’s a thing you don’t ever think of taking back. There were a few reasons I decided to take it back as the president’s request was that it was a national call, and also considering the fact that we need stability running to the world cup in eighteen months’ time. Cricket has given me a lot, and if I turn my back I feel it is not fair by my country.  Some may like it, some may not. Hathu (Hathurusinghe) is not here to survive. I have worked with him in the A team and know his capacity. He’s here to do a job. Both of us think equally in the interest of the team.

The announcement was made to the media Tuesday at the SLC auditorium with SLC CEO, Ashley de Silva and Vice President in charge of international cricket, K. Mathivanan, Chairman of Selectors, Graham Labrooy and Head Coach Chandika Hathurusinghe attending.

The 16 member squad was also announced with Test captain Dinesh Chandimal regaining the selectors nod. Also significant was the naming of 22-year old fast bowler, Shehan Madushanka, a Sri Lanka Development Squad Emerging XI player in view of SLCs long term plan which Head Coach Hathurusinghe explained was to evolving ideally seven pace bowlers approaching the World Cup 18 months hence.

SLC President Suumathipala stressed that unfortunately there had been a fractured phase when Dinesh Chandimal, who took over the job when Mathews quit it five years ago, was injured and a stop gap captain in Upul Tharanga had to be appointed. Mathews had been laid back by injury by playing too much cricket having played the most number of matches in the world that had affected his body.

Chief Selector, Graham Labrooy said that Mathews appointment was in view of the long term. He would not be bowling in Bangladesh. But would progressively turn his arm in short bursts in ODIs only. On the naming of Madushanka, he said, “He has pace about 136 to 137 mph and bowls a quicker ball at 140 mph. He may or may not play in Bangladesh. Looking at the pace bowling department, we are going forward with Madushanka as a long term investment because we need to be competetive.”

On Chandimal’s recall, Labrooy said, “He has shown a lot of interest. In India his approach was aggressive with good strike rates, and his inclusion had been recommended by the head coach.” As to Kusal Mendis’ recall, he said, “Kusal had gone back to club cricket and got some big runs. The new captain and coach believe in him a lot”.

Chandimal reacted that ‘I’m happy to be back in the ODI squad and look forward to delivering.’

By Srian Obeyesekere