SRI LANKA CRICKET NEWS
Mathews has been struggling with hamstring and calf injury and has played just one game in 2018. © Getty
Sri Lanka’s limited-overs captain Angelo Mathews is set to return to action after hamstring and calf injury forced him to miss four months of cricket. Mathews, who was named Sri Lanka’s ODI and T20I skipper up to the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in January, was able to play just one game as he had to return home early from the tour of Bangladesh after hurting his hamstring.
He was expected to return to lead the side for the Nidahas Trophy but picked up a calf injury during training and that ruled him out for another six weeks. The whole of this year, Mathews has played just one game – domestic or international. Mathews missed Kandy’s first two games of the ongoing Inter-Provincial tournament but will return to lead the side on Saturday against Galle at Suriyawewa.
“I am looking forward to start playing again. I am thankful to all the people who have helped me out. All the physiotherapists, trainers, doctors and Sri Lanka Cricket for giving me the best option,” Mathews told Cricbuzz on Tuesday (April 17).
In Mathews’ absence, wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella captained Kandy in the first two games of the first-class tournament. Kandy are placed third in the competition with 16 points, only above Colombo. “The reason why I didn’t take part in the first two games was that it was decided to do more rehab rather than rush back to competitive cricket,” Mathews explained.
He will also play a few one-day games of the Inter-Provincial tournament prior to the tour of West Indies that gets underway in June. “So far the Inter-Provincial tournament has been very competitive. A few injuries here and there was a bit of a drawback, but most importantly, with the top players playing against each other the games have been very competitive. The tournament has given a lot of exposure for some of the younger guys who are coming through,” Mathews said.
Sri Lanka’s chairman of selectors Graeme Labrooy had expressed reservations on whether Mathews will be able to continue as an all-rounder given his recent injury woes and had looked at the possibility of playing him as a specialist batsman alone. Similar sentiments had been expressed by previous heads of selection panels, but Sri Lanka have been forced to rethink given the balance Mathews the all-rounder provides to the side, especially with his control. Mathews’ economy rate of 4.61 in ODIs is the best among the current Sri Lankan bowlers – pace or spin.
“For the next few months, I am not keen on bowling. The selectors are of the view that we start with batting only. I am confident that if I get through the next few tours, approaching the World Cup, I will be able to bowl again. Not bowling is only going to be temporary and won’t be permanent. There are concerns about my workload and that has to be managed.”
Another area where Mathews will have to focus on is his team’s poor form in limited-overs cricket. Sri Lanka suffered three 5-0 drubbings last year at the hands of South Africa, India and Pakistan apart from losing a first-ever series to Zimbabwe and that has pushed them to number eight in ICC rankings.
“We have had a few chats with our head coach and the selectors. Everything that we do from now onwards will be thinking about the World Cup. We have got just over 12 months and time will fly. We are planning a few things with the World Cup in mind. At the same time, we realise that every bilateral series is important as well. Having a winning momentum is crucial. We need to try and introduce some young players and at the same time we have to manage the workload of everyone to keep all the players injury free,” noted Mathews.