Mathews and Chandimal want Sri Lanka to top the rankings across all three formats in the near future
Sri Lanka ODI and Test captain Angelo Mathews has vowed to curtail the national team’s slide in the rankings and restore some pride and honour into the players and fans.
Mathews is also aiming to help Sri Lanka become one of the top ODI and Test nations in the world.
Mathews spent two years as vice-captain under Mahela Jayawardene, but was promoted after Jayawardene announced that he wanted to give up the captaincy at the end of the recent Australia tour.
Batsman Dinesh Chandimal has been named as the new vice-captain for ODIs and Tests, but has been handed the reigns of the country’s Twenty20 squad.
As of right now, Sri Lanka are atop the International Cricket Council (ICC) Twenty20 team rankings after getting to the finals of the ICC World Twenty20 last September, where they had their hearts broken by the West Indies.
However, they slid down to be ranked sixth in Tests and fifth in ODIs after being in second place for both formats back in 2009.
The national team have severely struggled in the longer format, as they have failed to win a Test series abroad since 2008 and have also only won four Test matches after the retirement of spin maestro Muttiah Muralitharan in 2010.
“My main ambition now is to see the Sri Lankan cricket team in the top three in the next few years,” Mathews said. “We’ve dropped down to sixth place in Tests and fifth in ODIs. It won’t be easy, and it will take some time. Myself, Chandimal and the selectors will have to work closely to achieve that.”
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya noted that Chandimal had been handed the Twenty20 captaincy since he was young and had shown a lot of promise in the format, while the other reason was based on the fact that the cricket board wanted to ease Mathews’ workload.
“We thought that it would be too much for Angelo to give him the Twenty20 captaincy as well, as we wanted to allow him to concentrate on the Tests and ODIs,” Jayasuriya said. “We thought the best person for the Twenty20 captaincy was Dinesh Chandimal, who has a long future in the game. He will also get some experience of captaining Sri Lanka in case Angelo gets injured.”
Mathews is currently involved in his maiden series as captain against Bangladesh, but is grateful to have experienced former skippers like Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan in the side to help him out.
“I think you need both experience and youth in a team, because you can’t have XI new players in a match,” Mathews added. “I think the selectors had that balance in mind when they chose the team, and they’ve done a good job of that.”
Under Mathews’ captaincy, Sri Lanka have started to incorporate more younger players in the side and senior players like Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene were dropped for the series against Bangladesh.
“We need to start giving the youngsters an opportunity, and a series against Bangladesh is a good one to give one or two new players a place,” he said. “Players like Kithuruwan Vithanage and Ashen Silva have been making runs in domestic cricket, and Jeevan Mendis has also scored well recently.
“We want to make sure these young cricketers to experience the atmosphere in the Sri Lankan team, and this is a good opportunity to allow that, because it’s a home Test series. They can work with the Sri Lankan team until about 10 days prior to the Test, when we will name the 15-man squad.”
Chandimal, 23, has had his flashes of brilliance in both ODIs and Tests, but has failed to become a regular face in either squad.
But, he hopes to turn that around after being handed an authoritative position within the team.
“There’s pressure every time you play a match, but I think the captaincy is a boost for me personally, and a validation of my past performances,” Chandimal said. “I’ve been a captain in Under-19 at school level as well. I didn’t think I would be captain this early in my career, but that’s a source of pride for me.”