In the run-up to the highly anticipated ICC Cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka’s cricketing fraternity has been abuzz with speculation and questions regarding the absence of Angelo Mathews from the squad. The seasoned all-rounder, who has served Sri Lanka with distinction across all formats, won’t be donning the national colors at the upcoming World Cup, raising eyebrows and sparking conversations among fans and pundits alike.
Angelo Mathews, a stalwart in Sri Lanka’s cricketing history, has played a pivotal role in the team’s fortunes over the years. However, his omission from the World Cup squad has left many perplexed. To dissect the rationale behind this decision, we delve into Mathews’ recent performances, the evolution of Sri Lanka’s ODI team, and the factors contributing to his exclusion.
Mathews’ Stellar ODI Career
Angelo Mathews boasts an impressive ODI record, having featured in 221 matches for Sri Lanka. Throughout his career, he has consistently delivered noteworthy performances with both bat and ball. With a batting average of over 40 and three centuries to his name, Mathews has been a reliable middle-order batsman. Additionally, he has scalped 120 wickets, joining an elite group of players who have achieved the dual milestone of 5,000 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs. Only the legendary Sanath Jayasuriya surpasses Mathews in this regard among Sri Lankan cricketers.
Mathews’ heroics were on full display during the 2019 Cricket World Cup, where he emerged as Sri Lanka’s second-highest run-scorer, trailing only behind the swashbuckling Kusal Perera. His pivotal century against India in the tournament was a testament to his ability to rise to the occasion. However, this World Cup marked the onset of a gradual decline in Mathews’ ODI form.
The Downward Spiral
Following his commendable performances in the 2019 World Cup, Mathews struggled to replicate his success in the ODI format. Despite displaying promise in bilateral series against Bangladesh later that year, where he notched up two half-centuries and a 48, Mathews found himself in a slump. Notably, he chose to skip Sri Lanka’s ODI series against Pakistan, providing the emerging Dasun Shanaka an opportunity to establish himself as a lower-middle-order batter.
Mathews’ lackluster form persisted during the subsequent series against the West Indies, where he managed to score just 12 runs across three innings. However, his brilliance with the ball, particularly in the third ODI, earned Sri Lanka a hard-fought victory.
The hiatus from ODI cricket extended for nearly two years, as Sri Lanka’s limited-overs calendar was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the national team finally resumed ODI action with a tour of the Caribbean, Mathews made a brief appearance, registering only five runs in a solitary match before returning home for personal reasons.
The Road to Exclusion
Mathews’ fortunes took a significant downturn when a revamped selection committee, in a bid to rejuvenate the squad, decided to omit him from the ODI team. This move coincided with the sidelining of Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal in favor of younger talents. Mathews’ exclusion marked the beginning of a two-year hiatus from the ODI format.
While he was eventually recalled earlier this year for Sri Lanka’s series against New Zealand, hopes were high for Mathews to reclaim his form and secure a spot in the World Cup squad. However, his return was marred by inconsistency, as he posted scores of 18, 0, and 12 in the three matches, failing to make a significant impact. Furthermore, he refrained from bowling, limiting his utility as an all-rounder.
The World Cup Qualifier served as a stark reminder of Mathews’ struggle to regain his once-prolific form, leading to his eventual exclusion from the World Cup squad. Instead, Sri Lanka has turned to emerging talents such as Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, and Dhananjaya de Silva to fortify the middle order.
While Angelo Mathews’ legacy in Sri Lankan cricket remains unblemished, his ODI career appears to have reached its denouement. The decision to omit him from the World Cup squad reflects the selectors’ intent to infuse new energy and vibrancy into the team, especially in a format that demands dynamism and consistent performance.
As cricket enthusiasts lament Mathews’ absence from the global extravaganza, it is essential to acknowledge his illustrious contributions and hope for a resurgence in his form and fortune in the future.