Angelo Mathews has stepped down as Sri Lanka captain in all three formats, following his side’s 3-2 ODI series loss to Zimbabwe. Mathews, who called the defeat “one of the lowest points” of his career and said in its aftermath that he would discuss his captaincy future with the SLC selectors, conveyed his decision to the selectors on Tuesday.
Mathews has led Sri Lanka in 34 Tests, 98 ODIs and 12 T20Is, having taken the reins at the age of 25, in 2013. Though Sri Lanka have been modest in limited-overs cricket through the latter half of his tenure, they have, on his watch, tasted rare success in the Test format. In 2014, Mathews had personally played a pivotal role in the Test series triumph in England. Last year, Sri Lanka had also whitewashed Australia – a side they had won only one Test against previously.
There have also been significant lows under Mathews, however. Sri Lanka’s campaigns in the 2015 World Cup, the 2016 World T20 and the 2017 Champions Trophy were disappointing, and even in the Test format, they suffered two 0-2 whitewashes in New Zealand, and a 0-3 result in South Africa. All told, Mathews has 13 Test victories to his name as captain, against 15 losses. On the batting front, Mathews had an outstanding 2014, in which he scored 1,317 runs at an average of 87.8, but his form had since fallen away, though his average as captain still remains 50.94. With the ball, he was only sporadically effective in Tests, but much more valuable a limited-overs bowler.
The last year of Mathews’ captaincy was characterised by injury, however. He missed two Tests and an ODI tri-series in Zimbabwe as a result of multiple leg injuries, was absent for a five-match ODI series against South Africa thanks to a torn hamstring, missed Bangladesh’s tour of the island, and was most recently unavailable for Sri Lanka’s Champions Trophy fixture against South Africa – though it is possible he was prevented from playing that game by the board. The injuries have usually come when Mathews has had a high bowling workload, which he has attempted to carefully manage during his captaincy.
The announcement that he would resign from the captaincy was not unexpected. The paucity of Sri Lanka’s returns in 2017 had placed substantial pressure on Mathews, and applied fresh scrutiny on his on-field strategising and decision-making, which has largely been seen to be Mathews’ weakest suit as captain. The series loss against Zimbabwe has been particularly chastening to the Sri Lanka team – they had never lost a match to Zimbabwe at home before, let alone a series.
Sri Lanka are due to name a successor to Mathews – in the Test format at least – early on Wednesday. Upul Tharanga, who has led the ODI team when Mathews has been injured, and Dinesh Chandimal, who has served as Mathews’ deputy and led the T20 team in the past, are prime candidates. Rangana Herath, who captained the most-recent Sri Lanka Test, may be an option as well.