Mathews unsure about captaining in 2019 World Cup

Angelo Mathews is unsure whether he will be Sri Lanka’s captain at the 2019 World Cup, after leading his side to a second loss against Zimbabwe in the ongoing five-match series. The defeat, Mathews conceded, put his captaincy under significant pressure. His comments came after Zimbabwe chased down a revised target of 219 – deduced via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method – in the fourth ODI, after Sri Lanka had made 300.

“There’s a lot of pressure on all of us, and as a captain there is a lot of pressure on me as well,” Mathews said after the loss in Hambantota. “In these games, where our batsmen have done well, our bowlers didn’t perform well – both in this match, and in the first one we lost. Our fielding also hasn’t been good at times. Against Zimbabwe, we need to play better than this. If we score 300 and still lose here, there is a big shortcoming.”

Mathews’ record as ODI captain since the last World Cup isn’t exactly awful: the team has won 12 matches to the 15 they have lost under his watch. However, during that time, their only series wins under Mathews have been against West Indies at home, and Ireland, away. They have lost one away series apiece to England and New Zealand, and one home series to Australia and Pakistan each. Besides, there is now a risk of losing a home series to 11th-ranked Zimbabwe, who have tied the ongoing series 2-2.

“I don’t know if I will be going to the 2019 World Cup as captain,” Mathews said. “Our batsmen are doing well, but sometimes there’s no consistency in our fielding – we don’t do well sometimes. But with the players that we have, we can win these matches. We lost these matches because our bowling wasn’t good. We have to solve this problem quickly.”

If Sri Lanka perform poorly in the forthcoming ODIs against India (in August and September), there is also the chance of the team not being able to gain automatic entry for the 2019 World Cup. At present, Sri Lanka are on the eighth position, with 92 rating points. They must stay ahead of West Indies, who are currently on 78 rating points, in order to avoid going through a separate qualification procedure for the next World Cup.

Considering this was the second instance in the series when Sri Lanka failed to defend 300 or more, Mathews was forthright in stating his discontent over the lack of sting in the performance of the bowlers.

“After scoring 300, how many times can you lose a game?” You know, we had enough runs on the board. [It’s] unfortunate the rain had to intervene, but still, we had the bowling attack to defend it. The first ten overs we gave away a lot of runs, also the rain intervened and the last ten overs we didn’t bowl that well.

“We actually didn’t know the rain might come in, but the wicket was extremely dry this morning. So we all thought it’s going to start slowing more and more once the day goes on. We saw in the last game also that the ball started turning after the first 20 overs, in the second half especially. So, I thought if we bat first and bat well, we have the spinners to defend it.”

Mathews also made the point that Sri Lanka’s attack was a diminished one. Nuwan Pradeep, who has recently been the best bowler in the side, picked up a niggle in the third ODI, and is being rested in order to ensure he can be fit for the four Test matches over the next eight weeks. Suranga Lakmal was also made unavailable by illness.

“In our bowling we are facing problems – Nuwan Pradeep and Suranga Lakmal are injured,” Mathews said. “We have to manage our bowlers’ workloads as well. We’ve got a lot of cricket coming up. We have to balance managing workloads and winning the matches in front of us.”

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