Hours after insisting that he hadn’t considered stepping down as skipper in the wake of the humiliating One-Day International series loss to Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka Cricket on Tuesday (July 11) announced that Angelo Mathews had conveyed his decision to quit as captain from all formats.
Sri Lanka lost the fifth One-Day International to Zimbabwe in Hambantota by three wickets on Monday to concede the series 2-3 and hand the visiting side its first bilateral ODI series win over a full-member nation away from home in 16 years.
Mathews, who took over as skipper from Mahela Jayawardene in 2013, led Sri Lanka in 34 Tests, winning 13 and losing 15. In ODIs, he won 47 and lost 46, while in Twenty20 Internationals, he won four and lost seven.
There might not be much time for the players to regroup, with India set to arrive for a multi-format tour later this month. The first of three Tests starts in Galle on July 26, and it is expected that Dinesh Chandimal or Upul Tharanga, one of the two senior batsmen, will take over as Test skipper with an eye on the future. Rangana Herath has led Sri Lanka in Tests recently when Mathews has been unavailable through injury.
Mathews had earlier admitted that he wasn’t sure if he would be in charge at the 2019 World Cup, but had said immediately after the latest reversal, “Still haven’t thought about stepping down. There’s time. I’ll give it a bit more thought and talk to the selectors. I haven’t decided anything yet.”
Sri Lanka beat India after pulling off an excellent chase at the recent Champions Trophy 2017 in England and Wales, but spilt chances at crucial junctures in their game against Pakistan to crash out, while Pakistan went on to win the tournament.
Following the poor result at the ‘mini’ World Cup, the fitness and fielding abilities of the Sri Lankan players ere questioned, with Dayasiri Jayasekara, the country’s sports minister, lashing out at the players and Lasith Malinga, the senior paceman, being handed a suspended ban for reacting to Jayasekara’s comments by likening the minister to a ‘monkey’.
Graham Ford also stepped down as coach of the Sri Lankan team after their early exit from the Champions Trophy.
Overall, the 1996 World Cup champions have won just ten and lost 20 ODIs since the start of 2016 and have slipped to No. 8 in the International Cricket Council ODI team rankings, which has left their chances of direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup in a tricky spot.
“Sri Lankan cricket has reached its lowest point and it could well be the point of no return. Now that the 11th-ranked Zimbabwe have beaten them, we wonder what excuse is in store,” said the Island newspaper, while the headline in the Daily Mirror read “Disgrace”.
“It’s one of the lowest points in my career, and a hard one to swallow,” Mathews had said. “Everything went against us, from the toss to misreading the wicket. But there are no excuses. At the end of the day we were not good enough to beat them. They played better cricket.”
Mathews felt the players must eliminate silly mistakes from their game to ensure that the criticism and scrutiny stopped. “We have not been consistent,” he said. “The pressure is on all of us. The more we lose, the more pressure we are under. There is no solution for that and the only solution is winning. We try to win games, but we commit too many mistakes.”