Mathews, Chandimal in line for limited overs captaincy

Friday, 5 January 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Madushka Balasuriya

Thisara Perera will be relieved of his duties as captain in limited overs cricket, Sri Lanka Cricket announced yesterday, with former captain Angelo Mathews and Test captain Dinesh Chandimal the top two choices to replace him.

The inclusion of Mathews as one of two frontrunners for the post comes just six months removed from him relinquishing the post midway through a home series against Zimbabwe. That decision had come hot on the heels of Graham Ford’s sudden departure as coach. 

However, with stability returning to the team following the installation of Chandika Hathurusingha in the role - someone Mathews has spoken of glowingly in the past - the former skipper may be willing to take the job on once again. His situation however is complicated by a spate of injury issues, the most recent of which, a hamstring strain, ruled him out of the India tour early.

For Chandimal, while injuries are not a concern his position in the limited overs setup is, and poor recent form in limited overs cricket has seen him in and out of the side. That said, Hathurusingha has spoken of his desire to see Chandimal return to the impetuous streak that lit up the early part of his career and taking charge of the team in all three formats could be a positive step in his rehabilitation.

Nevertheless, the fact that Mathews and Chandimal are the only two viable long-term captaincy options - with the World Cup less than two years away - speaks volumes about Sri Lanka’s lack of outright leaders. Of Sri Lanka’s recent revolving door of captains, the only other viable options might have been Lasith Malinga, who has been dropped, and Upul Tharanga, who was removed from the role following a dismal run of results.

It was this lack of leadership that had seen SLC a month prior take the unusual stance of not naming a long-term captain on a series by series basis. With Mathews and Chandimal both out of contention at the time, Perera was deemed the only suitable candidate.

Perera’s brief stint had seen him oversee ODI and T20I series losses in India, as well as a T20 series loss to Pakistan in October. Despite being whitewashed 3-0 in that series, the selectors felt they had seen enough - both in the commanding of his teammates and “aggressive” decision-making - to give him the job on a short-term basis, replacing Upul Tharanga. 

The move though was not a popular one, primarily due to Perera’s poor recent form in international cricket. At the time of his appointment, the 28-year-old all-rounder had scored just 91 runs - at 18.20 - and picked up a mere four wickets in the ODIs against Pakistan and followed that up with 19 runs and three wickets across three T20Is. In what is likely to be his final series as captain, Perera scored just 25 runs across three ODIs and T20Is, picking up eight wickets in the process.

The decision to bring in a new long-term captain was taken at a meeting featuring Hathurusingha, SLC officials and the selection committee, according to an SLC release. The final decision will be announced on 9 January.