Angelo Mathews blames agendas of former selectors for white-ball wilderness

Expect to see more of Angelo Mathews in Sri Lanka’s T20 side this year. Expect to see him bowl more frequently. And because this is late-career Mathews, coming back into the white-ball frame after years of being picked only for Tests, expect him also to be driven by grievance to some extent.

Following his first T20I outing in almost three years, Mathews seemed to take aim at the previous set of selectors – headed by Pramodya Wickramasinghe – for working to their own “agendas”. He also said the freshly-installed selection panel, headed by Upul Tharanga, had him in their T20 World Cup plans.

In any case, in his first international T20 outing since March 2021, Mathews played a critical role in a last-ball win, top-scoring with 46 off 38 balls. This is after he had taken the new ball and bowled two overs for 13 runs. He thinks he shouldn’t have spent so long in the white-ball wilderness.

“In the last two Lanka Premier League (LPL) seasons I batted and bowled well, but unfortunately I wasn’t selected for the T20 World Cups, and I wasn’t given reasons for that,” he said after the game, having picked up the Player-of-the-Match trophy. “If you take decisions that are driven by agendas, these kinds of things can happen – we haven’t even qualified for the Champions Trophy.

“But one thing I believe is that if you train and play wholeheartedly, you can create an environment for yourself where you can perform. I kept my efforts up over the last couple of years. I think I can play for a little while longer.”

Mathews’ bowling has been a sticking point over the years. He had been an important member of the attack in arguably Sri Lanka’s best white-ball sides (between 2007 and 2014), where he frequently bowled in the powerplay in T20s. But a growing catalogue of injuries over the years had either prevented him from bowling, or put him in a frame of mind to play only as a specialist batter, depending on who tells the story.

More recently, though, he has become a regular contributor of quiet overs again – a role he said he relishes.

“The communication with me and the new selectors is quite clear. They asked me what my plans were for the future and [told me] their plans as well. We had a very good discussion. They said that I’m in their plans for the T20 World Cup, and if I could bowl a few overs. I said: ‘Absolutely – if I can help the team in any way’.

“I’ve been bowling in the LPL as well, and you saw me bowling in the [domestic] one-dayers as well recently. If I can bowl a few overs that helps the balance of the team and the captain can decide whether he wants to play an extra batter or a bowler.”

In this particular match, which he helped Sri Lanka win from a dire position, Mathews said he relied on his experience. Sri Lanka needed 61 off the last six overs, with four wickets in hand, when Mathews and Dasun Shanaka came together at the crease. The pair added 55 runs off 34 balls together, when Mathews was dismissed trying to hit the winning runs (they would come off the bat of Dushmantha Chameera eventually).

“When we batted together I talked to Dasun about how if one of us gets out it will be really difficult,” Mathews said. “We thought it would be better if we batted until the 16th or 17th over, and keep the required rate at an achievable level – around 10 runs an over. In the end we had to go after their best bowlers as well. We took some calculated risks.

“Dasun played a good innings, and the person who played the most important innings was Dushmantha Chameera who got six off the last two balls, or else everything else we did would have been meaningless.”

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