The Sunday Leader

Angelo Mathews Angling For The Top Job

At the time of writing the Sri Lankans are comprehensively hitting rock bottom – down under. For the record we have not won a single cricket Test on Aussie soil ever.
Clearly the cricketing squad is aging..and aging together. Mahela Jayawrdene, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilan Samaraweera, Rangana Herath, TM Dilshan, and Prasanna Jayawardene amongst others are well into their thirties, and seemingly more than a tad past their prime – as their inconsistency suggests. A couple of seniors must be shown the door.  Its imperative then that we take a calculated risk in infusing a couple of fresh legs into the ring and bring in young talent such as Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Perera. Throw caution to the wind.
When hit by the exodus to South Africa the Cricket Board acted strongly. Having comprehensively banned the defectors for life, they took the brave-heart decision of infusing new blood into the ring, with the likes of Aravinda De Silva, Arjuna Ranatunge,Sanath Jayasuriya and little Kalu among others – the doughty young band that eventually lifted the laurel of laurels, the Wills World Cup of 1996.This time  the renaissance must begin right now. Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Man. The hour has come and the man fast gravitating to the top spot is Mathews, provided he can raise his game to steeper levels of consistency.
Former skipper Sangakkara tipped Mathews for the role some time ago. It is the firm conviction of many a shrewd cricketing pundit across the Lankan landscape that 25 year old Angelo Davis Mathews, is pivotal to the resurrection, but he must have the wise counsel of both Sangakkara and Jayawardena  to ease his burden as he begins the role of leader.
Mathews is considered a crunch player by the seniors such as Mahela and Sanga – up when the chips are down so to speak. Remember his unbeaten 77 with Number.10 Malinga to wrest the dual from the Aussies in Melbourne. His fighting 71 Not Out  against Pakistan in 2012, and the fighting 75 in the recently concluded 1st Test against  Clarke’s rampant Aussies when all else were collapsing around him. Then again his 6 for 20 against India in a 2010, 50 over encounter showcased his bowling wares so  amply. 29 Tests have fetched Mathews 1587 runs at an average of 41.78 with 1 ton and eleven half centuries -  85 ODI’S have given him 1705 runs at 34.79 with 12 half centuries – 61 first class matches have brought him 3924 runs at 49.05 with 9 hundreds and 20 half centuries with a top score of 271.
In the bowling department Mathews has 9 Test wickets coupled with 50 wickets in the ODI’S. The man’s stats do not quite match up to his somewhat lofty reputation and international ranking. At the time of writing Mathews ranks 5th  best in the ICC ODI rankings. In his defence there is immense potential in the aforesaid scorelines, and it is the contention of many  a scribe that the dusky allrounder will attain  his true potential  with  added exposure and responsibility.
For good measure Mathews topped his tan in the Indian Premier League by representing the Pune Warriors – contracted at a whopping USD 950000.  He had turned out for the Kolkota Knight Riders the previous year. Some consider this particular engagement a huge mistake. Saddled with a heavy workload, the circuit weary youngster attracted a somewhat serious ligament injury, which observers believe took its toll on the all-rounders bowling prowess.
Tracing an expansive crucifix across his  head, heart and ample shoulders, seeking divine intervention for all the world to see, a tug on his tiny cut away shirt sleeve, a good-luck-kiss on the shimmering seam and Anjelo Mathews is off at a gallop – 17 measured paces to be precise to unleash his wicked little benders at 117 kilo meters per hour or thereabouts. Angelo is not a wicket taking phenomenon, but he can certainly put a cork  at one end with his darting seamers. Then again with his chunky, heavily sponsored Gray Nicolls,  he would walk out to bat – stubborn jawline, erect stride, and deepset eyes.
Admittedly the right hander is a tad edgy and circumspect at the commencement of an innings. His solid defence is coupled to some cracking off drives and some elegant clips to leg off his hips. I have seen him sweeping off the front foot and square cutting off the back foot with much punch and panache. Mathews as we have seen, could cover vast expenses of grassland to pick up some fabulous catches with his bucket like hands. Thats the physical depiction of Lanka’s latest T20 skipper.
Given life on the 2nd of June 1987 this Christian of the Methodist faith and of a Burgher/Tamil mix, was truly setting Darley Road on fire  for his beloved alma mater namely St Joseph’s College by the tender age of nine. Having done the hard yards whilst there with buckets of runs and wickets for his cricket mad school, this Josephian captain of 2005 was deservedly crowned with the Sri Lankan Under 19 leadership in the year 2006, and by the following year was banging his drums for inclusion in the National squad, which milestone followed soon enough against the Zimbabweans in the year 2008.
The dusky right hander is quick to concede that it was the much reputed Josephian coach Harsha De Silva who truly – found and fixed the flaws – in his technique, thereby paving the way for his graduation to the top grid. Born in the bustling town of Wattala, 8 kilometers north of Colombo,  and as Dad Tyronne a top class chef   by proffession frequently flew overseas to keep the home fires burning, Angelo and his utterly talented brother Trevine  received their early coaching from  their cricket crazy Mum Monika – so to speak. Reportedly brother Trevine oozing with cricketing talent and  being streets ahead of Angelo, has so sadly given up the game. The cathedral quiet Angelo, with his deep belief in the Christian faith, worships with such deep conviction at his beloved St Annes Wattala.
Despite all the globe trotting, the hype and the hullabaloo, the all-rounder loves the home cooked meals of his Mum, with beetroot curry being a must on the menu. He loves music and unwinds with the discs of artists of the 70’s such as Engelbert, Tom Jones, Freddy Fender and Elvis – so surprisingly. Sister Elaine Melinda  is deep into her IT degree, and a cricket fanatic to boot.
With his many successes on the cricket field, the youngster is awash with lucrative sponsorships, encompassing international brands such as Samsung Mobile, Milo, Elephant House and Hewlett Packard, and is knee deep in fan mail, a large percentage of the mail reportedly fired in by the adoring fairer sex – what with his dark good looks, immpeccable manners and gracious behaviour. His club mates at Colombo Cricket Club tell  me that Angelo is so disarmigly modest and is incapable of ever making an enemy anywhere. Despite early success the star – to his eternal credit surfs the glitter and glamour with such characteristic aplomb and dignity, categorically leadershiop qualities so to speak. Be it with St Joseph’s College, Sri Lanka Under 19, the CCC or wherever he happened to toss the coin – such harmony could be witnessed between captain and crew, is the observation of a large cross section of his team mates.
With the Sri Lankan T20 leadership under his robust belt, Mathews would be well primed for the Test captaincy, by the time the next Test series takes off the ground against Bangladesh later this year and the much coveted World Cup  in 2015. We of the cricketing fraternity  are keeping  our fingers crossed in the hope that Angelo Davis Mathews has the requisite courage and doughty temperament to utilize his God given ability – in propelling Lanka to unassailable stardom where we truly belong.  however to be given the  top job in all three formats of the game, the lankan star must raise his consistency levels more than a notch or two. besides all the said razzmatazz, Angelo  Davis Mathews makes a splendid ambassador in a blue Lankan cricketing blazer,  set against the ugly, cut throat veneer of the International game.

Former Josephian,
Sri Lanka Under 19
And NCC Opening Batsman

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