In around year 2004 during another peak period of Sri Lankan cricket a novice Angelo Mathews walked in to the national side. After having captained his alma-mater at Darley Road, he strolled into the Test side as an all-rounder. Having risen from adversity Angelo has been a model illustration of resuscitating spiritedly salvaging the side numerous spells in all formats.
He grew in confidence steadily, under the wings and perception of best-buddies; Kumar- Mahela. Coincidentally, he was one of the chosen to gain exposure beneath the big names, though, Sri Lanka was still disconcerted in the "evolution progression". This young blood broke into the squad, at the appropriate time, as a proficient all-rounder who evidenced to be a steadfast finisher.
The 31-year-old has had his own share of prodigious and awful times. However, it’s the grey periods that had got the better of great periods. Initially, it was a series of hamstring worries, that reduced his fullest potential. Thus from an accessible all-rounder, in fact across all formats, he was reduced to a specialist batsman. Therefore, he was branded as an "injury-prone" player. Never mind that, question marks were raised by fans, followers, management to selectors on his future disregarding the element, for his benefit he was one of the handful of seniors in the team.
As and when, injury abused, Angelo was found travelling to down under or to elsewhere for treatment, greater than what he would have done for national duty. A willing victim of wounds. He was noiselessly resisting the rough times, ignorant of the harsher and tormenting times ahead.
But, this time he had begun to do, what was expected of him, the "homework" part. The Proteas tour saw the gradual re-emergence of the former captain. Finished the test series as the third highest-scorer (117), and the personal top-score of the series with 71.
An Asia Cup was on the horizon. The talk was, Lankans had chances, without knowing, what was going to greet them. The curtain-raiser itself virtually brought down the curtain for the Lankans going in as reigning champs. In the opener, Mathews spilt a vital catch, with a poor show with the blade only worsening. In the only two outings, the island managed to feature, the then, skipper’s performance kept on deteriorating. The worst what was highlighted, was the run outs and fitness. Like a country caught in the eye of a gale, the first Joesephian to lead a national outfit was stuck and besieged amid escalating criticism.
Unfortunate Mathews was hit-hard, this time too hard, following the Asia Cup fiasco. In a way, the criticism was unfair and unreasonable. Clearly, he was not the only cause for the flop at the tournament. The worst was yet to come, with the head coach, adding insult to injury was stripped-off captaincy and, never mind that too, no place in the squad either.It was the head coach who after been assigned had pleaded to Angelo to take over captaincy reigns to which he himself and family members had not given him the green light.
The axed Angelo, dumped to the deep end, was trying dreadfully to survive was left in the lurch. Making matters worse, was Haturusinghe’s rigid action doing the mutilation. Abandoning and rejection him from the squad, and leaving him dispirited, deterred and deflated.
Soon commenced a "Coach vs former Captain" saga. The father of one, was impacted out, for a fiasco, the whole team ought to have taken the responsibility. This time, though, Mathews broke the silence and counterattacked for being called a "Scapegoat". Retaliated with a letter to the SLC. The communication was "unfair and undeserving treatment".He had confessed that after resigning from the reigns of captaincy in all formats in mid-2017 Hathurusinghe on assuming as head coach in December same year had enforced on him to take over the Captaincy reigns again. He had grieved that it was unfair to blame him and making him the “scapegoat” as most decisions are taken by the coach and the selectors.
“Toughest times yield the greatest knack", remarked motivational guru Robin Sharma. Angelo has been a living example of that, lately. In what has been the beginning and badly needed a boon for the victim Mathews, when the brits came down. His homework and application profited with him as the highest run getter, for the Galle-leg, with twin half-centuries, and with an aggregate of 223 runs in conclusion of the series.
Rising from adversity, Angelo has been a classic example of resuscitating buoyantly with answerable knocks. In one knock, upon reaching a fifty, he signaled "his blade to do the talking", has been consistent on that. He sprinkled off the man-management issues, that sent Mathews in to a chaos.
Mathews, has pulled-off stellar performances. So had been the noiseless celebration and message. The unorthodox celebration had a deep meaning. “No matter, how many times the pessimists pulled me down, I’ll push myself up. Followed by, I’ll punch them with my craft”. Good for him, he’s mentally and physically strong. Leading an anchor role , the solitary batter to keep New Zealand bowlers at bay.The innings he played in NZ were exceptional. The epic partnership with Kusal Mendis batting through the entire day shows his endurance. He exposed his stamina by exhibiting ten sit ups and flexing his biceps towards the dressing room obviously to draw attention of the head coach.
Angelo Mathews, has traversed from adversity to anchor roles. Nevertheless, it is a necessity to pause and watch, whether we are in for prodigious times, ahead and again at the looming World Cup in June this year. Currently with his fitness levels at high ebb he deserves to be preferred as the ODI skipper.
Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane