Angelo Mathews’ form encouraging for Sri Lanka, says Chandika Hathurusingha

10:05 AM ETAndrew Fidel Fernando in GalleFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

Six weeks after coach Chandika Hathurusingha dumped Angelo Mathews as limited-overs captain, dropped him from the team altogether, and panned Mathews’ running between the wickets and fitness, he is pleased with the progress made since.

The post-Asia Cup axing of Mathews was an acrimonious affair, with Hathurusingha claiming that Mathews’ history of running his partners out constituted a “world record”, while Mathews publicly expressed hurt and indignation at the treatment he received.

It is understood that Hathurusingha and the selectors were attempting to send Mathews a message: that his commitment to the team cause must be renewed, and that his fitness situation must improve. So far, Hathurusingha said, the message seems to have been received. Mathews was the only Sri Lanka batsman to pass fifty in Galle, making half-centuries in each innings.

“I’m very happy with the way Mathews conducted himself throughout the game, and his commitment for running between the wickets and for the batting,” he said. “I’m sure he’d be the first one to say that his two fifties were not enough, because he got a start. He could have gone on and got a big one. He’s the one that we have seen played wonderful innings in situations like this. But him coming into runs is a good sign for us.”

Hathurusingha did not go as far as to say that Mathews’ issues were all sorted. There were suggestions that plenty of work remained to be done before he would truly be satisfied with Mathews’ fitness. But there was, nevertheless, improvement. “I can see he’s making the effort to do things the way we expect. He was very keen and he was involved with the team. I think he’s coming back to full fitness.”

Although Mathews’ ODI batting has largely been good since the start of 2017, he has been modest in Tests, and on this topic, too, Hathurusingha chose to be generous in his assessment of the situation. Since the start of 2016, Mathews averages 29.82 in the format, across 39 innings. His overall average had been above 52 in September 2015, but has since dived to 43.51.

“I think he’s very capable of getting his average above 50,” Hathurusingha said. “He’s one of the top batters and one of the most-experienced going around. Maybe injuries caused him setbacks, because he had a wonderful 2013 and 2014, before he really started getting these injuries.

“I would have thought he would have been in Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Steve Smith’s level, because he’s capable of getting to that level as a batsman. I think he has realised that and he’s worked hard in the last eight months to get himself fit. I’m hoping for big things from him.”

Mathews has now also begun bowling in the nets – something he had avoided after leg injuries ruled him out of several tours over the past two years. He is unlikely to bowl in Tests over the next few mionths, but Hathurusingha hopes he will start bowling in the shorter formats during Sri Lanka’s forthcoming tours.

“We have discussed with him to start bowling in two months’ time. Probably we are looking at bringing up his bowling workload to the satisfactory mark before the first New Zealand one-dayer [in the first week of January].”