Wayne Smith in The Australian, 13 December 2012, where the title is “Small comfort –In-form Sri Lankans may be the weakest link”
ANGELO Mathews already has been anointed as Sri Lanka’s next captain but a repeat in Australia this summer of his stunning form against Michael Clarke’s side last year would surely remove any doubt about him succeeding Mahela Jayawardene. Mathews, 25, has been endorsed by Jayawardene as his successor and he also has the reassurance of being Sri Lanka’s present vice-captain. But nothing is ever set in stone in the volatile world of Sri Lankan cricket, especially since there are also two former Test captains in the touring side in Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan. To be fair, Mathews seems the person least concerned about any future promotion. “That’s totally up to the selectors,” he said yesterday. “If they think I’m ready, I’m ready.”
Certainly on the strength of his batting against Australia in the three-Test series in Sri Lanka in August-September 2011 he looks more than ready — 274 runs at 91.33, capped by an unbeaten 105 in the final Test in Colombo. And with scores of 79, 47 and 84 to show for his three innings at home against the Black Caps in November, his present form is not too shabby either.
Even though the retirement of Ricky Ponting robs Australia’s batting of some real gravitas, the top six still has a solid look to it, with two players averaging in the 50s, Clarke (51.73) and Michael Hussey (50.45), one in the 40s, Dave Warner (41.89), and three in the 30s, Shane Watson (36.92), Phil Hughes (34.58) and Ed Cowan (34.47).
By contrast, Mathews, who will come in at No 6, is next to the weakest link in Sri Lanka’s top order and he averages 41.47. Opener Dilshan is the batsman with the lowest numbers, averaging 40.7, but all around him are heavyweights of the Test arena. Jayawardene is a member of the elite 10,000-run club, averaging 50.18 in the process, while Sangakkara weighs in with 9893 runs at 55.89 and Thilan Samaraweera with 5883 runs at 50.78. And just for good measure, brilliant young opener Dimuth Karunaratne is averaging a neat 60, although caution suggests he needs to play more than two innings against the Kiwis, one of which was a duck, before any definitive verdict is passed on him.
“I think you need to be positive at all given times,” Mathews said. “You can’t afford to be negative against the Australians. You need to look for runs, you need to get them out and try and be as positive as you can.”
The widespread assessment of the visitors is that while their batting will present the Australians with some problems, their bowling is far less dangerous, save of course for veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, the leading wicket-taker in the world this year, including 28 in his last three Tests.