Rex Clementine in Island, 4 January 2020, where the title is “Mathews Ready for Reversed Role”
When Angelo Mathews limped off the field in Indore with a hamstring injury during Sri Lanka’s tour of India in 2017, the recovery took months. At that point, the selectors made a call that in a bid to prolong his career, Mathews will only play as a batsman. But 18 months later, the decision has been reversed. Mathews was dropped from the T-20 squad in August 2018 and was told to get back to bowling in order to regain his place. Having fulfilled the requirement, the 32-year-old is back in India, the country where he won the admiration of adoring fans a decade ago.
Mathews was just 22 when he was run out on 99 in Bombay. In a bid to complete his maiden Test hundred, he chanced Sachin Tendulkar’s arm and was taught a bitter lesson. There were 40,000 fans at the Cricket Club of India where the Test match was played as the Wankhede was under construction to host the World Cup final in 2011. But not many of those fans celebrated Tendulkar’s athletic effort despite him being the local hero. Mathews was inconsolable at that point. Ten years on, he has come a long way and understands the complexities of the sport – the selectors saying that he needs to give up bowling and then making a u turn.
“If the requirement is for me to bowl, then I am happy to do that. I had a chat with the selectors. They said that as I was having injuries not to worry about bowling in Tests and ODIs. In T-20s, I was told to bowl a few overs and I started bowling straight after the New Zealand series. I have been bowling in the last few months. I think I can manage four overs. I am slowly building up myself to take up bigger challenges,” Mathews’ whose career has been plagued by injuries in the last three years said.
Do different voices by selectors bother him? “The situation changes and the good thing is that I have had good communication with the selectors. I know what the thinking is and what the team requirements are. The team obviously comes first and if the team needs me to bowl, then I have got to do it,” Mathews added.
The three match series gets underway on Sunday in the eastern city of Guwahati. India are fifth in official rankings while Sri Lanka are two slots below at seven. Mathews felt that it will be a tough series against the strong outfit.
“It’s going to be a tough series. We have won against them in India before. If we play our best cricket we can beat them. They have got a very seasoned, balanced team. We have got a brilliant bunch of young players. They have performed extremely well and they are learning. It is important to learn everyday irrespective of being young or old.”
With the focus now on the T-20 World Cup later this year in Australia, Sri Lanka Cricket has scheduled some high profile bilateral series and as a result, India, West Indies, Pakistan and South Africa will be visiting the island to play the shortest format of the game. Mathews welcomed the move. “Good competition brings the best out of good players and it is imperative to compete against the best. We have eight months for the T-20 World Cup and we can build up momentum. I am sure opportunities like these will make us a better team.”