Angelo Mathews: “Specially in a tournament like the Asia Cup and the World Cup you need a lot of seniors in the team. Unfortunately we haven’t clicked.” © Associated Press
Angelo Mathews looked like a man who didn’t want to be at the press conference, following Sri Lanka’s five-wicket defeat to India. Inside the Shere Bangla National Stadium’s belly, Mathews gave one answer after another about his team’s lackluster showing at the Asia Cup.
Sri Lanka have not looked like a team who are out to successfully defend their Asia Cup title. Only thanks to same late blows, they reached 138 for 9 in 20 overs against India on Tuesday. Their first productive over came in the 11th, when they scored 10. Overall, there were only four overs that fetched more than 10 runs. Dinesh Chandimal and Tillakaratne Dilshan struggled to get going while Chamara Kapugedara gave it away after a good start. Thisara Perera hit out at the death, but was wrongly adjudged stumped in the penultimate over.
Sri Lanka were eventually put out of their misery by a cameo from Yuvraj Singh. Sri Lanka’s stand-in T20 captain Mathews has said that the senior batsmen have not delivered. Mathews also wanted the youngsters to step up and help spark a turnaround.
“I am repeating myself every day,” Mathews said. “We have the team we have here; we are depending on a handful of seniors most of the time. If the seniors fail, we are in a spot of bother most of the time. Specially in a tournament like the Asia Cup and the World Cup you need a lot of seniors in the team. Unfortunately we haven’t clicked. It will take a little time for the younger guys to start performing. We have to be patient, but this is not the right time to be patient.
“I think firstly that it’s not just the seniors who have to perform. The selectors have picked a squad and everyone has to perform. This is a big stage and no one is here to learn. This is a stage where you have to perform. You can’t rely on a handful of seniors. We all know Dilshan has been a great servant of Sri Lankan cricket for a long time, and I don’t think this is the time to make that massive change. I am just the stand-in captain. I don’t really know what the selectors and the captain are thinking. But I think we have to be patient and hope the batting lineup fires in the next game.”
Mathews conceded that Sri Lanka’s confidence was shot, but said that he saw glimpses of positive intent during their batting. “It is quite damaging, especially the confidence level and the morale,” Mathews said. “You can’t keep losing, it’s difficult to digest. So close to the World Cup, we have to connect the dots together and maybe try a few combinations.
“We just have to be positive. But I kind of sensed a positive approach in our batting today and that’s how we have to play.”
Dilshan’s form has been a big worry for Sri Lanka. After a hand injury forced him out of the first T20 against India in Pune, Dilshan managed only a run in the next two matches. The struggle has continued at the Asia Cup as well. He has made only 57 runs in three games in Mirpur. Mathews, however, backed Dilshan to come good.
“I think everybody hits a rough patch, and he has had a few rough patches here and there and his last few innings were not very bad,” Mathews said. “We all need to take responsibility. Not just the seniors.
“The selectors and the captain have picked a squad, which they think is good. And so we have to try and go out there with who we have in the squad. We need to have faith in them and move forward.”
The losses against Bangladesh and India have put Sri Lanka’s final chances in jeopardy. Sri Lanka need Pakistan to beat Bangladesh and then defeat Pakistan themselves and wait on the net run rate.
If Bangladesh put it across Pakistan on Wednesday, defending champions Sri Lanka are out of the tournament. Already on Tuesday, Mathews looked and spoke like the stand-in captain of a team that was on its way out.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo