“Angelo Mathews was the only Sri Lankan batsman to show some application and resolve. They have to realize that the 31-year old may be their best bet with the bat but he is not their only batsman”
“We all know he is our best batsman.”
This is what Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal had said when Angelo Mathews was dropped from Sri Lanka’s limited overs set-up a month back due to reasons concerning his poor fitness. His form with the bat wasn’t good either and Sri Lanka were also losing matches consistently under his captaincy.
His axing didn’t bring about a change in Sri Lanka’s fortunes either as they were beaten comprehensively in the ODI series against England that followed.
A month later, he is back to the squad for the Test series against England after clearing the yo-yo test and that in itself serves as a huge motivation for the young Sri Lankan unit as usual. However, there was no noticeable change in the approach of their batsmen, even on Mathews’ return, as they collapsed for just 203 runs in reply to England’s first innings total of 342 runs.
Mathews, who was termed as their best batsman a month ago by Chandimal, proved those words to be true as he was the only Sri Lankan batsman to show some application and resolve. However, the Sri Lankan batsmen have to realize that the 31-year old may be their best bet with the bat but he is not their only batsman.
He top scored with 52 runs and faced 122 deliveries as well, before his innings was cut short by a soft dismissal off Moeen Ali’s bowling. The next batsman who came close to matching the time spent at the crease and the number of deliveries faced by Mathews was the skipper Chandimal (33 runs off 72 deliveries) himself. None of the other batsmen were able to last even 50 deliveries at the crease.
It’s true that the 31-year old was the only figure that the Sri Lankan batsmen had to look up to after the retirement of legends like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumara Sangakkara . But that doesn’t mean that a father figure is bound to inspire them to perform every time.
They have to realize that he can’t perform well always. Everyone needs to understand that he can have bad days too. He is not the only one responsible for their poor performances. In fact, each individual has to be responsible for his own performance. Every individual should try and seek motivation from within him. Most importantly, one needs to learn to believe in his own abilities.
India would never have been the team they are today if each individual would have looked up to their senior players for inspiration, especially, after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. It was because of the self-belief of the Kohlis, Rohits and Dhawans that Indian batting has been able to carry on the legacy left behind by their predecessors.
But Sri Lankan batsmen have continuously failed to find that motivation and self-belief within themselves in the last couple of years. Their condition has only deteriorated with time. There have been occasional sparks of brilliance from batsmen like Kusal Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella and skipper Chandimal himself but what they have lacked is the consistency and the ability to hold their nerves in crucial situations.
There is no doubt that the English bowlers bowled well in this match but they didn’t bowl anything that could be termed as unplayable. James Anderson and Sam Curran bowled inspirational opening spells of swing bowling. Sri Lankan openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva had hardly anything to do about their dismissals. Mathews too was dismissed in a soft manner. Apart from them, each and every other Lankan batsman threw away their wickets.
Dhananjaya de Silva, who walked out to bat at No. 3, was castled up by Moeen Ali while trying to go for an unnecessary sweep shot. He had already settled down at the crease having scored 14 runs after facing 47 deliveries. But he squandered the opportunity. Kusal Mendis became debutant Jack Leach’s maiden Test wicket as he edged his delivery that turned slightly to Ben Stokes. The skipper himself was stumped while trying to dance down the wicket unnecessarily, that too, when he had a nice partnership of 75 runs going along with Mathews.
All these dismissals showed that they lacked the resolve and application completely. There is no regret if you are out to a good delivery but the question is whether you can pardon yourself if you are dismissed because of your own silly mistake and one moment of madness.
England are already 177 runs ahead in the match now and look to be in a pretty comfortable condition to win this Test match. Beating Sri Lanka at home has never been easy for any visiting team over the years. But this kind of batting performance is doing nothing apart from giving the opponents a free run at their own den. So it’s high time that the other batsmen stepped up because Angelo Mathews can’t save Sri Lanka alone.