All-rounder Angelo Mathews is perhaps one of the few players in the current Sri Lankan national team who can claim to be a truly world-class cricketer, and over the course of the past few months, his stature has only grown.The gulf in quality between some of his team mates and him is quite clear.
At the same time, it is necessary to keep in mind that Mathews himself has also had his own share of ups and downs with injuries, loss of form and in fact played solely as a batsman in the Champions Trophy in England earlier this year.
That said, his quality as an all rounder has never been in doubt and ever since his debut for Sri Lanka in 2008, he has proven himself to be one of the better players in the side. Over the past few years, Mathews has become more of a batting all rounder and it seems he concentrates more on his batting due to the injuries that he sustained over the years. In spite of that, when he does bowl he makes sure that the batsmen think twice before taking any liberties.
At this point in time, Mathews is more of a batsman or rather a batting all-rounder rather than a genuine all rounder who can swing a game with either the bat or the ball. The decision to concentrate more on his batting shows that he is someone who knows his limits as a cricketer now that he is 30 years old and has hence decided to focus more on the discipline that has always been his stronger suit.
As a batsman, Mathews is equally adept at playing either spin or pace irrespective of the nature of the pitch and can actually score at a fast clip. On his day, he can take on any bowler and annihilate any bowling attack. The best example of that being the epic match winning 160 he scored at Headingley.
As a limited overs cricketer, he was the ‘finisher’ in the Sri Lankan team for quite some time and his tight, accurate medium pace bowling made him one of the world’s noted all rounders. In addition to his ability to pace an innings, he can hit sixes when necessary and most importantly, he has the skill to read the match situation perfectly.
The best example of such an innings was the 77 he scored against Australia in Melbourne to chase down a target of 240 after Sri Lanka had sunk to 107-8. He is, without a doubt, Sri Lanka’s best batsman and considering the fact that he is still only 30, his best years might just be beginning.
Mathews is a stroke maker par excellence and can do almost everything that one would expect from a batsman.
He has no real weakness as a batsman but his baffling loss of form as a batsman since his watershed year in 2014, when he plundered 1160 runs in 2014. However, it is important to point out that the golden harvest of 2014 also coincided with one of the best years for Sri Lankan cricket and more importantly, it came under his captaincy.
As Sri Lanka’s fortunes took a nose-dive, so did his record as a batsman and according to Sri Lankan journalist Andrew Fidel Fernando, it has more to do with mentality than technique. There is hardly anything amiss with his technique but it seems that the team’s failures have rubbed off on him mentally and that has led to a sharp downturn in form.
Many of his dismissals are down to careless shots. In addition to that, giving up the captaincy was a clear indication that he was not quite enjoying leading the side through all those defeats and that eventually started affecting his batting.
As Fernando pointed it out in an article for Cricinfo earlier this year, “… far worse has been the lack of conviction in his strokes, pushing tentatively even after he has struck firm boundaries, handing out soft dismissals to every team that rolls up ”. The point of this long winded ramble about this loss of form is that Mathews is possibly not as mentally tough as some of his contemporaries. In a nutshell, when the mood is wrong everything can go haywire.
In the recent series against India, Mathews did bowl at some points and it seems that he might go back to being an all-rounder in the immediate future. However, there are questions marks about his fitness levels and whether he can replicate his old prowess as a bowler.
His pace has gone down considerably over the past few years and unless he can develop plenty of variations then it is highly unlikely that Mathews will ever be the bowler that he once used to be.