SRI LANKA TOUR OF INDIA, 2017
Dinesh Chandimal is banking on the experience of Angelo Mathews © AFP
Dinesh Chandimal watches in surprise as the commotion at a packed Eden Gardens press conference room slowly settles down after he takes his place in front. There’s a smile on his face that overstays, courtesy the cameramen who furiously click away for a few minutes before the press conference could commence.
Chandimal isn’t the most expressive captains going around, and tries to maintain his smile while fielding questions about the drubbing at the hands of India at home recently first up. He offers nothing more than “we’re more confident this time” while talking of the prospect of facing the same Indian team again.
And then there’s a moment, when the topic veers towards the returning Angelo Mathews that brings a glint in the skipper’s eye. And a slight shrug of the shoulders.
“Yeah, actually. If he’s bowling, it gives us more confidence, and we can balance the side really well. But unfortunately, with his injuries, he can’t bowl, especially in Test cricket,” he says. But now is not the time to brood over what could have been, and Chandimal is aware.
“But to be having his experience, you know – he was unbelievable in 2013 and 14, so I’m sure he will put his hand up and do his best in this series, and for the batting unit, it gives us very good confidence,” he offers.
Mathews putting his hand up is precisely what Sri Lanka could do with at the moment. The now fully-fit 30-year-old is one of only two players from the squad to have played a Test on Indian soil before, and returns with a great opportunity to give his career a fresh lease of life – to move on from the wretched period that saw him grapple with injuries and a severe dip in form.
In 32 innings since his last Test century in August 2015, Mathews has managed just five fifty-plus scores and has seen his average drop down to 44. But Chandimal chose to ignore Mathews’s recent struggles, and rather reminisced the latter’s purplest of patches in 2013-14, when he averaged 76.65 in 15 Tests.
That Mathews should rework the magic from that phase right after a comeback from constant layoffs might sound too ambitious, far-fetched even. But Chandimal is leaving no stone unturned in a bid to have his predecessor hit the reset button in the best possible manner.
“He’s going to bat at No. 4, so that’s [what] we are looking at, because he’s got all the experience. It’s better to send him top of the order and get the maximum out of him.”
Over to Angelo to answer Sri Lanka’s latest SOS call.