Captaincy merry-go-round continues for Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan captaincy has been passed like a relay baton, with the selectors seemingly unable to earmark a potential successor

By Matthew Wiggins
Mahela Jayawarden
Mahela Jayawardene is only planning to remain as captain for a year Photo: hashmil, via Flickr

Mahela Jayawarden

The cavalry rode in to save Sri Lankan cricket once more, but won’t be hanging around for long.

Mahela Jayawardene revealed he will only remain as captain of his country for a year after taking over from Tillakaratne Dilshan, who resigned on Monday.

“This is a juncture where the Sri Lanka cricket team needs someone’s help,” Jayawardene told journalists in Colombo. “I told the selectors that I will at the most remain the captain for a year, and we came to an agreement.”

The Sri Lankan captaincy has been passed like a relay baton between Dilshan, Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara in recent times. None of them really seem too passionate about the job on a long-term basis and the selectors seem unable to earmark a potential, younger successor.

Jayawardene was a successful captain between 2004 and 2011 and the Sri Lankan side thrived under him. In all formats he led the side in 133 matches, winning 77, a percentage of 58. He resigned to allow a successor to build a side that would be capable of challenging for the 2011 World Cup.

Sangakkara was the man given the challenge and, like his predecessor performed well winning 54 per cent of his 81 matches. Sri Lanka reached the World Cup final but lost out to a somewhat ominous Indian side, playing on home soil.

Sangakkara walked away from his duties after the final giving the same reasons as Jayawardene. Sangakkara’s wish was that a young captain could be given four years in the job to build a squad for the next World Cup.

However, the Sri Lankan selectors seemed to go against Sangakkara’s advice. They appointed the 34-year-old Dilshan in a decision that has gone dramatically pear-shaped.

Dilshan won just 11 matches since taking over the captaincy and resigned after criticism emerged over his leadership.

For a struggling side, rebuilding after the loss of Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and others, the Sri Lankan chiefs have seriously dented their cricketing future by appointing Dilshan. And by then reverting back to type in asking Jayawardene to fill in, they have showed that they have not learned from their mistakes. A perfect opportunity to build for the future after Dilshan’s resignation had presented itself, but disappointingly, they have decided to play safe instead.

This strategy cannot go on forever, all three former captains are well into their 30’s and they will not be playing for much longer. Admittedly, there is only one stand out candidate for the captaincy, and the Sri Lankan selectors must be painfully aware of that.

Angelo Mathews has been vice captain for a number of series’ now and is surely the Sri Lankan captain elect. However, he is just 24 years old and is already the side’s premier all rounder after just 22 Test matches.

There is a huge responsibility in leading a side while fulfilling all-rounder duties, just ask Andrew Flintoff. However, if the authorities see something in Mathews then they need to get him into the role as soon as possible. A young captain can bring fresh ideas and a fearlessness that Dilshan perhaps didn’t carry with him, having succeeded two very iconic captains.

Replacing a failed captain in Dilshan, and rebuilding the side would be a much easier task for Mathews than taking over from the large shadow that is Jayawardene. Should Jayawardene revitalise the side and turnaround their results, it would be extremely difficult for Mathews, who has limited senior captaincy experience, to carry that on.

Jayawardene told the media that he wants to groom a young side as well as a captain during the year that he is in charge.

If he succeeds he would have done his country a great service, but perhaps he could have refused the captaincy all together to help his country even more in the long run.


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