Days after he was removed from the limited-overs captaincy, Angelo Mathews has been dropped from Sri Lanka’s ODI squad, possibly over fitness concerns. Mathews has responded almost immediately, demanding the selectors allow him to take a fitness test.
The ODI squad for the forthcoming series against England has not yet been released, but it has been named and sent to the sports ministry for the minister’s mandatory approval. As the squad is not official yet, there is a small chance Mathews could find his way back into it. For now, however, he is in a standoff with the selectors.
It is understood that concerns over Mathews’ fitness were a central feature of the meeting between him, coach Chandika Hathurusingha, and the selectors, which took place on Friday – the same meeting in which Mathews was asked to step down from the captaincy. ESPNcricinfo also understands Mathews was one of at least two players asked by Hathurusingha not to undergo a yo-yo test ahead of the Asia Cup, the reasoning being Mathews had played every one of the eight matches during South Africa’s tour of Sri Lanka, and the risk of injury was thus high.
Mathews has also had recurring injuries in his legs, but it is his match fitness that has been called into question on this occasion. In the Asia Cup, he had been sluggish between the wickets, and had played a role in the run-outs of two batting partners.
But although he has stopped bowling in order to prevent further injury, Mathews has been consistent with the bat in ODIs. Since the start of 2017, Mathews has made 888 ODI runs at an average of 59.20, across 22 innings, albeit with a modest strike rate of 76.35. In Sri Lanka’s most recent bilateral series, against South Africa, Mathews was in fact the highest scorer across the five matches, having scored 235 runs at 78.33, with a strike rate of 83.62. Since the start of 2017, no other Sri Lanka batsman with over 500 ODI runs averages more than 45.
Mathews has already hit back at the selectors’ decision to remove him from the captaincy by sending a letter to SLC CEO Ashley de Silva, in which he said he resented being made the “scapegoat” for Sri Lanka’s failure at the Asia Cup. The same selection committee, along with coach Hathurusingha, had asked him to take up the limited-overs captaincy in January, six months after he had resigned as captain last year, ending a five-year tenure.
Sri Lanka’s five-match ODI series against England begins on October 10.