One Man Army – Captain ‘Marvel’, Angelo Mathews


The year of 2014 is almost coming to a close and the cricketing world has witnessed many unforgettable incidents, rising stars, controversies, nail-biting matches and then – Angelo Davis Mathews. 

The Sri Lanka ODI and Test captain has hit great heights in 2014 and many pundits believe and this scribe pledges, he is on his way to write a legacy of his own. As the movie Spider Man denotes – “With great power comes great responsibility.”  the young man, who was piled on a great responsibility at a tender age when his senior colleagues threw in the towel, has justified the above quip vehemently.  He has shown a penchant to playing with responsibility, and as a leader he has steered his team to many victories yanking them out of dark holes a number of times.  Angelo has become a nightmare for the opposition bowling since took on the mandate as Sri Lanka’s youngest Test captain at the young age of 25.

Scoring 1000 runs each in Tests and ODIs in one calendar year is of special significance with not many people having. achieved that double feat. Angelo Mathews has become the first player in 2014 to do so and certainly the only one batting so low in the order. The 27-year-old took 25 innings to get to this milestone in ODIs and his tally stands at 1062 runs with an average of 70.80 for the year. In Test cricket he has amassed 1201 runs in 19 innings with a staggering average of 92.38. Unequivocally you can declare that ‘Captain Marvel’ has been spectacular this year.

A theory that holds some water is  that Sri Lankans perform well only in home conditions but Angelo has completely refuted that by scoring a basket full of runs and leading his team to a historical victory in England which is undoubtedly a phenomenal feature. In Bangladesh he led his team to the Asia Cup triumph and he was a pivotal player in Sri Lanka’s World T20 success.    

Has Angelo Mathews become a one man army? He can bat and win games, he can bowl the best tidy spells and take wickets at crucial times, and he can take extraordinary catches. But most importantly, he has an astute cricketing brain on  his broad shoulders which is paramount for a successful captain. 

He started his career at number 6 and has now  gradually moved up the order to number 5. Many ardent fans of Sri Lanka Cricket believe that Angelo should shift one place to settle at number 4.  However, to my thinking the best position for ‘Mr. Reliable’ to work his magic is from number 5. He has this special ability of farming the strike and then accelerating cleverly in the end overs as he did in his most recent knock (139*) against India where he scored his maiden ODI ton. He smashed 10 sixes against the Indian bowlers and it has been registered in record books as the most by any captain in an ODI innings. Mathews overcame former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting’s record of 9 sixes.

Adding to the list of achievements for Mathews during 2014, he swept nearly all the honours at Dialog Sri Lanka Cricket Awards winning Sri Lanka’s Cricketer of the Year, best ODI batsman and sharing the best Test batsman award with the one-and-only Kumar Sangakkara. He was shortlisted for the ICC Cricketer of the Year and ICC Test Cricketer of the Year awards which he narrowly lost to Australia’s Mitchell Johnson in both categories but as a hallmark of his rising as a legendary leader, he was named the Captain of the ICC Test team of the year. At the conclusion of the Indian series, Mathews has ascended to a career-best batting ranking of 10 in the world and to the summit of the ODI all-rounder’s list. He is surely on his way to the top in batting with the purple patch he is in right now.

Above all what makes him a fine leader is his selfless nature as captain, putting always his team at the top of his priorities. He was accused of his negative bowling and fielding strategies in Sharjah, 10 months ago against Pakistan but he quickly gathered himself together and revealed his attacking side when he led Sri Lanka to a 2-0 test win over the same opponents at home.  

Mathews is no doubt a fantastic batsman with an exceptional temperament and a sound technique. There are invisible factors that make players tick and discover different dimensions of their game and perhaps batting with the tail in hostile conditions is what brings out the best in him.  He has proved this theory many times over like the 149-run stand for the eighth wicket with Rangana Herath to take the 2nd Test away from England and his world record stand with Lasith Malinga in that famous ‘Melbourne’ rescue operation in 2010. Not many have achieved greatness batting with the tail as his compatriot batting legends with similar performances have made their runs batting in the top 4. Angie’s unique mind-set and calm approach makes him one of the best in the business to bat at the end and all his dazzling match-saving or match-winning knocks have come while batting with a weak tail mostly 9, 10 and jack. Captain ‘Marvel’ more than proves the theory ‘a game is never over until the last ball is bowled.”

He was groomed to be an outstanding leader from his school days at St. Joseph’s College. From the day he came into the national side in 2008, he seemed pre-destined to captain Sri Lanka. Mathews is a natural leader with a skill set of his own and he may not be a tactical genius like Mahela, but like MS Dhoni he seems to be a very good leader of people and a fighting character like Arjuna Ranatunga who also batted most of his career at number 5 or 6.

The biggest challenge in Mathews’ career will be the upcoming 2015 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand which will define his bequest of writing his name as the most accomplished captain of Sri Lanka. Can he lead his side to the 1996 equivalent in few months? Can the young skipper build a side which can topple the fast-bowler oriented teams like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand? Twenty million fans in the paradise island and many more around the globe will anxiously wait for the answers …… – skipper this one is for you !!