Cricket Statistics: Is Angelo Mathews Set to Become Sri Lanka's Next True Great?

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

In guiding Sri Lanka to the nation's maiden Test series victory in England, Angelo Mathews appears set to rise into the upper echelons of cricket's pecking order. 

Like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene before him, the 27-year-old is blossoming into a decisive figure for Sri Lanka at a time when generational change awaits his national side. 

Of course, it was more than a decade ago when the retirements of Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva appeared ready to gut the Sri Lankan lineup, only for Sangakkara and Jayawardene to rapidly fill the void left by their illustrious predecessors. 

Pleasingly, Mathews is following the same path, excelling like never before as Sri Lanka begin preparing themselves for the departures of the team's two great stalwarts. 

So, is the current Test and one-day international captain set to become his nation's next true great? Can Mathews—the man whom Sri Lanka's future is pinned on—join the likes of Ranatunga, De Silva, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas in the pantheon of Sri Lankan cricket?

The statistics suggest he will. 

The most notable aspect of Mathews' rise has been the transformation of his record since ascending to the captaincy. 

While the batting all-rounder had been groomed for the position well in advance of his appointment, the versatile talent needed almost four complete seasons after his Test debut in 2009 to develop his game to the point it has reached now.

But the patience shown during Mathews' development has well and truly paid off for Sri Lanka, the 27-year-old rapidly entrenching himself as the cornerstone of his team since assuming the side's leadership.

Nowhere has that been more evident than Mathews' performances with the bat in the game's longest format. Across a remarkable 15-month stretch as captain, the right-hander has rivalled the records of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, helping to steer his team to four victories and four draws in nine Tests.

Angelo Mathews' Test Batting Record
Not as CaptainAs Captain
Matches319
Innings5016
Runs1,668946
Average39.7178.83
100s13
50s113
ESPN Cricinfo

The extent of improvement in his robust technique was on show during both Tests in England, as Mathews struck centuries at both Lord's and Headingley to snatch the series away from Alastair Cook's men.

But it doesn't stop there, either.

Historically, Sri Lanka have endured significant problems when touring England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, primarily down to the nation's lack of quality seamers.

The captain might be ready to change that. 

Although Mathews is highly unlikely to become a spearhead of the nation's attack, the continual improvement in his bowling gives the Sri Lankans far more versatility when touring.

On faster and greener surfaces, the all-rounder's presence will ensure his team can field four seam options, helping to spread the burden of capturing wickets in foreign conditions. When drier wickets present themselves, Mathews' abilities with the ball will allow Sri Lanka to select a second spinner alongside two front-line seamers, helping the team to play to their inherent strengths. 

When you examine the development of his bowling at Test level—an improvement mirroring his rise with the bat—it becomes clear how pivotal the captain will be to his side. 

Angelo Mathews' Test Bowling Record
Not as CaptainAs Captain
Matches319
Innings3314
Wickets117
Average70.4545.28
BBI2/604/44
ESPN Cricinfo

However, perhaps more than any other nation, success in the limited-overs formats is just as important as positive results in Test cricket for Sri Lanka.

It must be remembered that the island nation owns a rich history in coloured clothing. It was under Ranatunga that Sri Lanka changed the way the one-day international game was played, revolutionising the approach taken by top-order batsman in the mid 1990s. 

Since then, the country has maintained a superb record in global tournaments, reaching six finals and claiming two titles (1996 World Cup and 2014 World Twenty20) in less than two decades. To put that into perspective, the cricketing colossus of India—a nation with more than one billion peoplehas won the same amount of titles and reached two less finals as the tiny Sri Lanka in the same period. 

The point of such a history lesson? Mathews will be judged by what he achieves in coloured clothing more than any other captain among the world's top-eight sides. 

Sri Lanka will be delighted, therefore, with the leader's growing reputation in the one-day international arena as well.

Like his record in five-day cricket, Mathews' batting statistics as his team's 50-over captain are extremely impressive for a middle-order player.

Angelo Mathews' ODI Batting Record
Not as CaptainAs Captain
Matches8938
Innings7233
Runs1,771955
Average34.7241.52
100s00
50s136
ESPN Cricinfo

And a similar theme extends to his work with the ball in the one-day international arena.

As has been evident since the rise of limited-overs cricket from the 1970s onward, all-rounders have been among the most influential performers in the 50-over game. 

From yesteryear's greats in Sir Ian Botham, Sir Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan, to more modern stars such as Jacques Kallis, Chris Cairns, Andrew Flintoff and Shahid Afridi, the multi-discipline players have been indispensable in one-day cricket.

Currently, Mathews sits at No. 3 in the official ICC ODI all-rounder rankings, which isn't at all surprising when you examine his ongoing development as a limited-overs bowler.

Angelo Mathews' ODI Bowling Record
Not as CaptainAs Captain
Matches8938
Innings7132
Wickets5423
Average35.8832.91
BBI6/204/29
ESPN Cricinfo

Therefore, the Sri Lankan captain's orchestration of his team's historic Test series victory in England—which, don't forget, was precluded by the capture of the one-day series against the same opponentis likely to be the first of many glittering achievements based on his current trajectory in the game. 

And, just as Sangakkara and Jayawardene did more than a decade ago, Mathews is growing into a Sri Lankan great just when his nation needed him. 

 

All statistics courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.

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