Not mentally prepared to lead Sri Lanka in World T20: Mathews

Mumbai, March 9 (IANS) Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews on Wednesday said he was not mentally prepared to lead the side in the World Twenty20 cricket tournament after Lasith Malinga stepped down as captain at the last minute.

Malinga resigned on Monday citing knee injuries.

The 27-day tournament got underway in Nagpur on March 8 and will be played at eight venues across India with Eden Gardens in Kolkata scheduled to host the final on April 3.

India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia are clubbed in Group 2 while South Africa, England, the West Indies and Sri Lanka are in Group 1.

“I was not mentally prepared to take up captaincy in the tournament. But I have the experience of captaining for quite a few years now so it is a challenge. Every tournament is a challenge. Every game is a challenge. Whether you are the captain or not you have a certain role to play in the team,” Mathews said at a press conference here.

“The selectors and Lasith have been planning for this tournament for quite a long time so they worked together. And now it is a whole different situation, so I have to do the best and get the best out of the team which I have,” he said.

The skipper also added that the side is hopeful that Malinga who has been out of the side for the last couple of matches due to injury will be available for the first match on March 17.

“It is unfortunate that Malinga is not fit as yet so he had to take that call. But he is a very vital, very important person in our team so we kept him in the squad hoping that he will be able to play the first game. So we want him to rest and recover properly under expert supervision,” he said.

“After he resigned as captain Sri Lanka Cricket asked me to take over. We are not very disturbed because the administrators know what needs to be done so we are not handling that part. As cricketers it is important for us to focus on this tournament. This is a very important tournament. So we are focusing and we are not really worried about what is happening outside,” the 28-year-old said.

Lanka recently lost 1-2 to India in a T20 International series and also failed to reach the final of the just concluded Asia Cup T20 competition.

When asked about the mindset in the team, the all-rounder said, “Not going in as favourites it is doing a favour for us. We have admitted that we haven’t played good cricket in the Asia Cup. But the morale in the team is quite good. We can’t say that we are all depressed and we are mourning about the Asia Cup. It is done and dusted. It is a fresh start for us. So we are hoping that we’ll click.”

The conditions in India are expected to help slower bowlers and spinners and Mathews believes veteran spinner Rangana Herath will play a vital part in the tournament.

“Herath didn’t play a lot of short format cricket. That’s because he told me he is struggling with his knees so we wanted him to play just Test cricket and concentrate on Test cricket,” he said.

“But in an important tournament like this and the Asia Cup we wanted his presence because he is hugely experienced and in the last World Cup he played a major role so we have got a couple of experienced spinners in Sachithra Senayanayke and Herath and both of them will contribute a lot in the bowling department,” Mathews concluded.

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