Sri Lanka‘s veteran stars Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal are critical to the young side’s hopes at the 2019 World Cup despite poor form and recent injuries, said former captain and world cup winner Aravinda de Silva.
The islanders failed to make the final of the ongoing Twenty20 tri-series in Colombo, but their recent performances have raised hopes of a resurgence after a lacklustre 2017, in which they lost 40 of 57 international matches.
“I think Angelo is probably the most capable allrounder of the side and also has a good cricketing brain along with Chandimal,” said de Silva, who was a star batsman in the Sri Lankan side that won the World Cup in 1996.
He told AFP that captaincy will not make a difference.
“It doesn’t matter (if) you are captain or a normal player as you put in the same kind of effort.”
Mathews, 30, returned to lead Sri Lanka’s limited-overs sides earlier this year after quitting as captain last July, but has played only one international match because of injury. Test skipper Chandimal has led the one-day and T20 teams in his absence.
An improved Sri Lanka won the recent ODI tri-series in Bangladesh and also beat the Tigers in the Test and T20 series.
The resurgence has been credited to new coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who moved back to his native Sri Lanka after coaching Bangladesh for nearly three years.
De Silva believes Hathurusingha’s ease of communication with players gives him an advantage over a foreign coach.
“He is probably the best… plainly because of the fact that he can relate to the players far better and the players can also relate to him,” de Silva said.
“There is no language or a culture barrier and… it helps because they can voice their opinion.”
Sri Lankan players were accused of being “too fat” by the country’s sports minister last year as the defeats piled up, and were told to get fit or get out.
But de Silva, who resigned as head of the cricket committee of the island’s board last year, believes the players look fit and improvements are visible.
“I think they are playing better cricket now. I hope with a little more exposure and experience they will start doing well as a young new team,” said the 52-year-old veteran.
An attacking batsman during his illustrious career between 1984 and 2002, de Silva singled out wicketkeeper-batsman Kusal Perera as a future star.
“I see a lot of Sanath (Jayasuriya) in him and I think it is a crime to leave a guy like him out of the Test team,” he said, referring to his former teammate and explosive opener whose whirlwind style revolutionised top-order batting in the 1990s.
Perera has smashed three fifties in four matches of the ongoing T20 tri-series. He has represented Sri Lanka in 73 ODIs and 34 T20s, but has played only 10 Tests since his debut in the format in 2015.
De Silva said that T20 cricket, instead of hampering the skills of upcoming players, has helped improve modern batters.
“Attacking cricket is always good and I think T20 has enhanced the repertoire of strokeplay,” he said.
The former England batsman, who has been quite publicly edging closer to retirement over recent months, helped Quetta qualify from the group stages and move closer to a third successive final appearance in the Twenty20 tournament.
However, after playing all of their matches so far in Sharjah and Dubai, Quetta will now return to Pakistan to face Peshawar Zalmi at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday – and Pietersen has opted not to travel .
In a video posted on the Quetta Gladiators’ official Twitter feed, Pietersen said: “Hi guys, it is with a very hardened heart, a very sorry heart, that I have to leave Dubai, going back to London now.
“I wish I could travel but unfortunately family’s very important, family decision, and I hope that you can respect my decision and my family’s decision not to travel. ”
— Quetta Gladiators (@TeamQuetta) March 17, 2018
Pietersen said he would continue to support Quetta as they looked to finally win the tournament after losing in the 2016 and 2017 finals.
He added: “I’ll be totally on top of everything we do over the next couple of days. Third time lucky, remember.”
Quetta tweeted: “You will be missed @KP24 Great career!! Thank you for everything. Wish you could stayed with us till PSL final but we respect your decision.”
The decision not to travel to Pakistan appears to mean that Pietersen’s final game as a professional cricketer came on Thursday, when he scored seven runs in Quetta’s six-wicket defeat to Islamabad United in Sharjah.
The 37-year-old posted a brief Tweet on Friday night which appeared to hint at retirement, saying: “BOOTS UP. Thank you.”
Family, animals, golf…!
H O M E! https://t.co/3h4c3RvTxN
— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) March 17, 2018
Pietersen then returned to social media with a similar Tweet on Saturday morning.
Accompanying an Instagram picture apparently showing Pietersen with his feet up on a plane, he wrote: “Boots up! Feet up! Family, animals, golf…!”
A T20 specialist since his high-profile England exile in the wake of the 2013/14 Ashes, Pietersen has been saying farewell wherever he has gone over the last year.
The South Africa-born batsman played his final professional match in England with Surrey last summer and bid farewell to the Big Bash with the Melbourne Stars in January.
Modest returns came at the PSL and now Pietersen appears to be done, concentrating on his conservation work with rhinos.
England’s second-highest run scorer across all three forms of the game, Pietersen won four Ashes series and hit 8,181 runs in 104 Tests.
He captained England – briefly – and was Man of the Tournament as England won the World T20 title in 2010.
His international career ended acrimoniously, never playing for England again after a high-profile falling out following the Ashes whitewash four years ago.
T20 country-hopping followed, along with a move into broadcasting.
Former team-mates and opponents have been paying tribute to the flamboyant batsman, including the likes of ex-England captain Michael Vaughan and former West Indies skipper Darren Sammy.
Well done @KP24 on an fantastic career … Not everyone’s Cup of Tea but you will do for me … Best Batsman I had the pleasure to play with … 1st England batsman that put fear into the Aussies .. #WellDone
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 16, 2018
Vaughan said Pietersen was the best batsman he had played with.
He Tweeted: “Well done @KP24 on an fantastic career … Not everyone’s Cup of Tea but you will do for me … Best Batsman I had the pleasure to play with … 1st England batsman that put fear into the Aussies .. #WellDone”
Former England star Kevin Pietersen hung up his cricket boots on Friday with his Pakistan Super League (PSL) side Quetta Gladiators’ progression to the eliminators. Having opted out of travelling to Pakistan for the final stages of the competition, the 37-year-old’s glittering career has come to an end.
Having last appeared for England in January 2014, Pietersen had been plying his trade in the various T20 leagues around the globe which have cropped up in the last few years.
Here, we take a look at the top five journeymen currently active in T20 franchise cricket who have been away from the international stage for some time now.
DWAYNE BRAVO – WEST INDIES
The Trinidad and Tobago all-rounder has not played for the West Indies since 2016 and had admitted that his international career is all but over after multiple run-ins with the country’s cricketing board. He remains a hit in T20 franchise cricket though, showcasing his wares in the IPL, PSL, Big Bash League (BBL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
BRENDON MCCULLUM – NEW ZEALAND
The former Blackcaps skipper’s swashbuckling batting was always tailor-made for the format and it has seen him being the top draw in the various franchise competitions. A veteran of over 329 matches in the format, McCullum is nearing 9,000 runs and should be able to do so in the upcoming edition of the IPL.
DWAYNE SMITH – WEST INDIES
Bravo’s former West Indies team-mate is also another Caribbean player who is a huge hit in T20 leagues across the world. The 34-year-old has not played international cricket since 2014 but that has not stopped the Barbados man from turning up at all major T20 leagues. Over 7,000 runs and 100 wickets in the format is perhaps why Smith still remains in demand.
BRAD HODGE – AUSTRALIA
He might be 43 years of age now but Hodge has been a constant in T20 leagues around the globe since time immemorial. The Aussie shows no signs of stopping just yet, having recently turned up for the Melbourne Renegades in the BBL. Like the others in the list, Hodge has participated in almost every major T20 league known to mankind.
LUKE WRIGHT – ENGLAND
The England man’s international career has come to a standstill since 2014 but he hasn’t let that prevent him from making a career as a T20 journeyman. With stints in the IPL, PSL, BBL and BPL, the all-rounder has racked up over 6,500 runs in the format. Still only 34, Wright is set to feature in T20 leagues for another few years at least.