Angelo Mathews Read Mahela Like No One Did

Mahela retired.  Had to happen someday.  He’s been around long enough.  He’s done the hard yards.  He has the stats to show for it.  He has the moments.  The accolades.  And they will continue to come for a few days.  Then there will be the ‘distraction’ of the ODI series and the forget-all-else biggies, the World Cup.  He will duly reflect on his future in ODIs.  Then he will retire from that format as well.  And we’ll see another splash of stats, detailing of career highlights, accolades and the man himself looking back and offering some sober thoughts in his matter-of-fact way.  No frills.  A lot of humility.  Salaams to contemporary greats.  Philosophy. 
It will all add up to a grace that does justice to the way he has carried himself on and off the field over his fairly lengthy international career. 
This, however, is not about Mahela Jayawardena. Well, it is obviously framed by his retirement, but it is inspired by something that someone said about the man that no one else thought to touch on.  The man of this ‘writing-moment’ is not Mahela Jayawardena.  It is the current skipper Angelo Mathews.
When Angelo Mathews made his test debut against Pakistan in July 2009, Mahela Jayawardena was a 11-year veteran and one who had already had a stint as Sri Lanka’s test captain.  So it was natural that Angelo said ‘Mahela has been a pillar of strength, an older brother for me.’  Angelo was earmarked for captaincy.  He has played under Mahela, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekaratne Dilshan. The first two had relatively long tenures at the helm and Angelo must have picked up a lot of tips.  There would have been some mentoring too on the part of Mahela and Kumar.  Angelo acknowledged. As he should.
He added, ‘He’s the smartest guy in the team, the go-to man always, and the effort that he makes with his knowledge and ability is wonderful.’  It has been observed by many that there were times (especially during Sri Lanka’s amazing run in the T-20 World Cup) when it was hard to figure out who was the real decision maker on the field.  It was less a matter of Angelo picking Mahela’s brains that Mahela dishing out voluntarily the most potent of brain-parts.  Angelo never showed annoyance.  More importantly he did not feel diminished but in fact showed maturity beyond his years to take it all and still not look as though he was a pedestrian in the affairs of the team.
The accolades, however, are run of the mill.  Expected.  Acknowledged with grace by all of course, but nevertheless not newsworthy outside of the need to jot down what the skipper had to say about a departing teammate and an icon of the game. 
Here’s where Angelo got in something everyone missed.  He said, ‘Thank you to his parents for bringing him up the way they have.’  That’s not about cricket. That’s about Mahela the human being.  Mahela the son.  Mahela the decent citizen. 
Mahela, in his farewell speech, thanks one and all. He did not forget his parents.  ‘They were there for me from day one,’ he said.  Goes for all parents.  Expected words from a son. Some of course don’t credit too many people and some forget parents and teachers believing that did it all ‘their way’ and even ‘on their own’.  Mahela’s acknowledgment is appreciated.  Angelo’s is special.  He was not talking of his own parents.  He was thoughtful enough to appreciate the significance of Mahela’s parents in his life, his career and his success. 
If you googled for Mahela’s parents, you might not find a picture.  Google ‘Mahela’s family’ and you get his wife and child.  There’s just one picture that came up in my search.  It was taken at an event welcoming the team after making it to the World Cup final in 2007: one among several pictures of the players and their families.  Mahela with his wife and his parents.  ‘Tired but happy to be home: Captain Mahela with his wife and parents’ the caption reads.

Angelo Mathews is not a silver tongued Sangakkara. Assertive as he is, Angelo does not have as authoritative a presence in the field as did Mahela. He is nevertheless a thinking captain.  That’s obvious.  He thinks deep about a lot of things.  That is not so obvious. Now we know.

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