You need to respect people who respect us: Mathews | Cricket

There’s a lot in common between Shakib Al Hasan and Angelo Mathews. Contemporaries, both aged 36, both all-rounders who know each other since the 2006 U-19 World Cup and their respective teams’ most experienced and talismanic cricketers. But the last 24 hours have put them in opposite ends of the cricketing spectrum, bringing out two completely contrasting avatars of their characters.

Bangladesh's Mahmudullah (L) and Mushfiqur Rahim run between the wickets as Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews (C) watches during the 2023 ICC Men's Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match (AFP)
Bangladesh’s Mahmudullah (L) and Mushfiqur Rahim run between the wickets as Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews (C) watches during the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup one-day international (ODI) match (AFP)

Pleased with his match-winning performance that ended Bangladesh’s six-game losing streak, a measured Shakib – infamous for his on-field outbursts – was a picture of calm and composure. Mathews, on the other hand, was nothing short of livid, frustrated and fiery, not mincing words following his controversial ‘timed out’ dismissal here on Monday.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. I have two minutes to get to the crease and get myself ready, which I did. And then it was an equipment malfunction. And I don’t know where the common sense went, because obviously it’s disgraceful from Shakib and Bangladesh if they want to play cricket like that, stooping down to that level,” Mathews said in the post-match press conference.

Mathews became the first international cricketer to be timed out in the 146-year history of the sport. The 36-year-old had reached the crease and was about to take guard when he realised that his helmet strap was broken. He took it off and indicated towards the pavilion that he needed a new one. By now Bangladesh skipper Shakib had appealed for timed out following which the umpires upheld the dismissal to Mathews’ utter disbelief. The law states that a new batter must be ready to face a delivery within two minutes of a wicket falling.

“There’s something wrong drastically because if I got late to the crease and the law says you have to be ready within the two minutes, after my helmet broke off, I still had five more seconds to go. And the umpires also have said to our coaches that they didn’t see my helmet breaking. It was just pure common sense. I’m not talking about Mankading or obstructing the field. This is just pure common sense and bringing the game into disrepute. It is absolutely disgraceful,” added Mathews.

His anger spilled over to Tuesday when we went on a tirade on social media, putting out video ‘evidence’ that he had reached the crease before the two minutes had elapsed. Mathews was responding to fourth umpire Adrian Holdstock who had said that the Sri Lankan wasn’t ready to receive the ball within those two minutes, even before the strap became an issue.

“We have video evidence. If anybody wants to contest it, I urge them to. I’m not just coming and saying things here. I’m talking with proof. (The) fourth umpire is wrong here. Video evidence shows I still had five more seconds even after the helmet gave away. Can the fourth umpire rectify this please? Safety is paramount as I just couldn’t face the bowler without a helmet,” said Mathews.

He later put out photos and videos, adding: “Proof! From the time catch was taken and the time helmet strap coming off. I rest my case! Here you go you decide.”

After the umpire had informed Mathews of the dismissal, the Sri Lankan had a discussion with Shakib if he was going to withdraw his appeal to which the latter denied.

“Up to today, I had utmost respect to him (Shakib) and Bangladesh team. I don’t think any other team would do that because it was black and white. It was equipment, the helmet coming off and it was a safety issue because we know that without a helmet, I cannot face a bowler,” said Mathews. “Shakib had the option (of withdrawing the appeal). He knew that this was not time-wasting. I was there within my time. And he had the choice but he decided to go the other way.”

Holdstock had also said that that it is a batter’s responsibility that all equipment is in place so that he/she is ready to face the delivery within those two minutes to which Mathews responded: “It’s quite laughable. It’s our responsibility, yes. If I went without a helmet to a fast bowler, then it’s my responsibility. But some equipment coming off, do you really think I would know it’s going to come off? I don’t understand the logic behind what he has said.”

Many cricketers, both past and present, like Dale Steyn, Gautam Gambhir, Usman Khawaja, Waqar Younis and Mohammad Kaif among many others came out in support of Mathews with some questioning Shakib, believing the Bangladeshi had breached the ‘spirit of the game’ with his actions.

But the skipper defended his decision, also revealing that appealing for timed out wasn’t his brainchild but a teammate’s, refusing to name his colleague. Asked if he has any regrets or if went against the spirit of the game, Shakib said: “Not at all. Unfortunate, but within the rules. (If it goes against the spirit) then ICC should look into it and change the rules. He came and asked me if I (am going to) withdraw my appeal or not. I said I understand your situation but I don’t want to.”

The vibe of the match no longer remained friendly post the dismissal with Mathews even making a gesture as he took Shakib’s wicket, indicating that it was time for him to leave. Many Sri Lankan players also left the field after the match, not performing the customary handshake.

“You need to respect people who respect us. They have to respect the game itself. We all are ambassadors of this beautiful game, including the umpires. If you don’t respect and if you don’t use your common sense, what more can you ask for?” Mathews added.

Mathews’ wicket proved costly as Bangladesh, already out of the race for the semis, won the ill-tempered contest by three wickets to knock Sri Lanka out of the last four race too.

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