For a moment, Angelo Mathews let his concentration slip and Stuart Binny had his first Test wicket. Sri Lanka skipper had just completed his sixth Test hundred, and looked a little relaxed. His team was still 109 runs adrift of India’s first innings total and Sri Lanka needed Mathews to stay there. His dismissal triggered a collapse and the hosts lost their last four wickets for 22 runs to be bowled out for 306.
It was the only blemish in an otherwise flawless innings. Mathews once again underlined his importance. Without his effort, Sri Lanka would have been on the mat.
Quality seam-bowling all-rounders are at a premium these days and Mathews is perhaps the only one available post Jacques Kallis’ retirement. England, New Zealand and Australia have Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson and Mitchell Marsh respectively but all are pretty early into their careers and yet to establish themselves in the longer format.
Mathews has scored 1,657 runs at 66.28 in 17 Tests (four hundreds) over the past 18 months, has taken 16 wickets at 33.18. He has become the bedrock of the team as Sri Lankan cricket enters a new era.
India need to find their own ‘Mathews’ to strike the right balance. Virat Kohli’s five specialist batters theory demands a genuine all-rounder at No. 6 and if the team management feels Binny is the right man for the job, he must be given a long rope. Like Rohit Sharma, the Karnataka man, too, should be given enough assurance so that he can play without looking over his shoulder.
Binny needs favourable conditions to make an impact with the ball. But when there’s not enough movement in the air or off the deck he can be used as a defensive option, bowling stump to stump. He did the job pretty well in this Test, giving away only 44 runs in his 18 overs. He was unlucky not to have more than one wicket.
Binny’s batting, however, remains very unconvincing. A by-product of the IPL, he needs to tighten his game a lot to make an impact in Tests. His father Roger was a decent lower-order batsman. His team director Ravi Shastri was a very useful all-rounder. So there will be no shortage of advice.
A stint in County cricket should help. It’s easy to be swept away by the lure of cash-rich T20 cricket, but if Binny wants to make a mark at the highest level, he must give his first-class cricket more importance.
Cheteshwar Pujara went to play for Yorkshire this season and according to him, came back a better player. It’s up to Binny to decide how he wants to shape up his career.