Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews has said he pulled out of the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe because an MRI scan revealed several injuries to his leg. He said the decision was taken to help him recover in time for the tour of South Africa in December.
"I had about one-and-a-half months to recover and I was preparing myself to be ready for the Zimbabwe tour," Mathews, who had torn his calf during the ODIs against Australia in August and September, said. "Unfortunately there has been a setback.
"We did an MRI scan, which revealed that I had multiple injuries on the same leg. I had to pull out after the expert medical panel advised me and [told] SLC not to send me to Zimbabwe because it might jeopardise my chances of playing in South Africa. We are planning to take a closer look at why this is happening. The doctors have advised rest, and the recovery can be earlier than that or more; we will have to play it by ear."
Mathews had been named in the original squad for Zimbabwe, but was ruled out last week. He is expected to be out of action for three weeks and is doubtful for the tri-series in Zimbabwe, also involving West Indies, that follows the Tests.
Rangana Herath was appointed captain for the Tests in Zimbabwe, while batsman Upul Tharanga took Mathews' place in the squad.
Sri Lanka have a depleted team for Zimbabwe. Vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal, and fast bowlers Dhammika Prasad, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera were also ruled out due to injuries. The pace attack in Zimbabwe will be led by Suranga Lakmal.
Chandimal was unavailable for the Tests due to a thumb injury for which he underwent surgery in September, but was hopeful of playing the tri-series, which starts from November 14.
Herath, who will be only the second bowler to lead Sri Lanka in Tests, said the team was confident of a good performance in Zimbabwe after a 3-0 series sweep of Australia at home in August.
"If you take our performance in the recent Test series against Australia, the confidence we gained from the 3-0 win will be very beneficial to us," Herath said before the team's departure. "The team's confidence levels are very high after that victory. The team that I have I am confident can perform well in Zimbabwe."
SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala blamed the spate of injuries on poor player management and said the board will address the issue of workloads.
"We have not managed our players properly for the last three years," Sumathipala said. "We have good cricketers who have come in from Under-19, U-23 and club level, but once they reach the top level they can't sustain their physical condition because they have been badly managed.
"Mathews is a world-class allrounder and there is so much demand and so much of pressure on his body that it's not easy for a person like him to be without an injury unless he has a proper scientific approach.
"Mathews had the highest number of match days in the past 18 months. At this level a player simply cannot go on. He has to pull out and take a genuine break for the body to recover. We don't have enough recovery time."
Sumathipala said the possibility of Lakmal going on the South Africa tour without a proper break highlighted how important workload management was for players, particularly bowlers.
"You have to make an assessment of the player and then based on the assessment you make a permanent study of the player, which you call player management," Sumathipala said. "If there is a fast bowler who has bowled 100 overs, there should be a study saying that after 18-20 overs you have to stand him down and pull him out of the game to let him recover physically, which we don't do. We never had proper player management.
"Someone like Suranga Lakmal is being excessively used. Our most important tour is definitely to South Africa. Can we go on this tour without Lakmal being given a break?"
Sumathipala said SLC was studying players during matches and practice sessions and would give them a programme to follow. He also said poor practice facilities resulted in injuries to fast bowlers.
"We don't have a single strip in this country with the impact pads on the bowlers' run-up," Sumathipala said. "The indoor nets have normal concrete run-ups and the bowlers go and land their foot at such speed and with so much weight of the body every day. This is one way they get injured. We have to change all the run-ups and have impact pads on them."
Sri Lanka's first Test against Zimbabwe will be played in Harare from October 29, while the second match is scheduled to start from November 6. The two teams last played a Test in May 2004 in Bulawayo.