Mathews has been praised by Sangakarra to having good leadership qualities; Sangakarra had also tipped him to take over as captain after his resignation. Dilshan was later named as captain. However, Mathews was strangely overlooked as vice captain, with the selectors naming Thilina Kandamby, who had not played for Sri Lanka regularly or for a prolonged period as vice captain for Sri Lanka's 2011 ODI and T20 tour of England. But the move backfired on Duleep Mendis's selection panel, when Kandamby fared miserably with the bat, forcing them to drop the new vice captain. At the end of July 2011, Mathews was named as Dilshan's vice-captain. He was retained in the role after Dilshan resigned and was replaced by Mahela Jayawardene in January 2012.
After Sri Lanka's loss in the final of the 2012 ICC World Twenty20, the skipper Mahela Jayawardene stepped down as captain of the T20 side. Later that month, Mathews was appointed as the T20 captain with Lasith Malinga as his deputy. In February 2013 Mathews was named as ODI and Test captain succeeding Mahela Jayawardene Although Matthews was no longer in charge of the T20 side and Dinesh Chandimal took over the job.;