Ajantha Mendis – another Murali in the making?

His background is odd. We have heard soldiers making their mark in others fields of sports, but not in cricket. Even during the colonial times, when cricket was restricted to white sahibs, not many military men were seen in turf. Perhaps it has to do with the time one has to spend on practicing and playing. Compared to other games, cricket is a real time killer and to use Sir Arthur Clarke’s words it is the ‘slowest form of human activity’. The dynamism in military often does not go hand in hand with such a slow form of sports.

Ajantha Mendis, of course, is a trend setter, not a mere follower of traditions. He is surely a new generation cricketer – in every aspect. Players like him are the ones who so audaciously pronounce that cricket is no more a game to be played only by Colombo elite – or in the broader sense the white sahibs who invented it. A latest icon of Y generation, he shows the sign of becoming another Murali, filling a talent gap that existed for too long. Don’t think Aussies will be too happy.

Some more about this young star from Wikipedia:

Balapuwaduge Ajantha Winslo Mendis (born March 11, 1985 in Moratuwa) is a cricketer who plays for the Sri Lankan national cricket team.

Although classified as a right-arm, slow-medium bowler, Ajantha Mendis is a spinner who bowls a mixture of googlies, offbreaks, top-spinners, flippers and legbreaks. Batsmen have been confounded by the variety of deliveries he has up his sleeve and are at a loss to figure out what his stock delivery is. Mendis was a prolific wicket-taker for Sri Lanka Army in the 2007-08 season and had taken 46 wickets at an average of 10.56 and strike-rate of 31 from six matches. His performances did not go unnoticed for Mendis was called up to the Sri Lanka squad for the tour of West Indies in April 2008 After impressing on debut in the Caribbean, Mendis only grew in stature – in particular, because of his ‘flicker’, which he releases with an unusual snap of his fingers. In a short span of time since his debut, Mendis has flummoxed international batsmen and teams renowned for their ability to play spin bowling. His best bowling performance in a one-day international came in the final of the 2008 Asia Cup, where he took 6 wickets for 13 runs in just his eighth match. His 17 wickets in the tournament earned him the Man-of-the-Series award.

A right arm spinner, he made his One-Day International debut against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 2008 and took 3 for 39. He also plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.

The veteran West Indies cricket writer Tony Becca wrote in the Jamaica Gleaner: “Mendis bowls everything. With a smile on his face as he caresses the ball before delivering it, he bowls the offbreak, he bowls the legbreak, he bowls the googly, he bowls the flipper, he bowls a straight delivery, he bowls them with different grips and different actions, he bowls them with a different trajectory and at a different pace, and he disguises them brilliantly. The result is that he mesmerises, or bamboozles, batsmen.”

Jerome Jayaratne, the Sri Lanka Cricket Academy coach, said: “Mendis is unusual, freaky and has developed a ball which could be described as a ‘flicker’, which he releases with a snap of his fingers, which is very unusual compared to other orthodox spin bowlers.” That ball is reminiscent of the former Australia spinner Johnny Gleeson, who had a similar delivery.

Mendis is the author of a new delivery – the Carrom Ball. Since the Doosra, the Carrom Ball is the latest addition to the cricket lexicon.

To bowl a “carrom ball” in cricket, the ball is held between the thumb, forefinger and the middle finger, and instead of a regular release, the ball is squeezed out/ flicked by the fingers like a Carrom player flicking the disc on a Carrom Board. It could result in an off-break, a leg-break, a googly or even a zooter.

“I have just seen the future of spin bowling – and his name is Ajantha Mendis.” Rob Steen thinks Sri Lanka’s latest find is a keeper.

Ajantha Mendis, playing his eighth ODI, picked up the first six-wicket haul in the Asia Cup final against India in July 2008. His 6 for 13 is the third-best bowling performance in a tournament final, and the third-best for a spinner in ODIs. His 17 wickets is the best for an edition of the Asia Cup, and he bagged those wickets at an astounding average of 8.52. Ajantha Mendis won the man of the match award in the finals as well as the player of the tournament award for his efforts.