West Indies Under 19 World Cup Winning Team Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka’s New Spin Phenomenon

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Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka’s New Spin Phenomenon

It is certainly premature to expect Mendis to have the same impact as Murali, but there is no doubt that he is a truly exciting prospect. Mendis is very difficult to classify, a spinner without a stock ball who can bowl at medium pace but still turns the ball. He is a finger spinner but can spin the ball like a wrist spinner and is deadly accurate. An excellent mix of attributes and the success he has enjoyed in his young career suggests there are many more to come.

Mendis is 23, young for a spinner on the international stage but old enough not to be a youth prodigy. He has played just 19 first-class matches (taking 111 wickets) but is already part of Sri Lanka’s first-choice One Day squad. A Test call-up cannot be far away and there is no reason to think that he cannot succeed in the toughest form of the game.

The key to his success is change. Finger spinners usually spin the ball between the thumb and forefinger, providing a slight spin from the offside to the bottom. Until Saqlain Mushtaq developed a ‘doosra’, which swung from leg to off, toe spinners were one dimensional and easier to play than accurate leg spinners.

Mendis has an unusual grip, which sees him release the ball with a flick of the fingers from the forehand. Some balls go straight, others turn to leg or outside off and some rush though low and fast. In other words, he bowls a mixture of offs, leg snaps, arm balls and googlies. Confused? The batsmen who face him certainly are, not least because the bowler himself is not looking for what comes next.

This is not to doubt Mendis’ ability or ability to beat the batsmen. He certainly knows how to exploit his variations; it’s just the rate of turn that can be a mystery. Hence, he has been dubbed a ‘mystery spinner’ and his biggest challenge will be maintaining his stealth as the batsmen face him more.

The young man seems to be up to this challenge. He maintained his poise and accuracy when he came into the attack in the 10th over of India’s Asia Cup finals when fielding restrictions were still in place. Virender Sehwag was in the middle of a typical top-order attack but Mendis dismissed him with his second ball and never looked back.

Final figures of six for 13 from eight overs marked his arrival on the international stage. He was quietly successful in the West Indies earlier in the year, but in destroying the world’s best line-up – who later admitted they were helpless in reading his deliveries – Mendis has announced himself as a star of next.

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