Monday, 7 July 2008

The amazing Ajantha Mendis

After eight one-day internationals, Ajantha Mendis is already established as a phenomenon, a freak and a match winner. Yes, it's more than a little presumptuous. But here is a bowler who is utterly extraordinary.

Cricinfo classes him as 'Right-arm slow-medium' which suggests the most innocuous of bowlers: a trundler best reserved for declaration bowling. Yet this classification could hardly be less apt. Mendis would be better classed as simply 'Mystery Spinner'. He is the bowler of dreams and fantasies, not bound by the parameters that affect other bowlers. How do you play a bowler who follows a googly with a doosra? How indeed. The evidence of raw statistics: 11 first-class wickets at 19; a Twenty20 economy rate of just 5.30; and 20 ODI wickets at 10 suggest the question is a rather pressing one for batsmen.

None more so than the Indians, traditionally wonderful players of spin. In his first encounter with them - admittedly the one-day side bereft of their brilliant batting quartet - he bamboozled and humiliated them. Bowlers with such variety are supposed to be afflicted by chronic inconsistency, unable to go more than a few overs without bowling a delivery that demands brutal punishment. Yet Mendis had no such trouble as he embarked on one of the most memorable ODI spells ever seen: eight overs delivered six wickets for just 13 runs. India were hapless and clueless; they had no idea what to expect, and with good reason.

Mendis has yet to play a Test match, lest we forget. His real test, patently, begins now: when his secrets are out in the open and the video analysts are working overtime. For the time being, however, he is a phenomenon, something unlike we have ever seen before. There are comparisons with the legendary Jack Iverson, except that Mendis has even more variations.

We were told there would never be another Murali. But he has an imitator with, for now, even more mystique. No one could ever have imagined Murali would ever be the second most talked-about spinner in Sri Lanka but that is what Mendis has achieved in his fleeting international career. There are many things that could go wrong, as everyone knows, but at this moment Mendis is the most exotic and exciting cricketer on the planet.

1 comment:

Philip Oliver said...

His accuracy should guarantee sustained success and his temperament looks fine as well - he was brought on against India in the midst of Sehwag assault and bowled his best international spell to date.
The Indians seemed to struggle with judging the pace as well as the turn.
England's batsmen should have fun next year!