Tag Archives: Ajanta Mendis

Preview: Sri Lanka vs. India, Third Test

The following article was contributed by CWO.

Sri Lanka (1-1-0) vs. India (1-1-0)
Friday, August 8 2008 – Tuesday, August 12 2008
10:15 local, 04:45 GMT
P Saravanamuttu Stadium, Colombo

It all comes down to this, mono e mono. As much we may analyze the last two Test Matches, Sri Lanka is not the clear-cut favourite to win this 3rd Test. Sri Lanka has a great track record on their home grounds; however, they just lost a Test which at one point looked like the continuation of the first Test at SCC. Sri Lanka needs to get its act together and play to win this series.

Sri Lanka has many things in its favour. To list a few obvious ones:

  • They have the home field advantage.
  • India is without a coach for the rest of the series.
  • Indian middle order has not proven to be any more than a minor inconvenience for the Lankan bowlers.

But this does not mean Sri Lanka has what it takes to win the Test and series.

This game could be Sri Lanka’s for the taking, with the exception of one major factor: the confidence that India now seems to have, and Sri Lanka’s lack there of. The Indian team is hungry for a win. They have just come off a great come-from-behind victory in which one player has seemingly found an answer for the Ajanta Mendis surprise factor. And for once, the whole Team India seems to be jumping on the bandwagon of Anil Kumble cricket (I will post this in more detail another time). India is playing without a coach, which gives Kumble more incentive to step up and play with a lot of fire. Ishant Sharma seems to be getting a grasp of the Sri Lankan pitches, and he did very well extracting bounce from a four day old pitch — and there is no reason why he wouldn’t continue his phenomenal form. The Indian batsmen will have practice and they will concentrate at playing spin from Mendis and reacting to his different variations — especially given that one Team India player has seemingly conquered the surprise.

Sri Lanka will be on their back foot to win this series; the pressure is all on them. They have questions to answer on how to get a good start in the innings. In the last Test, the Sri Lankan openers had partnerships of 4 and 4. This does not bode well for the Sri Lankans. They also have a weak opening bowling attack. The team misses the potency of Lasith Malinga — amply shown by the opening stands (of 167 and 90) between Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir at Galle.

Now for the good news, Ajanta Mendis and Muthiah Muralidharan have taken 34 of the 40 wickets in the first two Tests. This means that as long as the Sri Lankans keep their spin going, they will continue to give themselves their best chance of a win.

India on the other hand has the confidence and quite possibly one of the better bowling attacks to match that of the Sri Lanka’s, giving them a great chance to win this 3rd Test and the series. India will not have to change their second Test game plan too much to win. They will use the track which is suited for spin, and expect the new ball brilliance to continue from their two spearheads, Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan. With a well balanced bowling attack their only question will be around the middle-order stepping up to the plate. Will Sachin Tendulkar finally let go of the pressure of becoming the #1 accumulator of runs in Test cricket? Will Tendulkar play the way he did in Australia? Will Rahul Dravid once again become a “Wall” and frustrate bowlers as he did in the England series last year? Will Sourav Ganguly step out of his cocoon and become the prolific scorer he has been in the past decade? If these questions answer positively for India, then we will witness something special, as India has not won a series in Sri Lanka in 15 years!

At this stage, it is anybody’s series, but India has the upper hand, even if just slightly.

— CWO

Advertisements

Carrom bowler blows India…

The Asia Cup final was dominated by two Sri Lankan performers: One who has been around for a long time (Sanath Jayasuriya) and another who has potential to be around for a long time (Ajanta Mendis). It also marked an interesting moment when one heralded Sri Lankan freak-genius bowler (Muthiah Muralidharan) can start to think about stepping aside as another potential Sri Lankan freak-genius (Ajanta Mendis) steps up to the mark.

As a Team India fan, I was disappointed to see India surrender meekly. But as a fan of world cricket, I was certainly excited to see this 23-year old freak bowler, Ajanta Mendis, zip, zoot, scoot, shoot, flick and slap the ball at and mesmerize the Indian batsmen! None of them had much of an idea of what he was actually doing with the ball. Several of them caught the rabbits-in-headlights disease and a few more caught the brain-fry disease. The end result was that Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup by 100 runs with about 15 overs still left in the game!

At the start, I felt that M. S. Dhoni had made two mistakes — going in with only 4 bowlers and electing to bowl first. Soon enough, I felt that Sri Lanka had blown a perfect opportunity by being 66-4 before anyone could say “Jack Robinson”! Ishant Sharma was bowling well, but not that stunningly on a flat pitch to suggest a 66-4 scoreline! Then we were treated to the Sanath Jayasuriya show! It was a spectacular show with shots all around the park. Although Irfan Pathan bowled in a manner that suggested that he was, once again, losing his grip on his pace as well as his rhythm, and although one felt that R. P. Singh was bowling like a rich man who had suddenly become much richer through an unexpected inheritance, one felt that Sri Lanka were about 30 runs light.

We then had the awesome Virender Sehwag show that got India off to a screamer. He had 60 runs off an India total of 76 in the 9th over. Mahela Jayawardane, the Sri Lankan captain, was desperate at that point in time it seemed. It was a dice-throw, one felt. But then he perhaps knew a thing or two that the rest of us did not know! He had rested Ajanta Mendis from India’s last game against Sri Lanka! India did not get to “see” this freak bowler.

And so, he came on in the 10th over inside the first power play and changed the structure, nature and complexion of the game. He induced a brain fuse in Virender Sehwag (stumped) and clean bowled Yuvraj Singh who did not have a clue. Instead of defending a straight ball spat out from the front of the young magician’s hands, Yuvraj Singh tried an ugly hoik, only to be embarrassingly bowled! Suresh Raina said he could better Yuvraj Singh’s effort! He too was bowled! And thus the procession commenced. M. S. Dhoni hung on, but it was more grit than capability that kept him there! None of the India bats were able to pick Ajanta Mendis.

A future star was born!

Ajanta Mendis runs straight and bowls from close to the stumps. His bounding run up is similar to a Stuart McGill run up. From close to the stumps, he brings his right arm straight up by his right ear and then performs his “Carrom Board” magic.

It appears as if his ring-finger tucked in behind the ball. His index finger and middle-finger grip the ball in the usual manner of a split-finger leg-spin bowler a la Anil Kumble. This allows him to bowl the leg-spinner and also a “carrom board flick-spit ball” (the best way I can decribe it) with the same action! The “carrom board” flick-spit ball arrives more rapidly and skids on after pitching in the time-honoured traditions of tennis-ball bowlers in the maidans of the sub-continent. However, with the same action, he is also able to bowl the googly-spit ball too!

It will be interesting to see how Ajanta Mendis will travel. As Osman Samiuddin says, the video analysts will have gathered gigabytes of video data to analyse. I am sure he will be analysed to death. But suffice to say that, despite India’s loss, it warmed the cockles of my heart to realise that I had witnessed the potential birth of a future star bowler.

— Mohan