Posts Tagged ‘Jeevan Mendis’

Goutham Chakravarthi

Though the rains in parts of Sri Lanka have been persistent, the tournament is finally gathering momentum with the beginning of Super Eight stages. Insofar only Afghanisthan added some colour to the tournament with their brand of brash and volatile cricket. Having seen a few of their players and staff at a restaurant in Colombo, they seemed to be thrilled to be a part of the tournament and seemed eager to do well.

Afghanistan’s progress has been rapid but, as has been seen in this tournament, their cricket still is raw and borders more on the emotional than on the rational. With time, the hope is that they improve their game whilst not losing the flair that has warmed the hearts of many who have seen them in this World Twenty20 tournament.

The heart-stopping tie that Sri Lanka eventually won in the super over is a reminder of the thrills T20 cricket can provide fans, spectators and players. Fists were seen pumping at the end by the batsmen in the middle and their teammates in the dug out. The next moment, the smiles were wiped off their faces when it turned out that New Zealand captain Ross Taylor had managed to knee a run-out off the last ball.

Akila Dananjaya impressed with his mixture of offies, leggies and googlies.

It was an evening where fortune changed sides more often than rains starting and stopping in the southern coasts of Sri Lanka. Taylor’s knee might have aided the match going in to the super over, it tested the umpires and players; and all will be glad for the experience, should they get in to a similar situation later in the tournament.

Earlier, Angelo Mathews and Ajantha Mendis had shaken off their injury scares to make it into the final XI. But the attention was on Akila Dananjaya once his name appeared in the starting line-up. His spin menu included flighted leg-breaks, googlies and offies. In short, it is enough to keep the English team up at night before their game against the Sri Lankans.

However, given the history of off-spinners from the sub-continent whose actions have often been scrutinised, Dananjaya’s might well be questioned.

The theory that established Test nations have worked out Mendis further gathered ground, as he was sent for 48 runs off his 4 overs — his worst T20 figures coming into the game. The theory that established Test nations have worked out Mendis further gathered ground, as he was sent for 48 runs off his 4 overs — his worst T20 figures. Mystery injuries have also clouded the career of this mystery spinner, and how much faith the Sri Lankan management has in him for future games remains to be seen.

Rangana Herath is a very fine bowler after all, and with Dananjaya holding his own even with the onslaught very much on, the management might be tempted to have the experienced Herath back in the team. With the pitch at Pallekelle offering more than enough turn, as was seen in Premadasa in the India-England game, it will not be a surprise to see more teams resorting to spin for both attack and defence.

The batting looked in rich form with Tillakaratne Dilshan finding fluency. Sri Lanka’s side is packed with several allrounders, so there is a school of thought — as Taylor pointed out — that they might lack batting depth and be too top heavy. So far, it has not proved to be a problem with the likes of Jeevan Mendis and Thisara Perera holding their own with the bat. Mathews has proved to be a reliable finisher and Lahiru Thirimanne is proving to be one of late as well.

West Indies and England are the other two teams in the group, and given England’s form against spin in the recent past and their form against India and West Indies, it will be a surprise if Sri Lanka do not find themselves in the semi-finals.

The objective would be to have peaked as a team by then and hope to have a couple of their match-winners in red-hot form. Sri Lanka have found themselves within reach of winning ICC tournaments many times in the recent past, and they will be one of the teams favoured to win.

Mahela Jayawardene’s men displayed the ability to handle the mental side of the game well in the super over finish today, and the hosts will hope to be at the finals this time too in order to have another crack at crossing the final hurdle.

This is a published article in Island Cricket.


Goutham Chakravarthi

Mahela Jayawardene was right when he brushed aside talks of choking at the final stages of the big tournaments. After all, as one of the strongest contenders, looking too far ahead is the last distraction his team needs at the moment.

Zimbabwe came in after having scared Bangladesh and South Africa in a T20 tri-series recently and were expected to provide stiff opposition to the home team. But for their spinners, their performance was abysmal.

Jeevan Mendis contributed with both bat and ball © AFP

Watching the game from The Cricket Club Café in Colombo was special as it allowed picking the brains of cricket fans from all across the globe. Kyle Jarvis found some early swing. As debutante Dilshan Munaweere bunted a swinging low full-toss to the boundary, the tourists seemed as happy as the locals to have seen him straight in the playing XI. Ungainly fielding lapses helped the Lions to motor along at a rapid rate before the introduction of Utseya slowed things down a bit.The wickets might not be same as they were years ago, and the composition of Sri Lanka’s playing XI is a stark reminder of that. Gone are the days when their spinners squeezed the life out of opponents with their nagging accuracy. Instead, nippy medium-pacers in Kulasekara, Mathews and Perera are now their prime middle-over bowlers with Ajanta Mendis and Lasith Malinga providing the attacking options.

It was always going to be an uphill task for Zimbabwe against such an attack if they didn’t restrict the Lions to fewer than 150. Poor fielding and insipid bowling put paid to that as Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis put on a crucial 94-run partnership, studded with some very imaginative and powerful stroke play by the southpaws. By the end, the Zimbabweans had run out of breath and were batted out of the game.

Kulasekara found early swing and troubled the Zimbabwean openers. Ajanta Mendis seems to have found mojo again after being back after a long injury lay off. Zimbabwe seemed clueless against him, as Mendis finished with figues of 6 for 8, one that is a bit hard to digest even in a high-school game.

ESPN Cricinfo’s The Two Chucks, Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins, who were at The Clricket Club Café had different views on Ajanta Mendis. Kimber said, “I’d doubt if they’d even play Mendis in the latter stages of the tournament as most top teams have worked him out.” On the other hand, Sam Collins picked Sri Lanka as his favourite to win the World Cup.

Even as Zimbabwe seemed clueless against Jeevan Mendis and Ajanta Mendis, newly wed couple Kit and Kate Stephenson from the UK seemed unequivocal of their favourites – Sri Lanka.

As Malinga came back to finish a very one-sided opening game to this edition of World T20, it is quite obvious that Sri Lanka have all bases covered and would be one of the strongest contenders for the tile. While no team coming in to the tournament was a runaway favourite, Sri   Lanka might have their noses ahead of others at the moment.

I, for one, would not be surprised to see Akila Danajaya force his way in to the playing XI in the later stages of the tournament at the expense of Ajanta Mendis. It seems to be the norm with Sri Lankan think tank with mystery spinners.

A long way to go yet, but Sri Lanka would be glad to have avoided an early blip.

This article was written for Island Cricket and first published there