No mystery in Mendis' decline

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Ajantha MendisAfter arriving in Taunton as a replacement for Somerset’s Murali Karthik, a lot was expected of Sri Lanka’s 'mystery spinner' Ajantha Mendis but the 26 year-old was far from convincing.

Former captain Kumar Sangakkara’s horses for courses policy has, more often than not, left the spinner from Moratuwa out of the Sri Lankan side against opposition that the skipper and selectors felt had mastered the bowler.

Struggling to hold on to his place in the side, and with his confidence dented as a result, Mendis has failed to reproduce the magic of his debut Test series, where he scalped 26 wickets in a three-match series at 18.38 apiece against India, breaking Sir Alec Bedser’s record for most wickets in a debut Test series.

It’s not practical to expect a bowler to be successful against all opposition. Even the great Muttiah Muralitharan struggled against certain sides, but it was not Arjuna Ranatunga’s policy to leave his match-winning bowlers out against some teams because they played them with more ease than others.

Mendis’ omission from the World Cup 2011 final, despite a fairly decent performance from him in the tournament, would have dealt a serious blow to the bowler’s confidence. The policy of leaving him out against India has not given him the opportunity of making a comeback against their batsmen. And such a policy cannot be logically sustained; when does the captain or the selectors decide that he is ready to play teams from the sub-continent again?

Selection should perhaps be on merit, based on recent form, and not based solely on a player's record against any one opposition.

Patience and perseverance are notable attributes in great captains. They were qualities displayed by the Australian selectors and their captain Mark Taylor during Shane Warne’s formative years. Warne went for plenty in his career against sub-continent teams and had Australia utilised a horses for courses policy, there would be no Warne.

Playing for Somerset in the LV County Championships last month, Mendis was expensive and bowled far too short and on both sides of the wicket. He was not the same bowler TV commentators raved about back in 2008, when they highlighted his amazing accuracy as one of the keys to his success.

With Warwickshire opener Varun Chopra cashing in on long-hop after long-hop from a jet lagged Mendis, who had only arrived in England the night before his county debut, the Sri Lankan was left looking demoralised and embarrassed after just his first day on the field for Somerset. Up until that point, Mendis had never conceded more runs in an innings in his career. He finished with 4-183 in his very first county appearance.

In his final first-class match for Somerset, before being dropped, Mendis conceded 102 runs in his 23 overs. He has, since then, linked up with the touring Sri Lankan side who are on their 2011 tour of England. And in their tour opener, a three-day warm up match against Middlesex, Mendis was again dishing out loose deliveries.

Sri Lanka does not have the luxury of picking from a vast pool of match-winning bowlers. Therefore, they should handle with care the few that they possess.

They, however, inexplicably resigned to the myth that Mendis was conquered and dealt a blow to his morale by leaving him out of crucial matches against batsmen who may have got the better of him in previous encounters.

The retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga has left the new captain Tillakaratne Dilshan with a fairly inexperienced bowling attack for the Test series in England. Ironically, Sri Lanka is now relying on a bowler whose confidence has been heavily dented thanks to their own short-sighted policies.

© Island Cricket/Hilal Suhaib

Comments

maestro_of_cricket's picture
Member since:
2 October 2010
Last activity:
4 years 16 weeks

Fake mystery should be dropped from matches against all opposition, that's what. All wounds will be healed.

FlagOnMyShoulders's picture

I disagree that the blame for Mendis' decline can be placed solely on the selection policy. Sometimes, and at an international level especially, a bowler needs to find his own confidence and lift his own game if he truly believes in his talent. In that regard, it is heartening to see Maharoof, though admittedly not the most talented fast bowler around, try his hardest to perform as well as he can even with limited opportunities available and try and get back into the team.

The solution to the Mendis problem is simple. He needs to believe in himself even when others doubt and lift his standards during crunch time, not unlike that Kohinoor diamond of SL Cricket, Mahela Jayawardene, who, even when not in form, even when the critics begin to question his performance, will lift himself up when the occasion demands it and deliver a stunning performance to mesmerize millions.

Is Mendis made up of the same stern stuff that makes up Mahela? Only Mendis would know...

Anonymous's picture

mendis has only himself to blame he has neither improved his fielding batting or bowling in anyway.. and frankly its just buffet bowling to good batsmen.. . his inability to perform under pressure does not warrant a place in the sri lankan side . at first .. he had 26 wickets..and then the next few months.. all we heard or saw of him was in the advertisements.. and in that too there was over kill.. or maybe just plain recognition that he should be "making hay while the sun shines" and how he has..
well good for him.. but now its time for the song.. adios amigo(S).. if he is a champion .. then he should take it to heart and prove all of us WRONG.. sri lanka will be better off..
on the point of playing in england .. why this year?? why not before ? well guess whos playing in england this year?SRI LANKA of course.. we shout at players for going to the ipl for the sake of money.. what about this instance ?? wasnt he SELLING himself at a time when he shouldnt have ..could nt he have put off the offer for another year?/
i guess not .. why?? because they wouldnt have wanted him.. just like the ipl rejected him..acually to have mendis in this squad right now is depriving another youngster of a place .. perhaps a spinner like sohan boralessa might be a better option .slc should never have allowed mendis to sign for the ipl last time .. NEVER EVER.. he had too much to lose.. and he has.. unfortunately so hs sri lanka..

Marcian's picture
Member since:
8 December 2010
Last activity:
35 weeks 5 days

Interesting thoughts but I think it's fair to say that batsmen have sorted him out or unraveled whatever mystery he had, especially the Indians and Pakistanis.

Two former Australian mystery spinners - John Gleeson (60’s) and Jack Iverson (50’s) - also bamboozled batsmen in their first few Tests series and were a revelation during that time, but the so called mystery was found out and they subsequently got hammered.

Both of them were dropped and faded into obscurity - I suspect the same would happen to Ajantha Mendis some day but I hope not, he's too talented to just fade away. I think he should be able to get his 'mojo' back.

Without the triple 'M' threat - Murali, Malinga, Mendis - we would struggle in England.

Anonymouse's picture

but have you forgotten that he was economical in the world cup? or why have you failed to mention he bowled well in the 40 over games for somerset. In one match he even picked up 4 wickets. Why have you left that bit out?

Anonymouse's picture

I see that a partciular mendis has picked up 8 wickets in 3 (one day) games for Somerset - is this Ajantha mendis or dullep mendis? From what you people have commented here and from Hilal's post i don't think it can be ajantha mendis?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2011/engine/match/492234.html

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2011/engine/match/492246.html

http://www.espncricinfo.com/county-cricket-2011/engine/match/492261.html

Hilal's picture
Member since:
20 November 2008
Last activity:
2 days 7 hours

@Anonymouse:

I think you need to read my post again because you seem to think I'm being critical of Mendis, which is way off the mark. I may have been critical of his loose bowling against Middlesex and against Warwickshire but you're missing the point altogether if you focus on that alone.

I did mention his WC performance and what I'm saying above is that he should be played, not left out of the side against sides that the captain and the selectors feel play him well.

lankalions99's picture
Member since:
2 April 2011
Last activity:
6 years 42 weeks

Dropping him for the final was foolish, and he had played fairly well throughout the tournament. But you can understand why they chose Randiv and if Kulasekera had taken that catch off Randiv's bowling we might not be having this conversation.

I agree with what you say, that going forward there is no putting a lid on Mendis. We can't selectively play him, if he is or can become the bowler SL hopes then let him play against everyone and see what he can do.

rock the boat's picture

ajantha mendis needs to get his act together.. period .. .at the moment any good batsmen will take him apart.. and generally in international matches.. u dont have bad batsmen(at the top) so stop wasting time on people who are trying to make a living out of past performances.. thats exactly what it is.. PAST PERFORMANCES..
and to make matters worse.. he is now in england playing for a county and thereby giving all the english batsmen a wonderful hit against him before the international matches start.. i am sure that this will AUGER well for sri lankan cricket.. btw.. had he been bought at the ipl auction .. he would not have been playing for a county now would he?? its more apolicy of "run the well dry" as ajantha is concerned.. the best thing that ajantha can do .. is get in touch with SHANE WARNE and spend sometime with him.. then he will definitely become a match winning bowler.. until then..
i dont think so..

Stormy's picture
Member since:
15 January 2011
Last activity:
1 day 10 hours

I am afraid my thoughts on Mendis is that he was a flash in the pan. I think the horses for courses selection was forced due to him loosing his magic and thought it was a smart move - only playing him against non-Asian teams. Also Mendis hasnt added or improved to his armoury since he arrived which is a key difference with guys like Warne and Murali. Murali started as a massive off-spinner and Warne with a huge leg spin and wrong un but they both improved accuracy and variety. Unless Mendis proves himself he cannot be played unless its on a ripper of a turner in SL and infact I was suprised they took him to England and if he gets a game surely will be his last chance.

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