Former Schoolboy Cricketer Kusal Mendis proves his worth in Bangladesh | Daily News


Former Schoolboy Cricketer Kusal Mendis proves his worth in Bangladesh

Kusal Mendis with Man Of the Series and Man Of the Match awards which he won in the B’desh T20 series.
Kusal Mendis with Man Of the Series and Man Of the Match awards which he won in the B’desh T20 series.

Yet another former Observer Schoolboy Cricketer - Kusal Mendis, has piloted Sri Lanka to a smashing 2-0 victory in the T20 International series against Bangladesh. He was in cracking form in both the T20 internationals with back to back explosive half centuries.

Having made a brilliant knock of 53 in the first match in Dhaka, Mendis continued his good work in their series deciding second match in Sylhet with another great knock of 70.

Most importantly, Mendis has showed great courage to bounce back and cement his place in the national team. After being axed from the team for the previous tour to India following a modest performance against Pakistan in the UAE, he made a great return during the team’s recently concluded tour of Bangladesh.

Generally considered as a middle order batsman, Mendis was elevated as an opener since the Test series and it has paid rich dividends. Prior to the tour of Bangladesh, Mendis has hardly tasted new ball attacks, despite opening in a few matches at the early part of his career.

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal, another former Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year who had won the mega title four year before Mendis, paid a lavish tribute to his newly found opening batsman. “We had a chat at the start of the series and we thought that he could fit in as an opener. By promoting him as an opener, we were also able to get right-hand/left-hand combination with the opening pair. I think he grabbed all the opportunities that came his way. That’s a really good sign,” skipper Chandimal was quoted as saying.

Mendis was in total command over Bangladesh bowling attack in the second T2oI to make 70 off in only 42 balls, hitting three sixers and six fours. He shared an opening partnership of 98 runs off 11 overs with Danushka Gunathilaka (42). Their solid foundation – the second successive half century stand, enabled Sri Lanka to make a commanding 210 for 4 in their allotted 20 overs.

Thanks to Mendis’ quick fire 70, Sri Lanka was able to set a commanding target of 211. It was daunting task for the home team which was eventually bowled out for 135 runs in 18.4 overs, giving Sri Lanka a thumping victory.

When Bangladesh made a commanding 193 for 5 in 20 overs in the first T20 International in Dhaka, it appeared to be a daunting task for Sri Lanka. However, when Sri Lanka got that dream start they had been looking for, the visitors ultimately found it easy to reach the target with 20 balls to spare for the loss of only four wickets.

The architect of Sri Lanka’s convincing six-wicket victory in the first T20I was none other than that of dashing opener Kusal Mendis who showed no mercy to Bangladesh attack. He simply massacred Bangladesh bowlers with a blistering knock of 53 runs off just 27 balls, maintaining a stunning strike rate of 196.29.

Man of the Match Mendis, who hit two massive sixers and eight boundaries, added 53 runs for the first wicket with Gunathilaka off only 29 balls. Their epic alliance eased the pressure on Sri Lanka’s middle order, though the visitors lost three wickets with the addition of only 37 runs. Foundation laid the explosive start given by Mendis and Gunathilaka, Sri Lanka reached the target in style through an unfinished fifth wicket partnership of 65 runs between Thisara Perera and Dasun Shanaka.

Mendis has lavishly contributed with his willow during his school career at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa. His rich harvests during the 2012/13 season earned him the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2013.

Winning the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title is widely regarded as an unofficial passage towards the national team and Mendis is yet another cricketer who had proved that this common belief among schoolboy cricketers is right. Within a couple of years after his crowning glory at the Mega Show, Mendis was picked to make his Test debut - against the West Indies at Premadasa Stadium on October 22, 2015.

A reliable wicket keeper and consistent right-hand top order batsman with an attacking style, Mendis has often posed trouble to many opponents. Merely months after winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title five years ago, he was appointed Sri Lanka’s under-19 captain for the Youth World Cup.

He made his Sri Lanka ODI debut with a sparkling half century 51 off 59 balls with eight boundaries in Sri Lanka’s first ODI against Ireland in Dublin on June 16, 2016. Since then, Mendis has represented Sri Lanka in 44 ODIs to aggregate a total of 1,239 runs for an average of 30.97.

He has one century and 11 fifties to his credit with a career best knock of 102. In 24 Tests, Mendis has aggregated 1,712 runs with four centuries and five fifties. He was the top scorer for Sri Lanka in the first innings in the recent second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka - a superb innings of 68 made off 98 balls that eventually guided Sri Lanka to a match-winning first innings lead.

Mendis’ emergence was a blessing to the national team at a time the national selectors had been looking for a top order batsman. The first three batting positions are important to any team as the roles of openers and one drop batsman could make a big impact towards a team total and the morale of the middle and lower order batsmen.

Since winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 2013, he has proved his credentials to fit into that vital No.3 position which fell vacant after the retirement of veteran Kumar Sangakkara.

The biggest moment in Mendis’ short but impressive Test career so far was witnessed last year when he made a marathon knock of 194 in the first Test against Bangladesh in Galle.

He missed what would have been a dream double century by unsuccessfully attempting to signal it with a six. His superb knock included four sixers and 19 boundaries.

Occupying the crease for more than seven hours and facing 285 balls, Mendis showed qualities of a mature Test batsman, although it was only in his 15th Test. He became only the third Sri Lankan to aggregate over 1,000 Test runs before completing 23 years of age, behind Arjuna Ranatunga and Mahela Jayawardene. Speaking after his title glory in 2013, Mendis said the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of The Year Award is a “launching pad” for his future cricket career. In less than five years after winning the title, Mendis has proved this right beyond reasonable doubt.

Speaking further after winning that dream title, Mendis went on to pay a generous tribute to the organizers of the show the Sunday Observer and Mobitel, stating that the contest was a tower of strength for young schoolboy cricketers.

“There are several past winners who had gone to represent the country. That shows how valuable the contest is for the budding cricketers. The contest has been boosted further with the introduction of the third segment which will undoubtedly help the outstation cricketers enormously. The talented players outside Colombo could be identified better and that augurs well for a better tomorrow. Besides the main awards, there are many other segments in the competition that has been won. These sections too, help the youngsters in their future cricket career”, he was quoted as saying.

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