Mystery MENDIS’ Carrom Ball a mystery now | Daily News

Mystery MENDIS’ Carrom Ball a mystery now

Spin bowlers, especially off spinners come a plenty. Leg spin bowlers are a rarity. But so called mystery spinners are not made they are born with a mystery spin. Our own AJANTHA MENDIS was such a God given gift.

MENDIS with his mystery spin had the cricket world at his feet. When he first came into the game, he looked as though from out of this cricket world. His bowling action and the deliveries he bowled were bemusing, cunning and amazing having batsmen out even before they faced him.

The first mystery spinner that I can remember when I took to the game as an under 12 cricketer was West Indian Sonny Ramadhin in the early 1950s. Then there was also Australian Jack Iverson.

Then towards the end of the previous century saw the emergence of Australian Johnny Gleeson. Ramadhin, Iverson and Gleeson made opposing batsmen look utterly helpless unable to read what sort of spin they were going to impart that more often than not bamboozled the best of batsmen.

Land that cricket forgot

With Ramadhin, Iverson and Gleeson leaving the field after rewriting the record books and going into the land that cricket forget, but batsmen who faced them remembered and heaving sighs of relief came the mystery spinner of them all in Sri Lanka’s BALAPUWADUGE AJANTHA WINSLO MENDIS.

MENDIS came into the game like a comet. And when that comet had the in-born talent to shine in the galaxy like the moon and bemuse batsmen, selectors of that era made him suffer an inglorious exit doing like what happened to the goose that laid the golden egg. They played him in too much cricket and his end was predictable in coming.

MENDIS introduced into the array of the many deliveries bowled with a new one which was termed a ‘CARROM BALL’ which had batsmen putting bat to ball not having t he slightest inkling as to which way the ball would turn or go straight. Today cricket fans in jest call him ‘CARROM BALL’.

Cocktail of deliveries

That delivery was bowled with a flick of his middle finger. He bowled a cocktail of deliveries that included googlies, off-breaks, top-spinners, flippers and leg-breaks. The first batsman to get a taste of the ‘CARROM BALL’ was India’s Rahul Dravid. Dravid offered a straight bat, but had the mortification to see the ball pitching on middle stump turn and hit off stump.

Talking of the ‘CARROM BALL’ and cricketers who have introduced new vocabulary into cricket come the names of one of India’s greatest captains Mahenda Singh Dhoni who invented what is now called the ‘HELICOPTER SHOT’ and Sri Lanka’s own opening batsman Tillekeratne Dilshan in whose name is the ‘DIL SCOOP’.

More forethought

MENDIS would have added many more Test wickets than the 70 he got, one day international 152 and Twenty20 wickets 66 to his kitty – had selectors of that MENDIS era acted with more foresight, sensibility and with common sense.

With winning being the greed where money gushed in to the governing body and the player, the selectors did a bit of overkill by continuously playing him and not thinking of his future where they played him in only 19 Tests, 87 One-Dayers and 39 Twenty20 games in a short period.

A bowler of MENDIS’ rare ability and class would have had better figures and won more Test matches for the country had he been persisted in the longer format of the game which what cricket is all about.

Stunned cricket world

In his debut in Test cricket he stunned the cricket world when in Three Test series against India he captured 26 wickets breaking the great England swing bowler ALEC BEDSER’S world record of most wickets on debut in a Three-Test series. He also broke Indian Ajit Agarkar’s fasest 50 wicket record haul in ODI cricket in just 23 matches by going past Agarkar’s mark in just 19 matches.

In the 2008 Asia Cup final against India his figures of 6 for 13 was the third best for a spinner in ODIS. MENDIS bettered that record when he took 6 for 16 in the second Twenty20 against Australia thus becoming the first bowler to take 6 wickets in a Twenty20 international. Then in the opening match of the 2012 ICC World T20 he took 6 wickets for 8 runs against Zimbabwe which was truly amazing.

Accepted that he marveled in the one-day game with 152 wickets and 66 wickets in the Twenty20 games, but the selectors should have allowed him to strike gold in the longer format. After the quitting of MENDIS the game has seen two emerging champion mystery bowlers in left armer Lakshan Sandakan and right armer Akila Dhananjaya. Let them not be throw to the wolves like what MENDIS suffered.

Nursed and nurtured

Let them not be fumigated out of the game, but nursed and nurtured in Test cricket because they can bemuse and baffle batsmen to their demise and take the country to the top at Test level.

AJANTHA was born in Moratuwa from which town came the famous Duleep Mendis. He had his early education at St.Anthony’s College at Kadalana and subsequently moved to Moratuwa Maha Vidyalaya where his talents were discovered by another famous Moratuwa cricketer Lucky Rodgers Fernando when he was just 13 years.

MENDIS won many accolades and awards during his short career one of them being the ‘Emerging Player of the Year’ at the LG awards ceremony held in Dubai in 2008. He was one of the lucky players to survive when terrorists carried out an attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore. He was among one of the seven injured in that dastardly attack.

Disc fracture

With the selectors consistently playing him in all formats of the game which was surely tiring and telling on his physique he suffered an injury termed disc fracture in the back which probably cost the country a gem of a mystery spinner who could have mystified the cricket world.

Th best accolade paid him was by Tony Becca the former veteran West Indies cricket writer which appeared in the ‘Jamaican Gleaner’. Becca wrote: ‘MENDIS bowls everything. With a smile on his face as he caresses the ball before delivering it, he bowls the off break, he bowls a straight delivery, he bowls the googly, he bowls the flipper, he bowls a straight delivery, he bowls them with different grips and different actions, he bowls them with a difficult trajectory and at different pace, and he disguises them brilliantly. The result is that he mesmerizes, or bamboozles batsmen’.

Sri Lanka cricket must be bursting at the seams hoping for another mystery bowler of the likes of AJANTHA MENDIS. 


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