Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ajantha Mendis is the sorcerer's apprentice

The Australian: IF you observe Balapuwaduge Ajantha Winslo Mendis at a press conference, you can almost imagine Alice in Wonderland.

Along with the enigmatic smiles as his captain or manager translates his answers from Sinhala to English, there is a sense of wide-eyed wonder, almost as if he's asking himself: “What am I doing here and how did it happen?”

Just three years ago, Mendis, then 20, was trying to figure out what to do with his life. His academic career had been undistinguished, and he was playing for a local club when a chance encounter changed his life.

The Sri Lankan Army provided the opposition, and they liked what they saw of the youngster. After learning that Mendis was unemployed, the army made their move. His mother, a pious Catholic who raised her sister's children alongside her own, was reluctant, but the army's coaches managed to convince her that her son wouldn't be sent to the war front in Jaffna.

When he got to the army, Saman Hewavitharana, his coach, was amazed by what he saw.

“When he joined the army, he had only the off-break and leg-break,” he said recently. “But on his own, he started developing other deliveries at practice.”

The army had no great cricketing tradition and played in Tier B of the championship. In tandem with Seekuge Prasanna, a leg-spinner who dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in India's tour opener, Mendis inspired the army's run to the title. His contribution was 68 wickets at 10.51, and though there was little media coverage of the second rung, the buzz around the grounds where he played forced the selectors to take notice.

An Australian with fond memories of the subcontinent also played his part. In 1969-70, Ashley Mallett took 28 Indian wickets with his off-spin as Bill Lawry's side triumphed 3-1. Four decades on, he holds spin clinics twice a year in Sri Lanka.

Ruwan Kalpage, who played 11 Tests for Sri Lanka in the 1990s, was the chief coach at the spinners' clinic, and Mallett recommended Mendis get some special attention.


Mendis hails Murali influence

The Island: Sri Lanka’s new spin sensation Ajantha Mendis hailed the influence of fellow spinner Muttiah Muralitharan after being named ICC Emerging Player of the Year, reported on its web site on Thursday.

Mendis was handed the honour at cricket’s annual awards ceremony in Dubai on Wednesday due to a fine performance in the Test and one-day series against India.

Mendis burst to prominence with a six-wicket haul against India in the final of the Asia Cup.

He then helped Sri Lanka secure a 2-1 Test series against India, finishing with a haul of 26 wickets, becoming the highest wicket taker in a three match Test series.

Mendis also finished as the top wicket-taker in the one-day series with 13 wickets.

"I never dreamt of this a year ago," Mendis was quoted as having said, through an interpreter after receiving the award.

"It has been fantastic playing for Sri Lanka.

"I picked up a lot of wickets only because Murali was bowling at the other end.

"He put a lot of pressure on the batsmen and so I got the opportunity to get the wickets.

"He also guided me on how to control the ball and how to be patient while bowling against a top-class batting line-up.

"But the most important thing he taught me was to never be afraid of the opposition.

"He also taught me the importance of planning a batsman’s dismissal."

Mendis said he was still looking to improve his bowling.

"Right now I am concentrating on my accuracy and also want to be more aggressive," he said.

"I need to learn to bowl in different conditions too," Mendis concluded.


Ajantha Mendis returns to Sri Lanka after ICC award

Video of Ajantha Mendis speaking to the press at Katunayake Airport.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I somehow felt I would win the ICC award: Mendis

I somehow felt I would win the ICC award: Mendis

Sri Lanka’s new spin sensation Ajantha Mendis, who returned home Friday said he somehow felt that he would win the International Cricket Council’s(ICC) award for the emerging player of the year....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mendis the mysterious maverick

Ajantha Mendis, the burgeoning superstar of spin bowling, cuts a strikingly different figure off the field to the one on it.

Such has been his startling rise this year, Mendis is almost certain to carry off the Emerging Player of the Year award when the ICC dish out their version of the Oscars tonight. The bowler, 23, hails from the small town of Moratuwa, known more for producing fine furniture than spin bowling sensations.

Read on

'India were caught napping on Mendis' - Wadekar

'India were caught napping on Mendis' - Wadekar

India were not prepared enough to face Ajantha Mendis in the recently concluded Test series and didn't have a plan, former national captain Ajit Wadekar has said. Mendis, an unorthodox legspinner who made his debut in the first Test in Colombo, dominated the Indian batting line-up during the series - which Sri Lanka won 2-1 - to finish with a record 26 wickets.

"To be frank, India were caught napping. They did not plan to tackle Mendis properly," Wadekar said.

"They did not decide which of the batsmen should go after him. That's basically how one should go about things at the international level, regardless of whether the batsman gets out."

Read more

Mendis named as ICC's Emerging Player

Mendis named as ICC's Emerging Player

Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka's 23-year-old spinner, has won the Emerging Player of the Year award at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai.

With his mesmerising brand of spin bowling, Mendis has exploded on to the international scene in recent months. In just three Tests against India in July and August, he claimed 26 wickets at an average of 18.38, leaving batsmen trying to work out a new way to play, with his unique array of deliveries, including the so-called Carrom ball.

Read more..

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mendis nominated for emerging player of the year

Ajantha Mendis has been nominated for Emerging Player of the Year in the 2008 LG International Cricket Council Awards.

The nominations for six of the awards were made by a five-man ICC selection panel chaired by West Indies legend Clive Lloyd. The panel also includes former Australia captain Greg Chappell, recently retired South Africa all-rounder Shaun Pollock, former Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny and former Bangladesh batsman Athar Ali Khan. This panel will also select the ICC Test and ODI teams of the year.

The winners of these six individual awards will be voted upon by a 25-person panel from around the world, made up of renowned former players, respected members of the media, and an elite umpire and elite match referee.

The Spirit of Cricket Award will be voted on by all the international captains as well as all members of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Umpires and Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees. The Umpire of the Year Award is voted on by the captains and the match referees.

This year sees the introduction of a new award, the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year Award, which will mark an outstanding individual effort in this newest format of the international game.

Also, the Associate ODI Player of the Year Award has been upgraded to the Associate Player of the Year Award and serves to recognise and reward the efforts in ODIs and other international matches of the outstanding cricketer from the six countries outside the ICC Full Members, namely Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands and Scotland.

Based on the 12 months between 9 August 2007 and 12 August 2008, the LG ICC Awards 2008 – presented in association with FICA – will take into account performances by players and officials in a remarkable period for the game. That period includes the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 2007 in South Africa.

The LG ICC Awards ceremony is now in its fifth year and this will be the first time it has been staged in Dubai. Previous ceremonies were held in London (2004), Sydney (2005), Mumbai (2006) and Johannesburg (2007).

Source - ICC Media release.