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Player Profile(#44)…Ajantha Mendis(Sri Lanka)

Posted by wildkiwi25 on January 4, 2009


Balapuwaduge Ajantha Winslo Mendis (born March 11, 1985 in Moratuwa) is a cricketer who plays for the Sri Lankan national cricket team.

Mendis, although classified as slow-medium, bowls a mixture of deliveries, including googlies, off-breaks top-spinners, flippers and leg-breaks, as well as the Carrom Ball, released with a flick of his middle finger. For Sri Lanka Army in 2007-08 he averaged a mere 10.56 and took 46 wickets in six games, his strike rate a startling 31. This gained him a call-up to the full Sri Lanka squad for the Caribbean tour in April 2008.

His best bowling performance in a one-day international came in the final of the 2008 Asia Cup, where he took 6 wickets for 13 runs in just his eighth match. His 17 wickets in the tournament earned him the Man of the Series award.

Mendis made his One Day International debut against the West Indies at Port of Spain in 2008 and took 3 for 39. He also plays for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.

His first Test Match was against India at Colombo on July 23, 2008 in which he returned match figures of 8-132, thereby becoming the first Sri Lankan bowler to get an eight-wicket haul on Test debut.

Ajantha Mendis won the Emerging Player of the Year award at the LG ICC Awards ceremony held in Dubai in September 2008.

His early Years:
Born on March 11, 1985, Mendis hails from a hamlet in Moratuwa. He is the third child in a family of five with an elder brother and a sister. He has had his basic education at St Anthony’s College at Kadalana in his village where there were no facilities at all for sports. He subsequently entered Moratuwa Maha Vidyalaya in the year of 2000. During a cricket coaching class, Mendis’ talents were initially identified by the school coach named Mr Lucky Rogers back in the year 1998 when he was just 13 years of age. In the year 2000 he represented the school under 15 cricket team and he was selected to the first eleven team. He also deputized for the school team captain. This slow medium bowler with a variation of leg spin was adjudged the Best Bowler at the big-matches twice in 2001 and 2002.

Sri Lanka Army Cricket Committee noticed his talents when he played a cricket match against the Army under 23 Division 11 during 2003/2004 tournaments. Following this he was invited to enlist in the regular force of the Sri Lanka Army, this was particularly due to the low number of cricketers from Colombo schools joining the Army in the recent years. He enlisted, partly due to the reason that his father, the bread-winner for the family had passed away the week before due to a heart attack.

Military career:
Following basic training he played for the army team and saw active military service as a Gunner in the Sri Lanka Artillery, a regiment of the Sri Lanka Army. Following the Asia Cup final, he has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 7 July 2008 and the next day again to Second Lieutenant.

Domestic cricket:
Mendis has represented the Army in 23 limited over matches and 59 two/three day matches, in which he has 38 wickets and 244 wickets respectively to his credit. Mendis bowls off spin as his stock delivery and he has few more variations in his armory- leg spin, top spin and faster bowl. All this was developed during 2006/2007 domestic seasons on his own. He also extended his purple patch in the domestic season 2007/2008 under 23 division 1 tournament and was later selected to the pool of “Academy Squad” organized by Sri Lanka Cricket. There he was able to polish his cricketing skills further. He had the opportunity of touring neighboring India on an eight-day tour in June 2007 where he was given the opportunity to play two, two-day matches. In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket selectors could not ignore his performance in the Premier Limited Over Tournament 2007/2008 and got him selected to play in the “Provincial Tournament 2008” representing “Wayamba Province” under the National Captain. In that tournament he performed exceptionally well with the ball. Local TV commentators predicted him as the ideal replacement for spin wizard Muralitharan in time to come and nick named him as “Mysterious Bowler”. His marvelous performance in the said tournament got the National Selectors to observe him further closely. In the just concluded domestic season in Premier League Tournament, he has become the Most Successful Bowler by taking 68 wickets in nine matches which is also a record in any form of domestic cricket. The accomplishments of the Gunner Ajantha Mendis hit the pot of gold by getting himself selected to “National One Day Squad” to tour West Indies in March-April 2008.

Bowling style:
The veteran West Indies cricket writer Tony Becca wrote in the Jamaica Gleaner: “Mendis bowls everything. With a smile on his face as he caresses the ball before delivering it, he bowls the offbreak, he bowls the legbreak, 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 different trajectory and at a different pace, and he disguises them brilliantly. The result is that he mesmerises, or bamboozles, batsmen.

Jerome Jayaratne, the Sri Lanka Cricket Academy coach, said: “Mendis is unusual, freaky and has developed a ball which he releases with a snap of his fingers, (Carrom ball), which is very unusual compared to other orthodox spin bowlers.” That ball is reminiscent of the former Australia spinner Johnny Gleeson, who had a similar delivery.

Although the ball can be made to either turn away or into a right-handed batsman, Mendis uses it to turn away from a right handed batsman, in order to contrast it with his off-breaks and googlies. The Australian test cricketer and coach Peter Philpott actually predicted the rise of a bowler such as Mendis in a book written in 1973.

“…Eventually I see the Iverson method being best employed by an orthodox off-spinner. Instead of a basic Iverson attack with occasional orthodox off-spin, there is a great future for an accurate off-spinner who produces a difficult to detect leg spinner every now and then. I could visualise such a bowler causing great concern amongst batsmen, and young off-spinners might be well rewarded for experimentation in this field…”

International career:

One day internationals
Ajantha Mendis made his One Day International debut against West Indies in at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, on 10 April, 2008. He announced his arrival on the international stage with three for 39 off 10 overs in this game, and confounded the West Indian batsmen with his range of variations without a perceptible change in his action. Rob Steen summed up the impact of this initial performance by stating “I have just seen the future of spin bowling – and his name is Ajantha Mendis.”

Ajantha Mendis, playing his eighth ODI, picked up the first six-wicket haul in the Asia Cup final against India in July 2008. His 6 for 13 is the third-best bowling performance in a tournament final, and the third-best for a spinner in ODIs. His 17 wickets is the best for an edition of the Asia Cup, and he bagged those wickets at an astounding average of 8.52. Ajantha Mendis won the man of the match award in the finals as well as the player of the tournament award for his efforts.

Test cricket:

Ajantha Mendis made his debut in Test cricket against India in at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo, on 23 July, 2008. He claimed his first Test wicket in his fifth over, bowling Rahul Dravid with a delivery now christened the carrom ball, that turned from middle and hit off stump. He went on to claim the wickets of Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan & VVS Laxman to finish with figures of 4 for 72 in his maiden test bowling performance. He followed this up with 4 for 60 in India’s second inings. Ajantha Mendis’ match figures of 8 for 132 are the best by any Sri Lankan bowler on Test debut, bettering Kuruppurachchi’s 7 for 85 against Pakistan in 1985-86. After the game Muttiah Muralitharan stated that “When I started playing Test cricket, I was not as good as Mendis. He is exceptional. He is the future of Sri Lankan cricket,”. Mendis collected his first ten-wicket haul in the very next match, which Sri Lanka went on to lose. With 26 wickets (ave.18.38) in the series, Mendis has passed Alec Bedser’s world record for most wickets by a bowler on his debut in a three-Test series. Ajantha Mendis won the player of the series award for his efforts.

Twenty20 cricket:

On 10 October 2008, Ajantha Mendis made his Twenty20 debut against Zimbabwe in King City, Canada. He claimed 4 for 15 in 4 overs and won the man of the match award. In the next game he took 4 for 17 against Canada and went on to take 3 for 23 in the four-nation series final against Pakistan, helping his side to a five-wicket win. For his remarkable performance of 11 wickets for 55 in just 3 games, Ajantha Mendis was adjudged the player of the series.

ICC Awards:
On September 10, 2008, Ajantha Mendis has won the “Emerging Player of the Year” award at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai. Mendis was the top choice of the 25-person Voting Academy, coming in ahead of England’s up-and-coming Stuart Broad, South Africa fast bowler Morne Morkel and Indian fast bowler Ishant Sharma of India.

The Emerging Player of the Year Award was one of eight individual prizes given at the 2008, ICC Awards. Players eligible for this award must be under 26 years of age at the start of the voting period (August 9, 2007) and have played no more than five Test matches and/or 10 ODIs before the start of the voting period.

Links to more information on Ajantha Mendis:

  • Ajantha Mendis profile on


    *Acknowledgements to and owners of pictures and videos used.

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