In 2009, Ajantha Mendis was destined to become the next Muralitharan. His rise to prominence was so extreme that experts were touting him as the future of spin bowling. His incredible weaponry included a wide range of deliveries, including his carrom ball, which bamboozled batsmen for years. Sadly for Sri Lanka, the talented prodigy isn’t having the same effect anymore, with most players catching on to his style of bowling.
His Test debut came against India in 2008, where Mendis’ mystery balls left the talented Indian middle-order dumbfounded. He finished the match with eight wickets, including the scalps of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman twice. He somehow topped that in the next match, when he claimed match figures of 10/209. It was a history making debut, with the new-age spinner taking a record setting 26 series wickets. Despite 62 wickets in his 16 Test career, Mendis hasn’t played in the five day format since his side’s crushing defeat to England in 2011.
While he has struggled to earn a spot in the Test team, Mendis has been a regular in the Sri Lankan ODI side. 3/39 against the West Indies heralded his arrival on the international circuit, with the Sri Lankan bowler backing that up with a career best 6/13 against the star-studded Indians later that year.
In what was quickly becoming a dream come true, Mendis won Player of the Tournament at the 2008 Asia Cup with 17 wickets at a miserly 8.52. He has remained an economic, wicket taking bowler for Sri Lanka, although injuries have hampered the bulk of his 2012 campaign.
T20 has served Mendis very well, with the tweaker holding the record as the only man to have taken six wickets in an innings. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he did it again for good measure. His 6/16 against Australia was good, but his 6/8 against Zimbabwe at the World T20 was stunning. The Zimbabweans had no answer to his mix of method and madness as they slumped to an 82 run defeat.
The Australians have already been on the end of a Mendis master class, and will have hopefully learned how to combat his magic. The record breaking bowler will be keen to atone for a lack of cricket that has made him hungrier than ever before.