“Very sorry, muchang, today I am really very busy,” he says as he walks in, stays for two minutes and scoots off in his car.”
“He is going to the church to pray,” his mother Ranjani says with a shy, but welcoming smile.
The Sri Lanka team leaves for Pakistan for a warm-up match and two Tests on Saturday and this is an Ajantha Mendis ritual.
Before every tour the spinner of the ‘carom-ball’ fame prays at the Ragama Church, some 50 kms from his new and impeccably decorated two-storied house on the John Rodrigo Mawatha, very close to the Moratuwa University.
It’s a ‘rags to riches’ story Ajantha, the third child of Wenses and Ranjani, who made a sensational entry in international cricket.
The Indian Premier League signing with the Kolkata Knight Riders only added to the financial strength.
Wenses was in the carpentry business and the family of seven used to stay in a small house with an asbestos roof in a village nearby. He died in 2003 and just two weeks later Ajantha, then 19, had joined the Army in pursuit of a career in cricket as his father desired.
“I am proud of all my three sons. Yes cricket has changed our lives. But as a mother you feel proud about all your children. Ajantha’s younger brother Asanka is studying to become a priest. He has decided to offer his life to God and serve people. He will change the lives of people,” Ranjani, the mother of five, three sons and two daughters Aruni and Rasika, says.
The love for her son came to the public when she appealed to the Army not to send Ajantha to the war front. “He had joined the Army to use the facilities to play cricket and also to serve the nation. But I feel scared,” she says, as Rasika, the youngest of the five, joins her for a tour of Ajantha’s trophy cabinet that is quickly filling up.
Rasika is the one who writes down Ajantha’s figures on every ball that he brings back and displays them neatly inside the showcase along with trophies of different sizes and two golden IPL helmets.
She is the one who has rather artistically arranged some framed photographs of her brother’s memorable moments in his life. A Shah Rukh Khan fan herself, a photograph of Ajantha with the actor-cum-owner of the Knight Riders finds pride of place in the sitting area. “I hope to visit India once during the IPL. But I am not sure yet whether it will clash with my exams,” says Rasika, who likes Mahendra Singh Dhoni the most among Indian cricketers and shows off a photograph of the India skipper posing with her during India’s last tour.
“For Ajantha I just want him to play on and make the country proud. His father sacrificed a lot to get him into cricket. He would have been a proud man today,” Ranjani says.