Ajantha Mendis stepped into the limelight at the Asia Cup final and it seems he just can’t step out of it. For a full forty minutes Mendis was the centre of attention as he got a taste of how the Indian media treated cricketers at the launch of Travelorg Holidays as official tour operator for the upcoming Indo-Lanka series.
Ever smiling, like that other Sri Lankan spinner, Mendis whispered answers in Sinhala for Arjuna Ranatunga to translate. Mendis, whose only unaided utterance, also in Sinhala, was something to the tune of “come watch us play.”
Ranatunga, never short of words, did more than just translate, generously adding to Mendis’ short answers. “Murali is a legend. He has gone very far and I am just beginning,” said Mendis when the inevitable comparison came his way.
Ranatunga let Mendis go in quick time as the bowler had a return flight to catch. “He took a day’s break from practice and I don’t want him to miss another day,” said Ranatunga. “I’m not too comfortable calling Ajantha a freak but he is a freak bowler. He has five different deliveries and is mastering one more,” said Ranatunga. “You have to be at him all the time. To play against Mendis will be the ultimate test.”
Mendis did not speak of the plans he had for India’s batsmen, only saying, “Tests will be a new thing. I am only 23 but am not young for Tests. I have two years of first class experience (111 wickets from 19 matches). It will be an honour to bowl with Murali. I look forward to bowling to Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid. It will be a big challenge to bowl against them.”
Ranatunga added, “Mendis has the advantage of having Murali at the other side. He should not put pressure on himself. He might go through failures but importantly, like what we did to Murali, we should keep him going.” Ranatunga said he’d like to see Mendis bowl in Tests. “Whether Sachin Tendulkar goes past Brian Lara’s world record (most Test runs) or if he will struggle against Ajantha, we are anxious to find out.”