When Ajantha Mendis could not live up to expectations following his sensational Test debut two years ago, he was put forward as a prime example of the law of diminishing marginal utility. The more you consume something, the less effective it becomes, they said.
Mendis, who picked up 26 wickets in three Tests in his maiden series two years ago, has been able to add just 18 to that tally in his last seven Tests. While his first 26 wickets cost just 18.38 runs apiece, the last 18 have come at 40 runs a wicket.
No wonder then that it didn’t come as a surprise when Mendis wasn’t named in Sri Lanka’s squad for the first against India. Was the magic of the carrom ball just a fleeting thrill?
The army man showed his mettle on Tuesday with a six-wicket haul against the Indians during the warm-up tie. The spell, which was as good as any of his previous spells, not only put India on the backfoot as they enter the Test series but also virtually ensured Mendis of a place in Sri Lanka’s XI for the second Test.
But what made the Sri Lankan selectors drop Mendis from the squad? “Because of his huge early success, there is a feeling of lack of patience at times. But by and large, it’s a question of when to use him,” Ranjit Fernando, a member of Sri Lanka’s national selection panel, told HT.
“You don’t want to overexpose him. A precious commodity like him has to be handled as best as we can. We probably may not be 100 per cent while handling him, we may make mistakes down the way as everyone does. But the intention is to use him in a way which could get optimum use out of him.”
After overcoming Mendis phobia in one-dayers, the India's cricketers have given the impression that they have worked him out. However, Tuesday ensured Mendis still has a lot to offer, especially in the longer version.
“It will be foolish to write him off,” Fernando said.
“If you say that people have found a way to play him, he will be the first person to make you look like an idiot.”
Mendis did just that, and, for the time being at least, kept the law of diminishing marginal utility at bay.