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'Mendis not afraid of being taken for runs'

Sri Lankan skipper said Mendis is a big game player from what we have seen of him so far. He just comes in and does his job without being afraid of being taken for runs, reports Subhash Rajta.

cricket Updated: Jul 06, 2008 00:43 IST
Subhash Rajta

Ajantha Mendis, the mysterious Sri Lankan slow bowler, has become the most talked about name ahead of the final. Will the offie turn out to be ace who brings the cruising Indian juggernaut to a grinding halt and help extend Sri Lanka’s reign in Asia? Has the Sri Lankan skipper played a masterstroke by resting Mendis in the last contest to unleash him as a surprise weapon on India’s batsmen in the final?

The Lankan skipper, fielding all these questions, and many more on Mendis, tried his best to tone down the hype around his young bowler. “It’s good that everyone is talking about Ajantha. That will help other bowlers come in and pick up a couple of wickets as the batsmen will be busy thinking about how to tackle him,” said Jayawardene.

But deflecting attention from Mendis was not easy, for the offspinner has generated excitement not just because of his unique variations — Jayawardene said that could come up with six different balls in an over — but has also lived up to the hype.

He is the highest wicket-taker in the tournament, picking up five wickets against UAE and then demolishing Pakistan, picking 4-47 to push Lanka into the final.

The Lankan skipper might be trying to play down the hype, but he seems to have a lot of faith in his abilities.

“He is a big game player from what we have seen of him so far. He just comes in and does his job without being afraid of being taken for runs,” said Jayawardene.

Sri Lanka’s captain added that they don’t want to put too much pressure on the young spinner. “We are just going to give him the freedom to go out there and enjoy his first final for his country,” said Jayawardene.

Gary Kirsten, India’s coach, for his part, didn’t sound worried at the prospect of handling the mystery man. “He seems to be a good bowler, but we have our plans ready for every bowler…we are doing our homework,” said Kirsten.

But what could actually worry him is the Jayawardene’s observation on the wicket. “We now have played quite a few matches on the square and it’s bound to deteriorate and help the spinners,” he said.

And Jayawardene’s reading of the pitch is accurate, Murali and Mendis could create a few problems for India’s confident batsmen.