Beneath the affable ways, lies a sharp mind. Armed with an infectious smile that's a perfect fit on the baby face, Mithun Perera's demeanour, and his low seeding of 55, can trick an opponent into lowering his guard.
Pitted against Mandeo Singh Pathania, seeded 7th, in the pre-quarters of the SRF All-India Matchplay, Perera was tipped to win, keeping in mind his record at the DGC this week. The years spent in India playing the amateur circuit have enabled him to pick up a smattering of Hindi, and the podgy 24-year-old from Colombo brushed aside the perception with that trademark smile.
"Arre, hum to abhi baccha hai, (I'm still a child)."
Pathania taken care of (2&1), next up for Perera --- playing his maiden pro season — was his stiffest assignment. The tee off must have had a quirky effect on both men.
If the jinx of never winning a matchplay title was on Mukesh Kumar's mind, Perera was aware that he was up against a man whose experience breached the realm of imagination. The No. 2 seed had competed against his father, Nandasena Perera, a renowned amateur of his time, a quarter of a century ago, and Perera Jr was quick to grasp that — looking the 45-year-old in the eye was the only way out.
“He (Mukesh) has an awesome reputation but I decided to shift the pressure on him by keeping the ball in play,” he said. Given the unforgiving ways of the DGC, it was easier said than done but Perera was able to enforce the plan by opening with a birdie.
Mukesh retaliated by picking up the 5th and 6th, but displaying maturity far beyond his years, Perera bounced back on the 7th. The perseverance bore fruit when he rattled off three wins --- 9th-11th, to be 3 Up after 14. Mukesh did counter-attack on the 15th and 17th but Perera halved the 18th to win 1 Up.