NOTTINGHAM, England, June 17 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka off-spinner Ajantha Mendis may no longer be a mystery bowler but he remains a significant threat to West Indies in Friday’s Twenty20 World Cup semi-final at The Oval.
Mendis completed figures of three for nine in the last match against New Zealand and is now the third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 10 victims.
“Mendis is picking up key wickets for them, along with (Muttiah) Muralitharan, so they have wicket-taking bowlers,” West Indies captain Chris Gayle told reporters on Wednesday.
Finger spinner Mendis is the latest in a line of unorthodox Sri Lankan bowlers, including Muralitharan and pace man Lasith Malinga who bowls with a side-on slinging action.
Mendis’s style is also very unorthodox. He releases the ball with a snap of his fingers rather than the wrist movement employed by conventional spinners, making it easier to fool batsmen by disguising his deliveries.
He earned himself a reputation as a mystery bowler after claiming six for 13 against India in the 2008 Asia Cup final and former captain Mahela Jayawardene explained why Sri Lanka are able to produce so many freakish talents.
“Our coaches try not to change too much and they let players progress as they are and then try and fine-tune them later,” Jayawardene said.
“When Ajantha came to the academy he didn’t have too much control but we set a plan for him to develop and within six months he found his range and he was fine. We fine-tune these guys only at the end. We just let them come through.”
Jayawardene said even his own team do not always read Mendis’s variations and that he still dismisses his team mates regularly in the nets.
“There are too many things that come out of his fingers, it is hard to keep up. He’s something special,” Jayawardene added.
Editing by Ed Osmond. To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org