Posts Tagged ‘Mendis’

Dhoni – Handling Mendis is up to the individual

August 14, 2008

Hardly 15 minutes after Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrived at the team hotel in Colombo with his fellow one-day recruits, had he faced a barrage of questions. No surprise that most of them focused around the man who snatched almost half of the Indian wickets in the Test series, Ajantha Mendis.

“I’ll just ask Mahela Jayawardene if he will lend Mendis for a couple of practice sessions. If not, then…,” Dhoni said with a laugh when asked how India could tackle Mendis. “But seriously, we will have to deal with it in a personal way. We can watch 1000 videos of what he does, but it is up to the individual to play him on the turf. It depends on your frame of mind.”

India’s ODI squad includes two uncapped players, Tamil Nadu’s S Badrinath and Delhi’s Virat Kohli, the victorious Under-19 captain. Sachin Tendulkar will not play the five-ODIs after sustaining an injury to his left elbow during the third Test in Colombo. Dhoni admitted that was a major blow, but put faith in the younger players. “It’s not just his contribution with bat and the ball, but he comes up with brilliant suggestions and advice on the field. The impact he has in the dressing room is great.

In the Tests India’s batsmen failed to put up good scores, failing to cross 330, and that cost them the series. Dhoni, however, said it was important for the batsmen to back themselves to score briskly, despite the setbacks.

India’s recent record in the subcontinent includes losses in the finals of the Kitply and Asia Cup, which Dhoni termed as “crucial games”, and he hoped to rectify that trend. The ODI specialists had two days of practice at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, which Dhoni said was “up to the mark”, and he noted a lot of energy in the side.

Jayawardene, Dhoni’s counterpart, was understandably optimistic about the ODIs, having defeated India in the Asia Cup and the Test series. “It is always a different game and we have different game plans [for handling India],” he said. “It’s a young side, and we are grooming a young group of guys to take over. We are looking to the little things well as individuals – that’s been our emphasis and I think that’s what has contributed to our improvement over that period.”

Picking up 26 wickets is no mean achievement for a bowler, but when Mendis and Murali operate in tandem is when they’re so difficult. After a long time, Murali has a genuine match-winning spinning partner, and Jayawardene felt it was quite a relief for a captain to have such an option. “We now have good attacking options,” he said. “Murali has got the support he requires and also there is support for [Chaminda] Vaas. We have the likes of Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando. For us it’s always a team and it does not matter what Ajantha Mendis does.”

Sri Lanka will welcome back their prolific one-day opener, Sanath Jayasuriya, but Jayawardene was not sure about who would partner him. Sri Lanka’s 15-man squad includes eight batsmen, so they have choices between Malinda Warnapura, Mahela Udawatte, and Kumar Sangakkara to open. Jayawardene said Warnapura’s success in the Tests – he scored 243 runs at 60.75, with a hundred in the first Test at the SSC, and two fifties – gave Sri Lanka a viable option, but Sangakkara’s success in the Asia Cup could see him opening with Jayasuriya.

“The way everyone’s talking about Ajantha,” Jayawardene said, “he might take ten wickets even before going on.” The venue for the first two ODIs is Dambulla, a notoriously low-scoring venue which favours spin, so India will need to be on their best guard against Sri Lanka’s two spinners.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

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Sehwag hits double century, probably his best one!

August 1, 2008

So far, this match has steadfastly refused to tilt in favour of any team. After another day of twists and turns, heroes and under-performers, and fascinating subplots, neither team can claim ascendancy. Barring rain, the Test looks poised to produce a result and the nicest thing about it is that it will be a while before a favourite can be identified.

But as it was yesterday, the morning belonged to Sehwag. He had promised his team a double-hundred and he never looked like reneging on it. Sri Lanka set deep fields to him from the start and time and again he found his space. There was an early charge against Vaas, who had shifted the balance yesterday with two late wickets, and a fierce cut sped past the man positioned at the point boundary to save it.

The feature of his innings was his remarkable certainty against the spinners. Throughout the morning, Muttiah Muralitharan bowled his off-spinners with six men on leg, and Sehwag kept hitting him through the off side against the spin, deftly manoeuvring the ball with an open blade. There were dabs for singles, a few punches past the cover fielder, and a breathtaking cover drive after dancing down the track. It was far from violent; instead it was artful, delicate and cheeky. And successful: Murali didn’t beat him once.

It was Mendis who came the closest to taking his wicket but he failed in the face of Sehwag’s determination to dominate him. When Mendis replaced Vaas at the Pavilion End, Sehwag cleared his front leg and slog-swept so hard the top edge nearly carried to the man on the fence – but ended up a six.

Sehwag has scored many gigantic hundreds but this must rank among his best. It came against massive odds, and it came when India needed a saviour after the two Sri Lankan spinners had humiliated their batsmen. Seen in isolation, he destroyed them. He scored 128 of his runs off the spinners; Mendis alone yielded 70 runs off 77 balls, including 3 sixes and five fours. He hit five more fours against Murali. It was a mark of his commitment to the team that he didn’t attempt to reach his double hundred with a six and even denied himself an easy single on 199. It would be absolutely reasonable to say that throughout his innings he occupied a different plane from his team-mates.

It is to Mendis’s credit that he retained his poise despite being roughed up by Sehwag. As he did yesterday, he provided the breakthrough that led to the collapse. Laxman was guilty of throwing his wicket away but Mendis had set the trap with a man midway to the mid-wicket boundary. Laxman managed to elude him once but not the second time. Once Laxman was removed, Mendis’s deception was too much for the tailenders – and, on current form, Dinesh Karthik must count as one.

In the last session, India found an unlikely saviour in Harbhajan who – out of nowhere – rediscovered his wicket-taking form to halt Sri Lanka. Both he and Kumble had looked pedestrian until Harbhajan managed to break through against the run of play. That done, he was a transformed bowler. He varied both his length and pace, and began to give the ball rip. With sharper fielders close to the bat, he would have had a fiver by the close. But Mahela Jayawardene has survived to keep Sri Lanka in the game.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

Kumble plays down Mendis threat

July 20, 2008

Ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka, Anil Kumble, India’s Test captain, has played down the threat posed by spinner Ajantha Mendis, who scythed through India’s batting in the Asia Cup final earlier this week.

“He must be a tricky bowler. But I cannot see how he can remain a surprise element for very long,” he told the Mumbai Mirror. “To be honest I cannot see how someone like Rahul [Dravid] would not have sorted him out. Rahul would have played straight and not heaved across the line.”

Kumble insisted he had nothing to say on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to withdraw from the Test series as “it was his (Dhoni’s) personal decision. He knows his mind and body”.

However, he stated he had asked the selectors to pick two specialist wicketkeepers for the tour. “As captain I am aware that there could be problems if the specialist were to pull a muscle or have a runny stomach on the morning of a Test. There was a suggestion Rahul be the second wicketkeeper, but I persuaded the [selection] committee to view things from Indian cricket’s point of view and advantage.

“I contended there was nothing wrong in taking the additional specialist wicketkeeper. I know Rahul would not like to be saddled with such a responsibility.”

When asked whether he rued not getting the captaincy earlier in his career, he said: “After the Australian tour that was riddled with controversies, I told myself that I had handled the most provocative of situations well.

“And maybe in that state of mind, I did think I could have served Indian cricket better had I been offered the captaincy earlier. Apart from Sachin [Tendulkar], I was senior in the team to others. But then these things happen and one has to learn to take these in one’s stride.” He said being made captain on a series-to-series basis did not provide him “much scope to plan”.

India kick off the tour with a three-day warm-up match on July 18