That was the impression I got when I first saw Ajanta Mendis bowl today in the India v Sri Lanka Asia Cup final in Karachi. This lad has taken 100-odd first class wickets in less 20 matches, in Sri Lanka's domestic competition and I get the impression that he was well and truly underestimated by the Team India think tank in their preparation for this game.
Watching him take his first four wickets for absolutely nothing in the runs column, I can confidently say that he does nothing with the ball. Hardly any revolutions, no grip and more than turn, he gets a minute amount of movement in the air - ala New Zealand's Chris Harris in his hey day. It is almost as if he is getting the batsman out with reverse psychology. They keep thinking he's going to produce a mystery ball, but the only mystery is it's total absence.
Where's the relationship to Kumble, you ask? Well, is this not exactly what Kumble did in his first few years on the international circuit. He couldn't spin the ball, he couldn't turn the ball, but he varied his pace and relied on the pitch to play a few tricks or the batsman to wilt. Eventually, batsmen the world over realised that it's a better bet to present a straight bat to Kumble, and after this change in strategy by the axis of evil the legendary spinner was forced to develop variations that eventually took him to the next level in the pantheon of bowlers.
With 120-odd required in under 20 overs in this match and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India's Saviour-elect, I wonder exactly what Gary Kirsten's Plan B was after Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh has fallen to the wily Mendis? How could an international team with such an elaborate support structure fall like ten-pins to such a simple cricketing strategy? Could it be that Team India's ability to think on the run still eludes them?
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