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Kusal Mendis: Sri Lanka's ray of hope


Kusal_Mendis_Sri_Lanka_cricketIn a Test match where no other batsmen had scored even a half century in the first three innings till then, Kusal Mendis walked back to the pavilion with a magnificent 176 runs in 254 balls in the 3rd innings of the match. The 21 year old’s stunning maiden century lifted Sri Lanka out of a huge hole and gave them the ascendancy over Australia in the first Test in Kandy.

While the other batsmen found it difficult to play, Mendis was unfazed at the other end, sweeping the spinners and cutting & driving the pacers with equal ease. His innings proved worthy enough for Sri Lanka to register a complete turnaround in a Test that they seemed fated to lose.

Kusal walked in to bat as Sri Lanka were reeling at 6/2. Prior to the Kandy phenomenon, Mendis’ Test average (from 6 Tests) sat at a mediocre 30.81, with a best score of 53. They weren’t numbers that would see him called a reliable 'future’ of the Sri Lankan batting lineup. But this opportunity was the perfect platform for him to legitimize his authority and restore faith in the selectors and fans.

While Starc was in midst of a fiery spell, Kusal played with a positive mindset and later started attacking him. Wickets kept tumbling on the other side as the 21 year old played a lone fighting hand for the islanders. He finally found company in the form of Chandimal and later De Silva, who actually stayed at the crease and allowed him to do the talking with the bat.


He showed tremendous character in staying at the crease and turning the tables on an Australian attack that consisted of Starc, Hazlewood and Lyon. His innings was the epitome of composure and skill. I had to applaud his awareness, grit, perseverance and the never-give-up attitude with which he played the knock. There was not even the slightest sign of struggle or desperateness to reach landmarks. As he accelerated ahead, he also broke Asanka Gurusinha’s 24 year old record, registering the highest score by a Sri Lankan against Australia in Sri Lanka.

For the first time in 17 years, Sri Lanka defeated Australia in a Test match. The last time this happened, Aravinda De Silva was still the mainstay of Sri Lankan batting, Zimbabwe were among the top teams in international cricket and the captains of the two most recent World Cup winning teams (Dhoni & Clarke) were yet to make their international debuts.

Having captained the Sri Lankan side at the U-19 World Cup in 2014 and previously won Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award, Mendis’ selection was largely down to his potentials. His 176 will be remembered not only for the significance of how well Sri Lanka fought back in this game, nor how long it took to break the winning jinx against Australia, but as a sign of the resurgence of a team which has struggled to find itself following the retirements of stalwarts Sangakkara and Jayawardene.



After the splendid knock, Kusal Mendis is no more a newbie or a rookie trying to explore the International cricket arena, but a prospect that the cricketing world needs to watch. He will be judged on elevated parameters now and the Sri Lankan cricketing fraternity will look for him to shoulder additional responsibility.

It's inevitable: you can’t help getting glued to the screen watching a fine young talent come of age against a champion side like Australia. It’s exhilarating to see a player who lives by the ideology of never giving up until it's over. The young Sri Lankan team looked no more than ordinary until yesterday. But now they might have realised that they didn't require a complete overhaul as some suggested, but a magnificent innings of 176 from a precocious youngster to lift the spirits of a young side and make an island of passionate cricket fans believe that the game was still in their blood.


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