“Mendis then, has made a habit of emerging to the surface when his side has been seen to be sinking; which is what really differentiates the extraordinary from the ordinary”
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
Choices come calling in adverse situations. The choice to stand tall and wade through or come crashing down when the situation around turns sombre. The option to survive; to grit it out and to fly away from the debris or just succumb as the world around collapses as well.
The sporting arena is a spot where players and athletes have to constantly remain embroiled in situations that threaten and test their mettle. While Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli have made a mark to succeed when the team was staring down the barrel, a select few have made it a habit to fail in crunch situations. Young Sri Lanka Kusal Mendis, all of 23 years of age, has, in his short career, entered the first bracket, and his gutsy knock of 87 against West Indies in the third innings of the second Test further exemplified that.
The younger has a career average of 37.87, with five hundreds and five fifties. A further breakdown reveals his average across innings. 40.15 in the first innings and 28.69 in the second. But it is his average that leapfrogs in the third and the fourth innings, which shows his temperament.
In the third innings, Mendis averages 40.33 while it is a staggering 54.83 in the fourth innings. However, his average in wins stands at just 38.63, and this could be because the Lankan side have been let down by inconsistencies from its other premier players. The island nation has won only 11 of the 25 games that Mendis has played, which has effectively brought down his average in wins massively.
However, when the opportunity has come falling towards him, he has taken it in his grasp to emerge as one of Lanka’s finest upcoming cricketers. He started his onslaught with a well-defined 53 in Sri Lanka’s tour to England in 2016. Though the pacers had done well to restrict the English side to 298, Sri Lanka failed to cope against the moving deliveries, skittling out for 91. Following-on and with a deficit of 207 runs ahead of them, the Lankans began on a poor note, losing their first wicket for 10. However, a calm 53 by Mendis kept them afloat as he played with confidence and ease to score at a strike-rate of 77.94. The other players, however, failed to support him and Lanka lost the match by an innings and 88 runs.
A few months later, Australia came calling and even while their record in Asia is nothing to be proud of, the fear that they inflict remains unparalleled. A score of 117 By Sri Lanka in the first innings put Australia on the front foot and they in turn, managed 203 in theirs. It needed a real stellar performance by any home batsman to turn the tide in their favour, and it was under immense pressure that Mendis emerged to strike a fluent 176. The top order had been sent back by the dangerous Mitchell Starc, and Mendis not only thwarted him, but he also stuck around to maturely handle the slower deliveries by tormentor Nathan Lyon as well. His innings helped Sri Lanka make 353 and eventually gave them an improbable win.
A year later, he brilliantly gave support to Dimuth Karunaratne as India had managed 622 runs in the 2nd Test of the first innings. In reply, Lanka managed 183, aided by Ravichandran Ashwin’s five-wicket haul but a 191-run partnership between Mendis and Karunaratne once again gave the home side some breathing space.
His knock of 87 against the West Indies, which was scored after navigating and surviving the pace and the venom of Shannon Gabriel brought his insane attitude and fortitude to the fore once again. The knock, that was coming off a brilliant hundred in the fourth innings against the Windies in the first Test reeked of a player who was much wiser than his years; determined to be the saving grace for his team whenever they were pushed down the barrel.
Previously, he had scored two fifties in the fourth innings, one, against the South Africans in Port Elizabeth after his side needed an improbable 488 for a win, and the second, an important 66 against Zimbabwe, chasing 387 for a win. Then, he had come in to bat after Upal Tharanga had walked back to the pavilion with the score at 58. His steadying act with Karunaratne helped Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne score in excess of 80, which proved to be match-winning in the end.
Mendis then, has made a habit of emerging to the surface when his side has been seen to be sinking; which is what really differentiates the extraordinary from the ordinary.