The first-class career
With just handful of first-class matches under his belt, Mendis was fast-tracked into the national team solely due to his raw talent; he has only played 23 first-class matches since making his first-class debut 18 months ago and has scored just over 1200 at 31.07. The transition from domestic cricket to international cricket was unsurprisingly challenging but Mendis has managed to make it as seamless as possible. “I think there is a big difference between domestic cricket and international cricket. Even though I did not possess much first-class experience, I was helped a lot in getting accustomed to the team culture. I was always given the freedom to express myself on the field.”
Play the ball on its merit
Even though Mendis started as a no.3 batsman against the Windies, he was asked to open the batting in New Zealand. He was once again shifted to the no. 3 position in England and has managed to make that prestigious batting position his own, at least for the foreseeable future, after a strong showing against the Poms.
“Everyone, including the Captain, Vice-captain, Manager and all the coaches gave me immense confidence and just asked me to play my natural game. I was never intimidated by the names of Southee, Boult, Anderson or Broad. I just played the ball on its merit.”
The disappointments in England
Scoring a Test half-century is always a dream come true for any cricketer and Mendis ticked that off his list with a ‘back against the wall’ half century in Leeds. His performance in the Tests prompted the selectors to give him a long-run in the ODIs as well where he scored 3 half-centuries in 7 games and currently averages over 30 in both formats.
“Whenever I’m at ease scoring 20-30 runs, I always look to bat through and make it a long innings. I was happy that I got past the 50-run mark several times but disappointed that I could not convert those 50s into 100s. “
Mendis, the wicket-keeper and fielder
Mendis has been a wicket-keeper from a young age and credits being a stumper as having a big impact on his batting, “As a wicket-keeper, our eyes are always set on the ball. It has certainly helped my batting. Now I focus a lot on my fielding as I need to be at the same level as the others” a determined Mendis stated on the importance of transforming into a regular fielder from being a wicket-keeper.
The batting technique
To succeed at the international level, any batsman should have a strong base, an unwavering temperament and a sound technique. Sri Lanka Coach Graham Ford too has earmarked Mendis as a player who has a wonderful technique and believes he can survive wherever he goes in world cricket.
Not one to tinker too much with a technique that has helped him get this far, Mendis admits that sometimes a few minor adjustments need to be made according to the conditions. “I never made many adjustments to my batting technique in England but I batted with a low bat-lift, a small initial movement which helped me to counter the seam and swing. Angelo and Chandimal suggested that I bat on the off-stump, not on the middle-stump as it allowed me to leave balls outside my hitting zone.”
The upcoming Australian tour
The likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood, Mitchell Marsh and Jackson Bird will look to rip through the Lankan top-order cheaply in the coming Test series but they will have a diminutive stroke-maker in Mendis to counter.
“It’s a whole new tour against a quality side, I cannot just dwell on the performances during the England tour, I will take the good things, continue to play my normal game and contribute to my team here in Sri Lanka. I want to play match-winning knocks against Australia, probably score my first Test hundred as well. As a team, we are pretty confident of making things right against the Aussies.” Mendis looked ahead confidently on what awaits in the coming weeks.