Can Kamindu Mendis break a record that has stood for 100 years?

Kamindu Mendis

When you have worked so hard at your game and kept knocking on the door, when the opportunity comes your way, you just need to turn up and everything falls in line. That seems to be the case with Kamindu Mendis. Everything the left-handed batter touched turned gold in Bangladesh. He hit a purple patch on his return to the Sri Lankan side. 

Hundreds in each innings in the first Test against Bangladesh followed by an unbeaten 92 in the second Test. Into the bargain there were three wickets too. Such eye-catching performance has seen Kamindu being named the ICC Player of the Month for March. He is the third Sri Lankan to win the award with the others being Wanindu Hasaranga and Prabath Jayasuriya. 

After five innings in Test cricket, Kamindu has accumulated 428 runs that includes two hundred and two half-centuries. At this rate, you can be pretty sure that he will break Roy Dias’ record as the fastest Sri Lankan to 1000 runs in Tests. 

Dias a member of the Sri Lankan side that played the inaugural Test, got there three years since his debut in 1985 when he played against India in Kandy. It took him 23 innings. 

Given the start that Kamindu has had in Test match cricket, he will set a new benchmark. One that will be tough to beat for future generations. 

Maybe Kamindu can have a go at the World Record as well. England opener Herbert Sutcliffe reached the milestone in his 11th Test innings against Australia at MCG. That was in February 1925. Exactly hundred years later, Kamindu Mendis could be in for something special. If his golden run continues in England, where he will have six innings, things could get interesting. 

But it will a tough ask. England bowling is far superior to that of Bangladesh and obviously conditions will be far more challenging. Why Sutcliffe’s record has survived a century is because he scored some big runs at the start of his career and he opened batting. 

The position that Kamindu occupies is very hard for batters to make those big runs. More often than not he has to bat with the tail, farming the strike from nine, ten and Jack. Taking a few calculated risks are all part of the game for a number seven batter and the odds are numerous against him. 

Now there’s been a school of thought to push Kamindu to number three. He bats there in domestic cricket and many believe he belongs there in Test match cricket too. Rightly so. For when one of your batters is in prime form, he should be given the lion’s share of the innings rather than reduced to lower middle order. 

Having said that, batting at number seven is a special skill and not all batters succeed there. Kamindu has shown a liking for this spot and let him continue where he has been involved in a few rescue acts. Those runs he scored in Bangladesh were worth much as they were by no means flat tracks. He ended the series with 367 runs in four innings. Mind you nobody from either side crossed the 300-run mark. 

It always bothers you why Kamindu was cold shouldered after a very impressive half-century on debut against the Aussies. In between his first Test and the second, Sri Lanka’s batting had collapsed a few times and it’s a pity that the think tank didn’t feel the need to fix the issue. 

Although he had scored heavily in the National Super League, prior to the start of Bangladesh series, many doubted whether he’d be able to break into the side. Good on the selectors for finding a slot for him with bit of tinkering and what a wise move it proved to be. Selectors often don’t get much credit in any sport, but Upul Tharanga and the committee has certainly won the appreciation of lot of people with some smart moves. 

Now that Kamindu has returned to the Test side with a huge impact, the selectors should find a way to make him an all format player. 

If you talk to some of the men who have coached Sri Lanka in the last ten year, one of the problems they have identified is that there were not many bowling options in the top seven. Because of that they struggled to balance the side. Here’s a guy who has been giving you bowling options from both arms and isn’t that a pity that he hasn’t been part of your white ball formats. 

Kamindu’s strong forte is his batting, very strong square of the wicket, he can be a handy addition to the middle order. Bowling is his secondary skill and you tend to get the feeling that he needs to be given the long rope in limited overs cricket.