Kusal Mendis still the best bet | Sunday Observer

Kusal Mendis still the best bet

Kusal Mendis
Kusal Mendis

Top order batsman Kusal Mendis, despite recent dips in form, is a highly talented cricketer and batsman whose talent was spotted and gifted to Sri Lanka cricket through the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which is in its 41st year.

Mendis was adjudged Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year six years ago, immediately after Trinity Lion Niroshan Dickwella, who too went on to win the prestigious award in 2012.

It is a belief that the Observer-Mobotel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year fast tracks a budding cricketer towards a Sri Lanka cap. Out of the many such cases starting from ICC Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle and Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga in the later 70s and early 80s, the most recent Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketers have been Mendis and Dickwella.

More importantly, Mendis was called for Sri Lanka duty after only 16 first class matches due to immense contributions he had made even as a top cricketer from Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa. Balapuwaduge Kusal Gimhan Mendis, was born on February 2, 1995.

He was adjudged the 2013 schoolboy cricketer of the year and had captained the national youth and the Prince of Wales teams in his formative years. Usually batting at number three in all formats, Mendis was named the One Day International (ODI) batsman of the year in the 2016-17 season at Sri Lanka Cricket’s annual awards.

The highly talented Mendis captained the Sri Lanka team at the 2014 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup immediately after his final season for Price of Wales. He became the 132nd Test player for Sri Lanka, gaining his ‘Test cap’ during the second Test of the Sobers-Tissera Trophy series against the West Indies. He made a modest Test debut in the second Test of the West Indies tour of Sri Lanka 2015, scoring 13 runs in the first innings and 39 runs in the second.

Mendis was included in the Sri Lanka squad for the tour of England. In the first Test he scored a duck in the first innings, but scored his maiden test half-century (53) in the second knock. He heralded his One Day International (ODI) with a bang on June 16, 2016, scoring his maiden ODI fifty. He made his Twenty20 International (T20I) debut against England in the following month.

Mendis scored his maiden Test century on July 28, 2016 during the first Test against Australia at the Pallekele Cricket Stadium. Incidentally, he became the youngest Sri Lankan to score a century against Australia and also made the highest score against Australia on home soil.

His blistering form enabled Sri Lanka to win the match by 106 runs, which was only their second Test win against Australia. Mendis was awarded the Man of the Match award for his wonderful performance.

In the fifth ODI of the three-nation tournament, which also featured Zimbabwe against the West Indies, Mendis scored 94 runs. With his fifty and 94 runs by Dickwella, Sri Lanka posted 330 runs off 50 overs, which was recorded as the highest total by Sri Lanka against the West Indies. Sri Lanka won the match by a solitary run with Mendis being adjudged Man of the Match.

The win put Sri Lanka in the final with Zimbabwe and Mendis scored another fifty, guiding the team to win the Tri-series by six wickets. Mendis’ all-round performances in the series gave him his first Player of the Series award.

In the first Test against Bangladesh at Galle, Mendis scored his second Test century, a marathon knock of 194 but missed a double century when he was caught by Tamim Iqbal. In the second ODI against Bangladesh at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on March 28, 2017 he cracked his maiden ODI century (102).

Mendis had a memorable feat in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, scoring a match-winning 89 runs against India to seal the match for Sri Lanka on June 8, 2017. Sri Lanka chased a daunting 321 runs scored by India, by recording the highest successful run chase in the Champion’s Trophy history.

Along with Danushka Gunathilaka, Mendis shared 159-run alliance for the second wicket that mainly helped to reach the target. In fact, this was Sri Lanka’s joint-highest chase.

In an ODI against Zimbabwe, Mendis passed the 1000 ODI run milestone, becoming the joint second-fastest with Upul Tharanga for Sri Lanka to achieve this on June 30, 2017. Before the commencement of the first ODI against Bangladesh, Mendis had an aggregate of 1835 runs in 70 ODIs with one century and 15 fifties. Mendis scored his fourth Test hundred during the first Test against Bangladesh last year, on his 23rd birthday. He has represented Sri Lanka in 38 Tests to aggregate 2639 runs with six centuries and nine fifties. Mendis suffered a lean patch recently and was totally out of form during the 2018 Asia Cup, where he was out for nought in both games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan. His place in the team was in doubt with poor performances and was omitted from the England tour of Sri Lanka. But Mendis was called into the squad for the remainder of the series against England, as a replacement. After 24 innings without a fifty, he scored a 30-ball half century in the match with six huge sixes as Sri Lanka won the match by 219 runs.

Meanwhile, all arrangements have been made for the 41th Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which is scheduled to be held shortly. Prior to that, the Selection panel will meet within the coming weeks.

This is the 12th consecutive year that SLT Mobitel will be sponsoring the Mega Show, Sri Lanka’s first schools cricket awards show which had started in an era in which there had not been even an inter-school tournament..

Winning the Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title has remained the dream of every schoolboy cricketer. Moreover, there is a belief among schoolboy cricketers that the prestigious title would take them closer to sporting the Sri Lanka ‘cap’. Most past winners of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the title had made their Sri Lanka debut in double quick time. SLT Mobitel has played a key role in the promotion of the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year thanks to the untiring efforts of Sri Lanka Telecom Chairman Kumarasinghe Sirisena. SLT Mobitel Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera has played a dynamic role in promoting school cricket in a big way. The unique vision of Lake House Chairman, Krishantha Cooray has always helped this event to be the Event of all sporting events and to go from strength to strength.