Different strokes for different blokes
I am a sucker for something different in the game of cricket. Cricket played instinctively is a delight to watch and something that must be encouraged. When it is on show it is special.
We caught a glimpse of it in Game 1 of the World T20 with the expertise of Ajantha Mendis as he totally bamboozled the young Zimbabweans.
After 8 months of non-representation at international level it was a sight to behold and a stark reminder of how much we have missed his wizardry. Many will speculate as to whether he is back to his best, but as Ian Bishop alluded on commentary, we will not know until he plays against some quality opposition.
Zimbabwe were like rabbits in the headlights when facing Ajantha and handed him the opportunity to completely dominate and dictate, which is exactly what any class spinner wants. Their reading of his variation was abysmal. I doubt we will see that repeated over the next three weeks as other teams will realise his threat and look to transfer the pressure.
There was a time in T20 cricket when the bowlers only considered damage control. When presented with favourable conditions it is essential that the skipper and his attack conjure up some ideas that enhance weaponry. That is certainly one aspect of the T20 game that has developed and now, through confidence, bowlers are prepared to attempt something out of the ordinary to unsettle the batsman or upset his rhythm. Watch closely for that to develop further in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka are one of the favourites and their eagerness to push the envelope when it comes to unorthodox methods holds them in good stead and must be applauded. Their talent conveyor belt is an adventurous one that encourages expression and freedom that allows individuals to develop naturally without the dreaded curse of over-coaching.
We have hardly laid eyes on the latest player they have quietly unearthed who is expected to carry the "mystery" baton forward. Akila Danajaya will get a run at some stage during the World T20 and many will be sitting just a little bit straighter in their chairs when he gets his chance.
He is an 18-year-old spinner who has been plucked from obscurity and was discovered as a net bowler when bowling to the national team. He was selected in the Sri Lankan provisional squad of 30 for the World T20 without ever playing a professional game. That selection was fast-tracked on the recommendation of coach Ford and skipper Jayawardene, and to reward their confidence, he proceeded to excel in the recently concluded SLPL.
His stock delivery is the standard offspinner but then his repertoire extends considerably. He possesses the offie, moves to the doosra, then the leggie, has a wrong-un and culminates with the carrom ball. Tell me that won’t be a headache for many hapless batsmen in the future.
Cricket is played best when it is played instinctively and Sri Lanka must be congratulated for the way in which that method is cultivated throughout their island.