If a freak bowler is predictable, mastering him takes less time, writes Makarand Waingankar
The best thing about Ajantha Mendis is that he was allowed his natural bowling action to be developed by his unknown Army coach. Mendis is not a product of scientific coaching. Jack Iverson, Sony Ramadhin, John Gleeson and B. S. Chandrasekhar were also not products of coaching.
During the time that these four mystery bowlers emerged and confused the likes of Hutton, May and Cowdrey, there was no methodical coaching. There were no video analysis and proper methods to guide such bowlers.
They bowled the way they knew. They may have added a few tricks, but by and large they stuck to what they knew.
In the case of Mendis, one must compliment the coach who apparently showed him through film what he was bowling. To a thinking bowler, a film of his action is good enough to sort out problems. Once he knows what his strengths are, he uses them to his advantage.
The tendency of these bowlers is to be aloof and not discuss their strategy.
They don’t trust fellow cricketers, so guarded are they about their secrets.
Ranatunga was answering questions addressed to Mendis in the Mumbai press meet, but later said that Mendis not only doesn’t speak English but hardly utters a word even in Sinhalese. Here the captain has to read the strengths in his style and approach to the game. Once that is done, he has to set the field because a captain can’t set a field for a bad ball and such bowlers sometime tend to bowl for the opposition.
Pataudi and Wadekar handled Chandra with care. There were no specific spells for him. It all depended on how Chandra bowled the first over of the spell.
Both the captains and Chandra knew that for his type of bowling, his rhythm mattered more than the nature of the pitch. Mendis falls in the same bracket. Sony Ramadhin however preferred to bowl in long spells.
Mendis and his captain Jayawardene will have a set plan against the Indians. Since Mendis is an attacking bowler, he tends to try out all the deliveries he possesses every over. At the international level, especially against top Indian batsmen, keeping the secrets guarded will be very difficult. They will watch him more at the non-striker’s end so that they should be comfortable at the striker’s end.
It will be the test of his approach, his ability to mix those deliveries and be prepared to get thrashed that will determine his success in the next few weeks.
Unlike Chandra, he is accurate but that could be a disadvantage because if a freak bowler is predictable, mastering him takes less time.
Chandra was very unpredictable and his faster delivery was faster than some of the fast bowlers. The contest between the top quality Indian batsmen and the pair of Muralitharan and Mendis will offer exciting cricket that the connoisseurs of the game will enjoy.