The defining slogan, ‘born with a silver spoon in the mouth’ does befit Sri Lanka’s latest batting star, 23-year old Kusal Mendis whose natural flair has propelled the lad from Moratuwa from a bad patch back to his element. Blessed with a willow work from his childhood days when he swished a bat as a 7-year old at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, Mendis does certainly air about business with the bat when he says, “I do have a dream of achieving the targeted goal of becoming among the top ten batsmen in world cricket.”
Fresh from his batting exploits in Sri Lanka’s clean sweep of Bangladesh, Balapuwaduge Kusal Gimhan Mendis, hailing from Rawathawatte, Moratuwa, in an interview on Monday, disclosed salient details of his comeback during the Bangladesh tour; and an expectant future.
(Q). You were an instant hit opening the batting for Sri Lanka in that clean sweep of Bangladesh in all three formats. How would you describe your role as an opener?
(A). “Opening the batting was no problem for me. It did not make a big difference from moving up from No.3 because in fact I have been accustomed to opening. I did open against Zimbabwe, and I have done so even for my club.”
(Q). Your comments on rediscovering form?
(A). “I went back to the drawing board and really practiced hard from the first month after I lost my place. The club coaches helped me a lot during that period. My one resolve was to make a strong comeback and be there right along.”
(Q). From that point with Chandika Hathurusinghe coming as head coach, he pointedly asked the selectors that he wanted you in the squad. How did it go from there?
(A). “Yes, I must stress that I did a lot of homework at training. I am very thankful to the head coach, Chandika Hathurusinghe who raised my spirits mentally along with batting coach, Thilan Samaraweera when I was mentally down”.
(Q). Can you elaborate further?
(A). “Both Hathurusinghe and Samaraweera took a special interest in me by having long chats with me and strengthening my mind set when I am performing in the middle. That did sharpen my resolve tremendously”.
(Q). You spoke much in a previous interview as to your childhood coach Jayalath Aponso when you swished a bat as a 7-year old. Did you go back to him for advice during that bad patch?
(A). “Yes, I did. In fact, I always make it a point to be in touch with my first coach from whom I learned the basics when my father put me in his charge at the Jayalath Aponso Cricket Academy as a kid. My dad it was who started me on a cricket career and went to extremes to ensure that I got a sound basic training at that age.”
(Q). Was it overconfidence that caused you to lose your wicket from the high you started your career? Your nonchalant batting is such that in that epic test century against Australia you reached the magical three figure mark by hooking a delivery from off to leg for six. Did your aggressiveness lead to a tendency that bowlers worked on?
(A). “No, I wouldn’t say that my overconfidence in shot making led to that form slump. I just play my normal game. It so happened that I began to wane.”
(Q). World experts have been commenting on the dexterity of your stroke making and that there is a science in your batting at such a young age. They are putting you in the bracket of top batsmen like India’s Virat Kohli. Your comments?
(A). “I do have a dream. My immediate target is to get up there among the top ten batsmen in international cricket.”
By Srian Obeyesekere