For those who have not seen Ajanthas Mendis bowl this footage from YouTube is a good place to start. In the first innings he is bowling to a well set VVS Laxman and causing that delightful batsman quite a few problems. He returns in the second Indian innings to continue the torture of poor VVS.
By bowling the ball from the front of the hand with the palm facing the batsman, Mendis is able to impart clockwise (off spin) and counter clockwise (leg spin) rotations onto the ball with a very similar action.
Gripping the ball like a delicate egg at the ends of his fingers, rather than forced down between the knuckles of his first two fingers (for orthodox off spin) or first and third fingers (for orthodox leg spin), he can both twist the ball clockwise on release with thumb and middle finger imparting what would be considered gentle off-spinning revolutions and, from the same initial grip, give the ball counter clockwise revolutions by flicking the middle upwards to impart leg spin (much in the manner of an Iverson or Gleeson leg break).
This leg break is called the ‘carrom’. To get the carrom to work seems to require a quickish delivery of as much as 60 m.p.h. To disguise it from the front of the hand off-spinning delivery both must therefore be bowled at this quickish pace. Lack of significant rotations also means that the Magnus effect and degree of turn is limited and Mendis must rely on subtle variations of pace and an at-the-wicket line.
The carrom however leaves the flicked middle finger pointing to the sky at the moment of release. To cover this ‘clue’ in a veil of doubt, Mendis includes in his repertoire an orthodox googly, out of the back of the hand, or top spinner out of the side of the hand, both of which leave the tell-tale little finger pointing to the sky in a way that makes it difficult for the batsman to distinguish the googly that breaks from left to right (or the top spinner that rushes straight on) from his flicked ‘leg break’.
The three basic forms of his deliveries are shown here. You may wish to turn off the sound!
If you have time you may wish to get a flavour of the varieties, the deception and the pressure of his bowling by viewing the 8 wickets he took on his debut here
In former times young bowlers and batsmen would very often have great first seasons when, as unknowns, they encountered their county opponents. Gradually the internal communications of the County Championship would operate as bowlers and batsmen shared experiences and ‘worked’ out these fledgling players whose longer term cricketing futures would depended on how they then coped with and adapted to these carefully considered strategies used against them in their second and third seasons.
That process is now almost instantaneous as each delivery and each shot is filmed and then analysed on a laptop. Every mannerism, every combination, every variation is examined to unearth correlations and visual clues to help opponents refine their strategies.
To see how the Indian team and its analysts dealt with Mendis listen particularly to S Ramakrisnan speaking 6.20 minutes into this film on the ‘decoding’ of Mendis here
Cricket lovers will delight in Mendis with this skillful expression of the game and look forward to seeing his career progress. Bowlers will hope he beats the analysts. Batsmen will hope the analysts win. In their hearts, everone will hope the laptop loses.
What this has to do with S.F. Barnes 1873 -1967, England’s 129th capped player, Third Man will venture to explain tomorrow.