Alfred Hitchcock once famously said, “the fear of a bomb lies not in its explosion but in the wait of it.” It is a perfect quote that explains why people commit hysterical mistakes to avoid their worst possible fears even if they may or may not come true. In the process, they end up feeding that fear and go in to a shell that they find difficult to get out of.
This principle perfectly applies to the present Indian batsmen though I concede it is not in the same degree or context that Mr. Hitchcock meant. The fear here is a Sri Lankan army paratrooper otherwise an off-leg-break, cricket bowler called Ajanta Mendis who, to make matters more confusing, bowls a top-spinner, a googly, a flipper, a floater and a fast leg-break ripper called a carrom ball. For those of you who have started sighing, I must add he does all this within the pinpoint accurate confines of the three stumps. And just as a final knell, he also drifts the ball in the air!
Come to think of it, there is no sane reason to blame our batsmen who have looked like spellbound, overwhelmed, dumbstruck novices in front of Mendis. If our greatest test batsman (Rahul Dravid) fails to read him and the best batsman in the world (Sachin Tendulkar) pads his deliveries for survival, then what can one expect from young rookies like Yuvraj, Raina and Rohit Sharma? Even the wristy V.V.S. and the spin-specialist Sourav Ganguly have looked circumspect. Gautam Gambhir has played him well, but with partial success. Only Sehwag has managed to dominate him to an extent, but his is an approach difficult to replicate. Also, his approach of all attack cannot be followed consistently or reliably as the test series has shown. MSD with his street-smart Cosco ball upbringing was a hope but even he has succumbed to the mind-boggling variations. There have been instances where a bowler has run through sides not just because of his variations and talent but his wonderful execution. The scary part is Mendis does not even need perfect execution of his plans – he has way too many fallback options and stock deliveries much to the dismay of his opponents. Just when you think you have read him, there comes a shock!
The Indian Team, so far, has lost its various opportunities to prove to the world that it has solved Mendis. The remaining ODIs are their final opportunity to perform. If they don’t, history will remember this Indian tour as the one where a debutant spinner by the name of Ajantha Mendis steamrolled the best spin Batsmen in the world……………………… without a sweat!