Giving 'em the finger
What is a carrom-ball?
"Carrom-ball" is the popular term for the middle-finger-flicked delivery bowled by the Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis. While bowling this delivery, he holds the ball along the seam - the seam usually facing gully - between thumb and index finger, and flicks it with the middle finger (much like the striker is flicked in the board game carrom).
How does the carrom-ball behave?
Most times it angles into the right-hand batsman on a low trajectory at high pace and then breaks away. At times it just straightens, as opposed to breaking away. The batsman, in both cases, is forced to try and cover the line, and then finds it too late to recover once the ball turns or straightens, leaving him vulnerable to many forms of dismissal: caught at slip or off the leading edge, bowled, lbw, and stumped.
How effective has the delivery been?
Mendis has been phenomenally successful, with 26 wickets in three Tests and 28 in 11 ODIs to date, and the carrom-ball is an important weapon in his armoury. His first Test wicket (in picture, right) came off one such: a fast legbreak that squared Rahul Dravid up, and took the top of off stump. Notable among his many carrom-ball victims has been VVS Laxman, lbw in the second innings of the second Test, and then stumped in the first innings of the third.
What is the origin of the term?
Mahendra Mapagunaratne, a Sri Lankan lawyer based in Toronto, is believed to have come up with the phrase, which has quickly caught on among commentators and cricket writers.
Sri Lanka, by the way, are the reigning world champions at carrom. Their men's team beat India in the final, played in Cannes earlier this year.