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September 10, 2008
India were not prepared enough to face Ajantha Mendis in the recently concluded Test series and didn't have a plan, former national captain Ajit Wadekar has said. Mendis, an unorthodox legspinner who made his debut in the first Test in Colombo, dominated the Indian batting line-up during the series - which Sri Lanka won 2-1 - to finish with a record 26 wickets.
"To be frank, India were caught napping. They did not plan to tackle Mendis properly," Wadekar said. "They did not decide which of the batsmen should go after him. That's basically how one should go about things at the international level, regardless of whether the batsman gets out."
Wadekar said an attacking approach was needed against Mendis. "One should try to hit him out of the attack, not give him a chance to spin the ball both ways. One has to take chances otherwise he will always get on top," Wadekar said. "With such a good batting line-up I am surprised why no one decided to take him on."
Mendis' abilities with the ball impressed Wadekar. "It's really amazing to see him hold the ball with his carrom-like grip, bowl at pace, and be absolutely accurate," he said. "He's got tremendous variations and he is going to be one of the wonders of the game as far as bowling is concerned."
Mendis, he said, reminded him of John Gleeson, whom he faced when Australia toured India in 1969. "Gleeson was a similar type of bowler but he could not bowl at pace because of his difficult grip. He would flight the ball, so we managed to kill the spin by stepping out," he said. "It became much easier to face him [Gleeson] as the tour went on. It wasn't as difficult as with Mendis, who is much quicker, faster and accurate."
Wadekar also spoke about two Indian spinners from his playing days who were similar to Mendis. "I have faced Subhash Gupte, who was a genuine legspinner. He was much slower then Mendis, but very tricky.
"Bhagwat Chandrasekhar was another such bowler. If he got wickets in his first two overs, he became unplayable because he would begin to vary his deliveries a lot," he said. "When we [the Mumbai side] played him in domestic cricket, he would try and not give him an early wicket."
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