Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day March 9, 2017

'Never thought of dropping Mendis' - Ford


Kusal Mendis holding back his extravagant strokes early in his innings has helped him make his highest Test score of 194, Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford has said © AFP

Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford produced a ringing endorsement of Kusal Mendis after the 22-year old hit 194 in Galle and said the team management "never thought of dropping him" despite a spell of poor form.

Mendis averaged 21.70 across 10 Test innings with only one half-century on the tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa. However, it took him only one innings, back in home conditions, to shrug off those returns and the Sri Lankan staff was certainly expecting the turnaround.

"It's not hard to back him at all," Ford said. "He's such a wonderful talent, and he's going to win a lot of games for Sri Lanka along the way. The worst thing we could do is to put too much expectation on his shoulders. We don't want to put him under any pressure. He is learning and no doubt with his talent he will pay us back down the line. We never thought of dropping him - he's just got too much talent. I am sure down the line, he is going to show everybody just how great he is."

Ford said better shot selection - particularly early in the innings - marked Mendis' path to improvement. His technique and attitude, Ford said, did not need much tinkering. "He is one player always supporting the guys that are doing well - he's very happy for the other guys. He had a smile on his face the whole time when he didn't quite fire as we know he can.

"He kept working as hard as ever. He loves his cricket he loves his practices. We have seen with a guy like that - with the amount of talent he's got - it's not hugely about technique. It's just about making sure his decision-making and his shot selection is good. He probably is the first to admit that he was a bit extravagant early on in South Africa and got himself out. He's come home and done a lot of work on his own. Hats off to the fella he deserves the big score."

Although Mendis fell six short of his maiden double-century, he did become the youngest Sri Lankan to 1000 Test runs. But things could have been so different. Subashis Roy had Mendis caught behind for a golden duck, until the umpire signaled no-ball, and Ford felt being recalled to the crease after initially believing himself out may have spurred Mendis to greater focus.

"Getting out first ball may have shook him up because he really applied himself after that - he really worked hard in those first two sessions. It all started to get easier as he went along. It was brilliant to see when he went to his hundred, that he raised his bat and went back to re-mark his guard. It was pretty clear that he was starting all over again. We sort of chatted at team meetings that it's just not about making hundreds, but making very big hundreds - those are the things that change matches. For a young guy, he has taken that on pretty well."

Sri Lanka ended the first innings 182 runs ahead, after bowling Bangladesh out for 312. However, the rain that washed out all but two balls of the third session has dented Ford's hopes of pushing for victory.

"We should make up eight overs each day - in total we may lose about 20 overs out of the match, which is quite a lot when you are pressing for a result on what seems to be a pretty good batting wicket. It's going to make it harder for us, and we haven't really done our math yet as far as where we need to be, and how much time we'll need to bowl them out. When we do go out to bat, we need a partnership early on so that we can dictate, and then declare when we feel it's the right time."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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  • Deepfreezed on March 10, 2017, 15:16 GMT

    His shot selection is NOT good. Time will tell if he has learnt anything or just talking about it. #3 has to be solid and first inline to stop a collapse from happening. SL lineup is very collapse friendly, Mendis needs to leave those outside off ball alone when he comes to the crease. All good batsmen know what balls to leave alone, that is the genuine skill, playing a nice looking cover drive is a common skill that most international batters have.

  • immysl on March 10, 2017, 10:11 GMT

    @CRICFANMATTEGODA: well that's what people said about Mahela over Sangakkar once right? So we'll need to wait and see for the next five years. Hope both of them get a fair run and they do well for SL.

  •   ChamodSL on March 10, 2017, 9:44 GMT

    This guy is a gem. For a kid who just only 22 years old, he is doing really well. Just think how we will score when he got into 25-27. It isn't too early to say, this guy will a class batsman for sri lanka.

  •   cricfanMattegoda on March 10, 2017, 7:03 GMT

    Come on guys.. Dhananjaya is not as good as Mendis, cannot you see that? Mendis is a specially talented batsman, a class above everyone else. But I don't say Dhananjaya is a bad cricketer, he is very good batsman, I'd rate him above someone like Dimuth Krunarathna and Chandimal easily, and he is in the leauge of Angy, Asela, etc.

  • Roy119 on March 10, 2017, 5:33 GMT

    @GRAVITY_DOWN: mate real test will be playing in spinning wickets ask Oz team and England. You keep referring to flat tracks, you should have a closer look at current OZ pitches has been dished out lately. All run making machines if you can play through the line of the ball.

  • Udendra on March 10, 2017, 3:55 GMT

    Well, according to this logic Dhananjaya shouldn't have been dropped.

  • Gravity_down on March 10, 2017, 3:00 GMT

    real test will be playing the moving ball well....not to take it away from him, but cant really judge on flat tracks...all the best for him..great player have to agree.

  • shanil1984 on March 9, 2017, 21:49 GMT

    Certainly agree that Dananjaya has been robbed of a place here. He's very much in the same category as Mendis. He deserved a position over Tharanga who has not really shown any potential abs can't field. Dhananjaya has been more consistent with the bat, is a better fielder and is a useful spinner.

  • amuni12 on March 9, 2017, 20:22 GMT

    Hats off to "small fella" (AUS's nickname of Mendis). He sure needs to good mentors around him for him to succeed. The young guys don't realize that until they fail.

  • SL_Boy on March 9, 2017, 17:23 GMT

    Chandi under presser if he does not do well in the second inning Dhananjaya might take his place. This is grate we have a real competition in the team.

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