Kusal Mendis: 'One thing I emphasise is ensuring 100% is given in the field'
For the Gladiators captain, his team displaying high intensity on the field has been a non-negotiable
The perennial runners-up of the Lanka Premier League, Galle Gladiators, have had an indifferent start to this season's LPL, but under new leadership they look to be steadily building up a head of steam that they hope will take them over the final hurdle this time around.
They have two wins and three losses this season. Aside from a one-sided five-wicket loss to Kandy Falcons, the Gladiators gave Jaffna Kings an early tournament scare and then were pipped at the post in a high-scoring encounter against Colombo Stars.
In the first, it was the batting that let them down and in the second their bowlers failed to defend a target of 194. But one consistent feature across each of their games has been their high intensity in the field. For captain Kusal Mendis, it is this which has been a non-negotiable under his captaincy.
"Aside from batting and bowling, one thing I emphasise is ensuring 100% is given in the field," he said during an online media briefing. "Because with the former two it's hard to ensure things go your way, but with fielding it's something you're completely in control of. Fielding well means you're about 70% of the way towards winning a game."
In other aspects however, Mendis takes a more laidback attitude to leadership, choosing to trust in his team-mates to deliver on their roles. A role he seems to have adopted from Gladiators' head coach and former Pakistan wicketkeeper Moin Khan.
"As a coach he doesn't get too involved during the games; when it comes to bowling or fielding changes, he doesn't get very involved. It's only during a timeout that he'll give his input. As a captain I'm happy to work with him as he tends to be positive in his feedback, while any suggestions are merely suggestions as opposed to outright demands. I'm very happy with him and how he handles the team."
Both Mendis' and Khan's approach seemed to reap rich dividends in Gladiators' last match against Stars, when Mendis batted through the innings, stitching together partnerships with potential future Sri Lankan stars Thanuka Dabare and Lahiru Udara, as they piled up 193 runs.
"I just told them to play their normal game, to not let it get into their heads, and just play like it's a club game. For me it takes a lot of the pressure off when you have batters who play like that. In the last two games, it's just been a matter of supporting them. Yesterday I was only able to get to 50 because Dabare took on the scoring burden early on. My goal is usually to bat out as many overs as possible and play the anchor."
Gladiators would ultimately lose that game, but Mendis isn't reading too much into it, putting much of his side's inability to keep things tight down the heavy dew which had descended on Pallekele. Jaffna captain Thisara Perera had earlier commented on how the dew had been akin to hosing down the ball with water, a sentiment Mendis concurred with.
"We were looking at winning the toss and bowling first, but we couldn't do that. Fortunately I and the rest of the batters were able to put a good total - 193 is a very good score in T20s. With the dew it's not easy to bowl with the slower bowlers. There was considerably more dew than you would expect usually. I think we even changed the ball it was so bad. That was probably the reason why our bowlers missed their lengths some time."
Dew however will likely be less of a concern going forward, as from Saturday onwards the action moves to Colombo, where Mendis and Co. will be hoping to iron out the kinks and finally get their hands on a trophy that has narrowly eluded them so far.