'Never thought of dropping Mendis' - Ford
Backing Kusal Mendis was an easy decision for Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford and the batsman repaid the faith hitting 194 in Galle
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