When India met Sri Lanka in the final of the 2011 World Cup in Mumbai, the cricketing World were witnessing two great teams, boasting of several veteran cricketers, and others playing in the prime of their respective careers. The final six over long-on from MS Dhoni off Nuwan Kukasekara not only signalled the end of Sri Lanka in the finals, but also started a decline in their ODI cricketing fortunes.
If the decline began in 2011, it reached a pinnacle with the retirements of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena and Tillakaratne Dilshan. India, on the other hand, inspite of losing a player that had adorned their team for over two decades, grew from strength to strength under a powerful skipper. They were aided by a plethora of talent coming through the ranks while Sri Lanka found few replacements for their retiring cricketers.
Lankan cricket started investing more in the future and in came several young, talented cricketers whose little experience in First-class cricket was overshadowed by the promise they showed in their teenage years. India invested in youth as well, but for completely different reasons. The reluctance to move past senior cricketers, however, meant very few of the young players tried by India made a mark across formats and remained a fixture in the squads.
One player who did break through for India and stamped his presence across all formats was Lokesh Rahul, the Karnataka lad who impressed Virat Kohli so much in the IPL that his escalation to the national team almost became a given. Lanka weren't falling much behind either in terms of blooding youth but the most promising among them turned out to be Kusal Mendis, a gifted young batsman with a steady head and wristy strokes.
However, the careers of Kusal Mendis and KL Rahul prior to inclusion in their respective national teams were as contrasting as they come and their start in International cricket was no different.