The carrom ball that won Sri Lanka the Asia Cup of 2008
The game of cricket is as much psychological as it is physical. Apart from being in the best shape at all times, the players and management often need to devise strategies to come out on top and emerge victorious. An indispensable aspect of strategizing the gameplay is gaining experience and analyzing your counterpart’s strengths and weaknesses. It is easier said than done, isn’t it.
Countering the effects of a secret weapon is definitely a mammoth task, if not a Goliath one. India found themselves in a similar predicament in the final of the Asia Cup in 2008.
Prior to the final of that edition of the Asia Cup, the name Ajantha Mendis would not have made a lot of heads turn and take notice. He had bagged a fifer against UAE in the same edition which culminated in a victory for Sri Lanka and a Man of the match award for Ajantha Mendis, but, the result of this match was largely inconsequential to the team’s standings in the points table.
Cut to the final of the Asia Cup, 2008 on the 6th of July. India won the toss and elected to field first on a semi batting friendly pitch offering little assistance to the bowlers. Riding on the back of Sanath Jayasuriya’s quickfire 125 combined with a well compiled 56 from Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka amassed a highly competitive 273 in 49.5 overs.
Indian batting line up boasted of names like Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni, hence the crowd expected a cracker of a run chase from the Men in Blue. Virender Sehwag was at his hitting best and despite of losing his opening partner Gambhir early, carried on his heroics and scored a delightful 60 off just 36 balls.
The end of Sehwag's innings, was the beginning of Mendis' magic. In the next hour and a half, the crowd witnessed a bowling masterpiece from Ajantha Mendis, often famously touted as his magnum opus.
The guile of Mendis and the spin and trajectory of the carrom ball combined as forces that brought about the downfall of a star studded line up.
His first victim was Virender Sehwag. He followed this wicket by dismissing Yuvraj Singh for 0. India were reduced to 76/3 at one stage inside of 10 overs. His other victims were Suresh Raina for 16, Rohit Sharma for 3, Irfan Pathan for 2 and RP Singh for 0.
MS Dhoni played a captain’s innings but consistently ran out off partners and was out for 49. Indian innings eventually folded for 173 inside of 40 overs.
Ajantha Mendis returned with match winning figures of 6 wickets for 13 runs and was awarded the Man Of the Match award .
Not only that, he was also awarded the Man of the Series award for picking a total of 17 wickets in the tournament.
Ironically, Mendis had not featured in the previous encounter between the two sides that was contested before the final. Hence, it became difficult for India to counter the surprising spin of the carrom ball.
The carrom ball became a talking point amongst fans and experts and the international teams were now sweating it out in the nets to master the technique to counter the mystery delivery.
And just like that, Ajantha Mendis became a household name overnight. Although his career never really took off, but the final of the Asia Cup 2008 will always be remembered as Mendis’ final.