Courier Mail(AUS): WORLD cricket has a new Muttiah Muralidaran, with a freakish Sri Lankan mystery spinner taking the game where it has never been before.
Part-time Sri Lankan army trooper Ajantha Mendis is turning cricket on its head with his mesmeric brand of spin which defies convention and includes offbreaks, legbreaks, googlies and topspinners.
The 23-year-old Mendis, who took an amazing 6-13 against India in the final of the Asia Cup this week, is basically two spinners rolled into one because he has no stock delivery and turns the ball both ways.
Although still officially classified as a slow-medium bowler, the 23-year-old can spin the ball at right angles and is harder to pick than Muralidaran.
Mendis has also has invented a new delivery – the "carrom" or "flicker" ball – which he releases with a deadly snap of his strong middle finger and could result in an off-break, a leg-break, a googly or even a zooter. He claims his mystery ball spins randomly depending on the time of release and the world's top batsmen admit they are clueless.
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Indian skipper M. S. Dhoni conceded his batsmen, some of the world's best players of spin, had succumbed to "Mendis phobia" during one of the most amazing bowling spells ever in the Asia Cup final.
"I think he was too hot to handle. We were playing him for the first time and he was lethal. In fact none of us could pick him," Dhoni said.
Mendis, who has 20 wickets at an average of 10 from his eight ODIs, has been compared to former Australian mystery spinner John Gleeson but appears to have more tricks.
Mendis, yet to play a Test, is still in the formative stages of his career but perhaps his greatest achievement so far is overshadowing the great Muralidaran at the other end.
Mendis was named man of the tournament in the Asia Cup for his 17 wickets at 8.5.
The International Cricket Council is under increasing pressure to shift September's Champions Trophy from Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack in Islamabad killed at least 17 people.
Islamabad is one of three Pakistani cities scheduled to host trophy matches and it now appears the ICC will have little choice but to relocate the tournament, possibly to South Africa or Sri Lanka.