India fail to crack Mendis mystery

August 12, 2008 (AFP) – India, reflecting on their Test series loss to Sri Lanka, have reason to believe they were beaten not so much by their hosts as by unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis, who remained an unfathomable mystery. The 23-year-old army officer badly bruised India’s batting pride during his team’s 2-1 victory in the series that ended here on Monday, capturing 26 wickets.

It was the best by any bowler in a debut three-Test series, surpassing Englishman Alec Bedser’s 24-wicket haul against India at home in 1946.

Sri Lanka kept up non-stop pressure on the clueless Indian batsmen, with Mendis showcasing his variations from one end and wily veteran off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan (21 wickets) providing valuable support from the other.

In the event India choked despite having quality middle-order batsmen in Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Venkatsai Laxman, who could manage just three half-centuries between them.

“Mendis was the main difference in the series. It was not easy to pick runs when Mendis and Murali are bowling together. The pressure they created made it tough for us,” said Indian skipper Anil Kumble.

Mendis was in the news even before he had bowled his first