x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Explainer: Can Sri Lankan spinner Kamindu Mendis bowl with both arms?

He can, and he does. England faced him in a warm-up match. They may have to do that again in Saturday's one-off T20

In this composite image prepared by our photo editor James O'Hara, you will find Kamindu Mendis bowling with both arms in a tour match against England. Getty Images
In this composite image prepared by our photo editor James O'Hara, you will find Kamindu Mendis bowling with both arms in a tour match against England. Getty Images

What's in a name?

His full name is Pasqual Handi Kamindu Dilanka Mendis, which itself is not an anomaly in Sri Lankan cricket. Not when the retired fast-bowling great Chaminda Vaas goes by Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas.

But, like people know Chaminda Vaas as Chaminda Vaas, the subject of this piece answers simply to Kamindu Mendis.

It's the bowling, stupid

Mendis is an all-rounder – a tag that suit him in the conventional sense, given that he supposedly bats with as much ease as he bowls. But even if he was not a genuine batsman, he could still be considered kind of an all-rounder, because he can bowl in more than just one way.

In fact, these days Mendis is attracting plenty of attention for the fact that he can bowl with both arms. To be precise, he is a left-arm orthodox spinner who doubles up as a right-arm off-spinner – depending, of course, on the situation.

It's tactical – watch the video

In the YouTube clip below, you will find that the changing of the arm is purely a tactical ploy. He bowls left-arm spin to right-handed batsmen, and then sends down off-breaks to left-handed batsmen.

Why?

Because batsmen find it more difficult to play a ball that either spins or swings away from them. England's most successful seam bowler, the right-arm James Anderson, has built most of his career around bowling outswingers – which are deliveries that swing away from a batsman – to right-handers.

Mendis works by the same principle of spinning the ball away from a batsman, as the video illustrates.

Success-rate

Mendis has not taken a lot of wickets. A quick glance at his bowling stats reveals that he does not get to bowl his full quota of 10 overs in 50-overs matches, or four overs in Twenty20 games.

He has taken just three wickets in six 50-overs matches and two in six T20 appearances. He has a half-century with the bat one-day cricket, and a highest score of 23 not out in the T20 format.

Early days yet, but his stats suggest he is more of a bits-and-pieces player – the type that was so prevalent in the 1990s – and it will be fascinating to see if he can push the envelope with his ambidexterity.

Is his bowling legal?

It is legal. If not, he will not have been allowed to bowl in his 12 domestic outings, or for that matter at the Under 19 World Cup two years ago.

However, Mendis is required by law to inform the umpire of his intention to change arms. The umpire then has to let the batsman facing Mendis know this. It sounds like an elaborate process, but hey, why not employ a tactic when you know it can throw off a batter and possibly even dismiss him or her.

Is he the first?

No. Hanif Mohammed, one of Pakistan's greatest ever batsmen, tried it out way back in the 1950s with little success. Hashan Tillakaratne, another Sri Lankan all-rounder, gave it a shot in the 1990s.

Akshay Karnewar, a 26-year-old all-rounder – and they all seem to be all-rounders – is experimenting with it in India's domestic scene for his Vidarbha side. He has so far taken 68 wickets across formats.

Mendis debut

There is no guarantee of it happening, but Mendis could be handed his first international cap in Sri Lanka's one-off T20 international against England, to be played on Saturday at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

If he does make his debut ... and if does bowl with both arms, it should make for good television.