Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

Meet Kevin Koththiigoda – the spinner with an unforgettable action making a big impression at the Abu Dhabi T10

The 21-year-old from Galle with an English forename, who speaks Italian and bowls like nobody else, has become a social media sensation at the Abu Dhabi T10

The Frog in a Blender 2.0. An octopus falling out of a tree. The Rubber Man. Or an injury waiting to happen.

Kevin Koththiigoda has been described as many things in the two days since his bowling in the Abu Dhabi T10 made him a social media sensation.

Really, though, the method he brings to projecting the ball down the wicket defies labelling. He is unique.

“It is natural,” said Koththiigoda, who is playing for Bangla Tigers in the 10-over tournament in the capital.

“From the beginning I was bowling like this, and I never changed through under 13, 15, 17 and 19 cricket in Sri Lanka.

“In the beginning, I was playing with a tennis ball, playing with my dad. From there, I began to play cricket, and I have kept this action since.”

It is little surprise he is a son of Sri Lanka. No other country worships kookiness in cricket in quite the same way as the island nation that gave the game the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis and Kamindu Mendis.

No coaching manual teaches people to bowl off-spin like Muralitharan did with such unparalleled success.

Malinga’s fast-bowling technique was honed using a tennis ball – shaved and then singed to improve its air flow – on the beach.

Ajantha Mendis’ main weapon with the ball derived from playing the board game carrom, rather than a cricket textbook.

And whether his namesake Kamindu reaches the levels of achievement of any of those three remains to be seen, but he is out on his own as an ambidextrous spin bowler.

The latest off the quirkiest of all production lines is Koththiigoda, a 21-year-old from Galle with an English forename, who speaks Italian, and bowls like nobody else.

Nominally, he is a right-arm leg-spinner, given that is the action his wrist, at least, most resembles when he bowls. As for all the other parts of his body, they seem to do whatever they fancy.

Rarely does the ball move from the right-handed batsman’s leg to off, though. “Mostly, I set the field for the in-swinger,” Koththiigoda said.

If it is possible to draw parallels with anyone else, in recent times he appears most similar to Paul Adams, the former South Africa left-arm spinner who was memorably described as a “frog in a blender”.

Koththiigoda said he had never seen Adams bowl until recently, when he looked at videos after people explained the similarities to him.

Instead his role model in the game is closer to home. “It was always my dad,” he said. “It was because of him that I came to play cricket, because he loved cricket so much.

“Now, later on, I mainly like Virat Kohli, Kumar Sangakkara, and Shane Warne.”

He says no coaches attempted to change his method while growing up. Instead, his difference was encouraged.

“I had never seen Paul Adams bowling, I never knew of someone like this,” said Koththiigoda, who spent the early years of his childhood in Italy – hence his grasp of the language.

“But later on, people were telling me about Paul Adams – and they were all saying to keep it up.

“No-one told me to change it. Everyone was telling me to continue like this, and just try to improve.

“No-one, at any point, told me to change. They just said to keep bowling, and to find a way to bowl a good line, and to work on variations.

“I didn’t have good control when I was playing in under 13 and under 15 cricket. By the time I got into the Sri Lanka Under 19s, they coached me really well. Now I have the control, and I can bowl any way I can.”

Koththiigoda picked up his first wicket in the Abu Dhabi T10 on Sunday night.

His dismissal of Johnson Charles was the only wicket to fall as Karnataka Tuskers made 114 for one from their 10 overs against the Tigers.

That appeared a formidable total on a ground that has so far proved more different to score on that when this tournament was played previously in Sharjah.

Tigers made easy work of the chase, though, after Andre Fletcher blazed 40 in 15 balls at the top of the order to send them on their way in the chase.

“My team needed me to give them a good start,” Fletcher said, after he laid the platform for the five-wicket win.

“We went in with that intent, and it’s good I can contribute for my team, and hopefully I can carry on.”

Hashim Amla, the Tuskers captain, praised Sandeep Lamichhane, who took two for nine amid the carnage, but said his side struggled to contain Fletcher.

“The way he was striking the ball – I didn’t think any ground in the world was big enough for that,” Amla said. “He played a fantastic knock that nullified our advantage.”

Updated: November 17, 2019 10:02 PM

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