"Seniors have helped, ease pressure on younger players"
– Kusal Mendis

Interviewed by : @UmairWolid

Photographs by : Kushan Pathiraja

Seniors have helped ease pressure on younger players: Mendis

Small in stature but oozing with talent, Kusal Mendis has quickly become one of Sri Lanka’s most exciting prospects since making his debut in the home series against West Indies last October.

Mendis played in the two Tests in New Zealand, and showed flashes of skill in England, though lacking a statement innings. That innings came in the first Test against Australia in July at Pallekele when, with Sri Lanka on 6 for 2, Mendis walked in and made a superb 176 which turned the game in the hosts’ favour and set up the eventual series win. Mendis spoke to Wisden Sri Lanka about his school career, the road to his national selection and the support received by the seniors of the team

Q. How did you get into cricket as a schoolboy?

My father is the person who helped me to get in to cricket. He has also played cricket at under 13 and 15 levels. So maybe he had a desire to see me play cricket and he backed me since my childhood. I think he would be happy where I am today. He practiced with me, took me for practices, then he enrolled me to the Cricket Academy of Jayalath Aponso. From there I started my career.

Q.Tell us about your school life

I went to Prince of Wales College Moratuwa. I got a lot from my school. Teachers and friends from school always backed me and they are still supportive towards me. This is not a journey you can take alone. It’s because of the performances in school that I got selected for the under 19s. A lot of people including my friends supported me immensely.

Q.Who are some of the batsmen you admire the most?

Our own Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena, I admire a lot. They have done many for the cricketing world as well as they have won us many games. In the recent past they are the best I have seen and I have grown up watching them play.

Q.How does it feel batting at No.3?

At school and club level I have batted at the top three positions. Even in the development squad I opened. I don’t mind changing the batting position according to the team’s requirement. A situation may arise for me to bat lower down the order, I would like to do what the team requires from me at any position.

Q.Tell us about your first century

My first first-class century as well as my first test century came at Pallekelle. I’m extremely happy about it.

Australia is a top team in all formats and I was glad about how I performed against them. The team praised me a lot. I’m glad that I was able to score a century against one of the top teams.

Q. You are currently one of the main batsmen of the team. Does it add extra pressure on you?

No one, including the senior players, has told me to play the same way I did on an earlier match where I performed well. I failed in the England tour but the team always backed me and said do the best according to my potential. They told me it’s okay to fail in one innings but do your best in the next. I don’t have a pressure in the middle and no one pressurized me. Also as juniors none of us were pressurized by the seniors.

Even if the coaches had to say something senior players tend to keep it to themselves and let us play freely.

Q.T20, ODI, Test Which format do you prefer?

I like to play in all three formats. Test and ODI I have performed well. T20 I have not yet been able to perform well.

I would like to perform well in all formats when I get the opportunity.

Q.What kind of support did you get from the senior players?

All the players including Captain, Vice Captain were close to us (the junior players). We used to go for dinner, out, too. They all were very close to us. I think we were not pressurized because all the seniors were close to us. They didn’t treat us differently just because we are juniors. I think that made us play to our potential in the middle.

Q.What are your future plans and goals?

Playing for a longer period for the team and performing well is my main aim. I’m still 21 years. If I am to play for a longer period I need to practice hard and need to practice more than I used to do in the past.

Q.Tell us about your family

I have my parents, a brother and a sister. My sister did her Advanced Level exams this year. My brother is schooling at Prince of Wales and he plays cricket at the Under 13 level. He also likes cricket a lot, he discusses about cricket with me. All my family members are happy about what I am today.

My father is still like those days, he backs me a lot. He advises me on how to bat and discusses about my dismissals with me and advises on how to improve. I respect him a lot because today I’m here because of him.

Q. Who’s your cricketing idol?

I liked Sachin Tendulkar in my childhood. I don’t follow his style or techniques but I like the way he plays and I like him as a cricketer.