Just like India never faced the dearth of quality batsmen and Pakistan never faced the dearth of quality fast bowlers, Sri Lanka has never faced a dearth of quality spin bowlers. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, there was a stalwart named Muttiah Muralitharan who carried the burden of Sri Lankan bowling on his shoulders and picked 800 test wickets. Just when Murali retired in 2010 and it looked like Sri Lanka will not produce a legend spinner for some time now, Herath put his hand up.
Post Murali’s retirement, the pocket-sized dynamo became the first left-arm spinner to pick 400 test wickets and served Sri Lankan cricket amazingly well for 7 years. But now he is 40 and is in the twilight of his career. He may not have more than one cricket season left in him.
Sri Lanka needs to start hunting for Herath’s replacement. And there is one mystery man who is making his mark in the U-19 Asia Cup. He is Kevin Koththigoda, a 19-year-old leg spinner coming from Galle, who action resembles Paul Adams of South Africa. Coming from a place called Unawatuna which is just around the corner from Galle International Stadium, he went to Richmond College. He is looked upon to have the potential to be Sri Lanka’s frontline spinner.
Former Sri Lanka ‘A’ opener Dhammika Sudarshana, who has mentored Koththigoda told Cricbuzz, “He has a very unusual action. It’s like that of Paul Adams. The action wasn’t coached or anything, it came naturally to him. Initially, he was struggling with the length as he couldn’t see the pitch, but he has improved tremendously,”
“He came with his parents and asked me whether he could change schools. It was a fair request and we didn’t have any objections,” Sudarshana explained.
Sri Lanka had Ajanta Mendis who burst on to the international scene with 6-for in Asia Cup final against India. He rocked Indian batting line-up in his debut test series picking 26 wickets in 3 matches. In recent years his form dipped and he is out of the scheme of things now.
Sri Lanka currently has another mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya who can bowl leg spin and off spin in the same action with a subtle change in wrist position. There is another Sri Lankan prodigy named Kathmandu Mendis who can bowl off-spin with both hands. He played the U-19 WC in Bangladesh in 2016.
– by Atharva Apte