Duleep Mendis Interviewed in 1982

Partab Ramchand interviewed Duleep Mendis in 1982. The believers in the zodiac signs tell me that one of the characteristics of a Virgo is that he is tidy in his methods. I don’t normally believe in these things but even disbelievers may concede some significance in Rohan Louis Duleep Mendis’ being a Virgo. Besides being immaculate in his methods, he is supposedly pure-minded, too. These two qualities are also characteristic of Duleep Mendis batting.
He is 30 now, born on August 25, 1952, at Moratuwa, and like all lads with immense gifts, he made his mark early, first bursting into prominence playing for Sri Lanka Under-19 against Australia Under-19 in 1971–72 after having toured India with the Sri Lanka Schools team two years before. But the innings that marked him out as an uncommonly fine prospect were against Clive Lloyd’s all-conquering West Indian side in 1974–75. In the limited-over game at Colombo, he took the much-vaunted Caribbean pace attack apart for a sizzling 75 in 92 minutes with six and nine fours. It was this knock that set him apart from his colleagues, and from that moment on, he was put alongside Tennekoon as one of the country’s leading batsmen.
Duleep Mendis: It was he who carried the fight into the enemy’s camp in Sri Lanka’s epic battle with Australia in the 1975 World Cup. Australia had led off with 328 in the allotted 60 overs, but Sri Lanka was undaunted. Every batsman stood up to the thunderbolts being hurled at them from both ends. Sidhat Wettimuny and Duleep Mendis had to retire hurt. Duleep Mendis had made 32 runs before his tenure was cut short by a Lillee delivery that struck him in the face. It was this innings that brought to the fore an added quality courage to the other charming and graceful facets of his play.
He is also the only Sri Lankan batsman to score over 1000 runs in one-day cricket, a creditable feat. He was the first from that country to score a century in England when he belted the East African bowlers for a quick 144 at Taunton in 1975. Before he came to India, he had played in 65 first-class matches and 112 innings-more matches and more innings than anyone else. Statisticians point out that during the current tour of India, he eclipsed Tennekoon’s figures and has taken over statistically as the finest Sri Lankan batsman of all time.
Can there be any doubt that, even aesthetically, he is the best among the island’s batsmen? But if cricket fans in other cities have not had the good fortune to see Duleep Mendis at his best, those at Madras can count themselves doubly fortunate. They saw two positively great knocks from his punitive, classic bat.
The 105 he scored in last month’s Test match was one. But equally memorable was his 194 against Tamil Nadu in the Gopalan Trophy tie at Madras in 1977. In the latter innings, he had come in when two wickets had fallen quickly but did not bother trying out his defensive technique and straightaway sailed into the attack. When it was all over, the bowling lay in shambles around him. The depressing fact was that there were just a few hundred spectators present at Chepauk that day!
Duleep Mendis
Duleep Mendis is born on 25 August 1952 at Moratuwa and like all lads with immense gifts. 
A TEA executive with the famous Maharaja Organization in Colombo, Duleep Mendis is married and has a two-year-old son. He spoke to Partab Ramchand in Madras:
SPOPORTS WORLD: How would you rank the 105 you scored in the Test?
DULEEP MENDIS: Yes, I think it must rank as the best innings I have ever played. For one thing, I had been out of form of late. Then I entered at a critical stage when Sri Lanka were eleven for two and I was able to rescue them. I was very pleased at the way I batted and the manner in which I got the runs so quickly. Particularly gratifying was the way I was middling the ball. I certainly won’t forget this innings. But then, Chepauk has always given me the runs.
SW: How do you account for your poor form before this match in tests? You scored only 160 runs in eight innings before coming here.
DM: Against England, we had to bat on a bad wicket, and that was possibly the reason. In Pakistan, despite my best efforts, I still could not get runs. It is just one of those things that happens to a batsman now and then.
SW: Stepping out and driving a fast bowler is not easy. Yet you did it time and again to Kapil Dev and Madan Lal. Can you explain how?
DM: I always believe that the only way to survive is to counter-attack, throw it back at the bowlers, and go for the bowling. Otherwise, the bowlers will come on top and that is one thing you must never allow to happen.
SW: There has been criticism that Sri Lanka is not yet ready for the five-day game. As if to prove this, Lanka have collapsed almost every time in the second innings. How do you account for this?
DM: I believe this is because most cricket in Sri Lanka is played over one, two, and three days. Now in three days, you hardly get an opportunity to have a second knock. That is why we have come a cropper when we have had to bat again in the same Test. Also, the five-day game is new to us. We have to get used to it. But I am confident we will.
SW: I have heard people say that you are guilty of throwing away your wicket to bad deliveries. How do you aim to curb these temperamental outbursts?
DM: Yes, I am aware of the fact that I do sometimes get out foolishly. I have to be more disciplined in my approach and I am trying to curb these temperamental outbursts, as you have put it, in a natural manner.
SW: One of the reasons why you are so popular in India is that you re- mind people so much of Vishwanath. Did you deliberately pattern your play on him or did it come naturally?
DM: I am a great admirer of Vishwanath’s play, of course, but I guess I acquired my style naturally.
SW: How do you compare the wickets you have encountered here to those in Sri Lanka and elsewhere?
DM: They are fairly slow compared to the ones we have at home or those we encountered in Pakistan. In Delhi and Amritsar, this was particularly so but the wicket in Madras is a good, sporting track.
SW: Are you at home more against pace or spin?
DM: Well, no one likes to face genuine pace. If someone says he likes fast bowling then he is not speaking the truth. So I suppose facing spin is easier. But then a very good spin bowler can also have you in trouble of a different kind.
SW: Who is the fastest bowler you have faced?
DM: Jeff Thomson.
SW: And the best spin bowler?
DM: I think that would be Bishan Singh Bedi.
SW: What are your future plans?
DM: Well, I am not contemplating an early retirement, so I will continue to play for Sri Lanka as long as I am picked and as long as I feel I am good enough.
All was not well. When the team got home, Bandula Warnapura complained’ to the Press Council about an article penned by Elmo Rodrigopulle.
Nor was there much support coming from the board. Selection meetings had grown increasingly spiky in the past couple of years, and the one ahead of the India tour in September 1982 was true to form. They wanted to drop Duleep,’ Warnapura told me. ‘We came to the selection meeting and picked ten of the fourteen. Then they said, “OK Bandula, you’ve got your ten, now can we have our four?” I said, “What do you mean ‘my ten, these are not my ten. This is the Sri Lanka squad. All fourteen. It’s not my team or your team has to be our team.
We got to twelve and Duleep Mendis still wasn’t there. So I said, “Look-all the matches when we’ve done well so far for Sri Lanka, we’ve mainly done well because of Duleep. We have to accept that, and he has to be part of the fourteen.” They agreed, although they stressed that if he didn’t do well in the warm-up matches, that I wouldn’t pick him. “Fair enough. Not only if I don’t do well in the warm-ups, I won’t play.”
Nice and neighbourly - Bandula Warnapura and Sunil Gavaskar the rival captains share a laugh before th3e start of the Test in Madras in 1983
Nice and neighbourly – Bandula Warnapura and Sunil Gavaskar the rival captains share a laugh before th3e start of the Test in Madras in 1983.