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Cricket

PCB seek clarity on India series -
3/9/2015 9:19:46 AM

India and Pakistan signed a MOU to play each other in six series between 2015-2023 © Getty

Pakistan's cricket chief Shaharyar Khan on Wednesday, wrote a letter to BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur pressing him for an update on a proposed series between the arch rivals in December this year. A two Tests, five one-day and one Twenty20 series in United Arab Emirates is shrouded in uncertainty with political relations between India and Pakistan at one of their lowest ebbs.

The two countries have not played a full series against each other since 2007, though Pakistan toured India for a short series in December 2012. "I have written a letter to Mr Thakur, in the main saying that cricket and politics should be kept apart," Khan told AFP.

"I am positive that the BCCI shall be able to convince the Indian government that it ought to honour its MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the PCB," he added.

Last year PCB and BCCI had signed a MoU under which they were scheduled to play six series in the 2015-2023 Future Tours Programme, but all were subject to clearance from New Delhi. Khan, a former foreign secretary and a career diplomat, said that strained relations should not affect cricket.

"While relations between Pakistan and India have seen its share of ups and downs, cricket should be kept out of it," he said.

The two cricket boards also differed over TV broadcast rights - BCCI is not keen on doing business with Ten Sports, Pakistan cricket's official broadcaster - and Shahryar wrote in the letter, "We have given the broadcasting rights to Ten Sports and the International Cricket Council (ICC) accepts the channel's bid."

"It's not that we can't survive without playing them (India)," Shaharyar had ESPNCricinfo last week. "We are surviving, and can survive, but our position is that the game shouldn't be mixed up with the politics. So we are trying to get the series revived based on the MOU they have signed with us. They have to honour it and if they don't it's their responsibility."

Thakur has previously said that the countries' cricket teams should not meet while political relations remain fraught, saying cricket cannot be played with bullets. "On one hand there is a rise in terrorist activity, on the other you can't expect to play a cricket series with Pakistan," Thakur said in July.

But last week Thakur softened his stance, telling a private television channel in Pakistan that a series was possible. "If situation improves I cannot rule out cricket series in December," Thakur said. "I toured Pakistan in 2004 and was overwhelmed, and when Pakistan toured India the following year I distributed sweets on their captain's (Inzamam-ul-Haq) birthday

India step up the aggression index -
3/9/2015 9:19:00 AM

Virat Kohli has maintained that playing for a draw will be the last option. © AFP

Tuesday was a memorable day for Indian cricket in a lot of ways. The series win over Sri Lanka after 22 years showed that this is a new Indian side led by a 'Gen X' batsman who doesn't know how to take a backward step.

Winning is the primary objective for every member of this team. That much was apparent in Kohli's very first Test as captain, against Australia in Adelaide last year. Any other skipper would have chosen the easier option of a draw in the first Test of a big series, but not Kohli, who kept egging his batsmen to go for the shots.

"We maintain that drawing a Test match has to be the last option for our group of guys right now," Kohli again announced at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) after his team's 117-run win over Sri Lanka in the third Test.

Losing the first Test in Galle after dominating 80 per cent of the game would have likely crushed other Indian sides of the past, but not this one. Kohli and Co. went back to the drawing board, utilizing technology to their advantage. It is understood that the team watched videos of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Test series held earlier this year and observed how their neighbours played Rangana Herath and Tharindu Kaushal.

This team maintains an 'aggression index' which tallies how many times they stepped out or played sweep shots against the opposition spinners. It was observed that in the second innings in Galle, this index was only at 52. The immediate task was to rectify this area and they did so in the second Test at the P Sara Oval, taking up this index to 112 in the first innings.

The truth is that a lot of hard work has gone into India's comeback win. The biggest credit, of course, has to go to the bowlers - the heroes who claimed 60 wickets in the series. Ravichandran Ashwin led the way with 21 wickets but equally impressive was Ishant Sharma, who kept things tight right from his first over in Galle. The Delhi speedster ended up with 13 wickets but was prepared to play the role of aggressor, not too dissimilar to what Mitchell Johnson does for Australia.

"The way they have bowled in partnerships in this series has been something that has stood out for me. As a captain, making changes has been very, very pleasing because it makes your job very easy. You don't have to tell the guys what to do because they understand one guy is striking, getting wickets so I need to go out there and control runs and create that pressure. "So that communication between all the bowlers has really helped. I think this series belongs to the bowlers because they have been outstanding," Kohli said.

There have been a lot of changes in the batting order over the course of these three Tests, due to injury or form. The skipper and team director Ravi Shastri intend to build a team for the future and they consider this series as a stepping stone. The combination of the side will be different in India than in England or South Africa in the future. "You have to be prepared with every combination - for No. 3, 4 or 5. That's why we have been saying that no one owns a spot in this lineup. If we go on tour to South Africa, we just can't experiment unless we are sure that the change will work. All of this is being done keeping in mind the future," a source close to the team management said.

What that means is that Rohit Sharma might have had a modest series with only 202 runs at an average of 33.66 but will still have his nose ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara, whose epic unbeaten 145 probably set up this series win. The Indian team also has to be realistic - this was one of the weakest Lankan sides in recent years, and they were possibly distracted by the retirement of Kumar Sangakkara.

BCCI may postpone Annual General Meeting -
3/9/2015 9:18:13 AM

BCCI is looking to seek clarity on the N Srinivasan situation before scheduling the AGM. © AFP

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) may not be able to conduct its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on September 27, as decided earlier. As per BCCI's rules, the board has to give a mandatory 21-day notice for the AGM. That can happen only after the accounts of different sub-committees in the working committee are cleared, which seems difficult at the moment.

Besides, the board also needs to get clarity on whether N Srinivasan can attend the meeting. According to a source, the board filed an interim application on Wednesday to seek a clarification on whether former Srinivasan could attend the working committee meeting. "This will take a little time and with no clarity on when the next working committee will be held, conducting the AGM on September 27 is out of question," a BCCI working committee member told TOI on Wednesday.

The board needs to sort out the IPL mess and work out a way to replace the two suspended teams ­ Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals ­ in the next working committee meeting. The board also plans to conduct a meeting of the cricket advisory committee to take a call on the Indian coaching staff before the South African series begins.

Then there are other pressing matters like the appointment of a new coach and the composition of the new selection committee.

BCCI has broken its own rule in the past by not conducting the AGM on time. Last year, the AGM was postponed because 'the conflict of interest' case against Srinivasan disallowed him from contesting the BCCI elections. The working committee members then decided to postpone the meeting and it was finally held in March earlier this year.

"BCCI can still go ahead and conduct the AGM if the bigwigs want to break the rule. But before that, the board needs to get a clarification from the Supreme Court on Srinivasan and only then can it decide the date of the working committee," another senior BCCI official said.

Virat Kohli has played a huge role in Amit Mishra's revival: Hirwani -
3/9/2015 9:17:31 AM

Amit Mishra complemented R Ashwin and picked up 15 wickets in the series. © AFP

Amit Mishra is one of the success stories of India's Test series victory in Sri Lanka. An injury to youngster Karn Sharma - who was part of the Test squad in Australia - paved the way for Mishra's selection and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, bagging 15 wickets at a miserly average of 15 while forming a brilliant combination with R Ashwin. The duo took 36 out of the 60 Sri Lankan wickets in the series to help India end a 22-year drought in Sri Lanka.

No wonder, Mishra's mentor, Narendra Hirwani is a happy man. The former India leg-spinner gives credit of Mishra's success to skipper Virat Kohli. "A captain needs to show confidence in a leg-spinner's ability. Some captains prefer a safer approach, while others love taking risk. Virat belongs to the second category. I have seen how Virat has used Yajuvendra Chahal (Haryana legspinner) in the IPL as an attacking option. Now with Ravi Shastri part of the team management, leg-spinners are back in the scheme of things. Shastri too likes leggies. He was my first captain and my best performances - both in Tests and One-dayers - came under Shastri," Hirwani told TOI on Wednesday .

Hirwani feels Mishra is bowling with more freedom under Kohli. "When a bowler is tense, it reflects in his performance. Here, a captain plays a huge role in easing out that tension. Mishra isn't doing anything different. He is just bowling with more confidence because of the faith the captain is showing in him," he said.

"If you look at the best leg-spinners around the world like Shane Warne, Abdul Qadir or Anil Kumble, they always had the captain's backing. Qadir became a different bowler once Imran Khan started backing him. Warne always played under some great captains like Alan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. So has been the case in Kumble's case too," Hirwani added.

Mishra was playing in Tests after a gap of four years. After a poor tour of England in 2011, he wasn't considered for national duty with juniors like Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha being preferred over him. Hirwani said he worked more on the mental aspect with Mishra as the bowler 'didn't need any technical assistance.' "He was a bit frustrated being in and out of the team. So, I only asked him to focus on his bowling rather than looking at different things which were not in his control. He has got nearly 15 years of experience so he knew what it takes to be successful at that level. It was just a question of the team showing confidence in his abilities. Kohli and the team management are doing just that," he said.

"He is looking good because the captain is putting faith on him. Earlier, he would think what will happen if he didn't do well in a match. He would concentrate more on the future than focus on the present and that makes you tense and you can't give your hundred per cent when you are tense. He isn't insecure anymore."

Steve Waugh backs Ponting's call to dump toss in Tests -
3/9/2015 9:16:27 AM

Ricky Ponting called on the authorities to rid Test cricket of the toss. © Getty

Steve Waugh has backed calls from fellow former Australia captain Ricky Ponting and West Indies great Michael Holding for cricket chiefs to rid Test cricket of the toss. Under Ponting's proposal, suggested during the recent Ashes series in England, the away side would choose who bats first in order to counteract any advantage the hosts may gain from preparing a pitch that suits them best.

Waugh said he was open to the radical idea. "I don't mind that, I think that's not such a bad thing," Australian Associated Press quoted him as saying. "At the end of the day I think there's probably too much emphasis placed on the toss and the conditions away from home. I don't mind the authorities looking at some other options."

Holding also favours change after suggestions during the Ashes that groundsmen had been told to prepare deliberately flat pitches in order to neuter Australia's pace attack. "The concerned authorities must look at what Ricky Ponting suggested. No more tosses," he said in a column for Wisden India last week.

"The minor setback there in my opinion, is that tosses are big for television. It makes for good tension, everyone is focused on that coin when it's in the air and the winning captain's decision and so on.

"But that isn't relevant now, times have changed and interest is waning in Test match cricket. What you need to do now is to make sure you have even contests between bat and ball. For that, there should be no toss and the visiting captain should be allowed to decide what he wants to do after inspecting the pitch."

Despite backing Ponting, Waugh said losing the toss was not entirely to blame for Australia's Ashes series defeat, rather their failure to adapt to English conditions had cost them dearly. "They played poorly. Their batting technique was astray from players of that calibre," Waugh said, adding that modern cricketers should be able to perform in any conditions

India gain ground in Test rankings after series win -
2/9/2015 9:22:26 AM

India moved to within one point of fourth placed Pakistan in the ICC Test Rankings. © AFP

Fifth-placed India has closed the gap on neighbour Pakistan to a single point in the latest ICC Test Team Rankings following their 2-1 series triumph over Sri Lanka which concluded with a 117-run win in Colombo on Tuesday.

Virat Kohli's side went into the three-match series on 97 points and has gained three rankings points after coming from behind to win its first overseas Test series victory since 2011. Just three points now separates England (third on 102 points), Pakistan (fourth on 101) and India (fifth on 100), with New Zealand a further point back in sixth position.

Angelo Mathews' men, meanwhile, remain in seventh place but have dropped three rankings points. India have an opportunity to progress substantially in the rankings table when they host top-ranked South Africa in a four-match Test series at home from November 5. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will host eighth placed West Indies in October.

'An angry fast bowler is a captain's delight' -
2/9/2015 9:21:48 AM

Ishant was fast and furious in the last two Tests, rattling the opposition with attitude. © AFP

For the first time in a long while, an Indian team has managed to pick up 20 wickets in three successive Test matches. All the talk in the build-up to this series centred around dismissing the opposition twice, and those words have finally been translated into action. Two men -R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma - deserve the kudos for this achievement. Ashwin finished the series as the highest wicket-taker with 21 scalps but it was Ishant's eight wickets in the deciding Test here at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) which set up the historic series win.

Ishant was fast and furious in the last two Tests, rattling the opposition with attitude. The Delhi speedster has already been found guilty of a code of conduct breach by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and might well be banned for the next Test, but skipper Kohli has backed him all the way .

"I was very happy with the incident when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl yesterday and they made him angry. It couldn't have happened at a better time for us. And the timing was absolutely perfect and everything fell in place for us as far as being aggressive is concerned. (Look) at the way he bowled in the second innings...he didn't concede a boundary for 19 overs," Kohli said after his team's 117-run win.

On a docile track at the P Sara Oval in the second Test, it was again big-hearted Ishant who had turned the match around for India.

"He bowled his heart out, like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Tests. If you remember Lord's or even in Australia, he bowled his heart out. I was very happy that he has an aggressive mindset. An angry fast bowler is a captain's delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways," Kohli added.

The man who towered over all the bowlers in this series was R Ashwin. The off-spinner has admittedly gone back to the drawing board after being left out of the side for a couple of Tests in Australia. If murmurs are to be believed, Sri Lanka had to go against their strengths and lay out a green top at the SSC to try and nullify Ashwin. "The last 10 or 12 months I have been more focused on the Test match game. I came to terms with the fact that Test cricket is no child's play.

Dawn of the Virat Kohli era -
2/9/2015 9:21:07 AM

In a sense, the Kohli era in Indian Test cricket has now well and truly begun. © AFP

You could excuse Virat Kohli's men if they have no memories of India's last Test series triumph in Sri Lanka. It happened in another millennium, 1993 to be precise. Those days Mohd Azharuddin was India's captain and Kapil Dev was still playing cricket, not golf. And opener K L Rahul, the current squad's baby, was in his nappies.

Since then, several greats - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni - captained India with distinction and retired. But winning a Test series again in Lanka seemed daunting. The Lions at home looked indomitable.

Undeniably, this was the weakest Lankan squad in years. But like the hosts, India too is in transition. At the end of a rare, tightly-contested series involving India in recent years, captain Kohli's rough and restless men wrenched out a 2-1 victory, the country's first away series win since 2011.

In a sense, the Kohli era in Indian Test cricket has now well and truly begun. And early indications are it will be always bold and occasionally boorish, but also compelling to the core. Barring the second innings of the first Test, Team India batted with grit, bowled with fire and guile and snapped most chances (though Rahul, who dropped three catches, might differ) that came its way.

It's never easy to recover from a defeat, especially after being on top for much of the game. But skipper Kohli was far better at rallying his troops, marshalling his resources than his opposite number, Angelo Mathews. Kohli also seems to have got the best and (probably also the worst) out of Ishant Sharma, a fellow Dilliwala. The beanpole bowler spouted venom ­ and not just with his in-cutters and bouncers - and spearheaded the Indian attack with heart, especially in the third Test. His match figures, eight for 86, underline his incisiveness.

The series was really won by the two spinners, R Ashwin (21 wickets) and Amit Mishra (15). The leggie was generally out in the cold in the Dhoni regime. But this is a new era.

No other slow bowling pair from India had ever breached the island's defence like them. And it wasn't just their bowling. Mishra displayed spunk every time he put his pads on. His 46-run partnership with keeper Wriddhiman Saha in the second Test was vital to the Indian cause. And his 59 and 39 in the 3rd Test almost add up to 100. Barring opener Cheteshwar Pujara, no Indian batter scored more than Mishra in the game. Even Ashwin's 58 was crucial in putting the game out of Lanka's reach.

Corporate preachers could take a lesson from India's teamwork. Pujara, rather unfairly kept out earlier, answered his critics with a classy 145 not out. Only three Indians (Sunil Gavaskar, Sehwag and Dravid) have carried the bat before. Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Saha, Naman Ojha and Rahul - all played their parts with honesty, if not to full satisfaction. Rahane also equalled the world record of maximum catches for a non-wicketkeeper in a match: 8.

This is far from a settled team and several rough spots need to be ironed out. And indeed it will be tested when South Africa come here later this month for a four-Test series. For instance, Stuart Binny can be a decent No 8 but is he good enough to bat at No 6 against Dale Steyn & Co.? How quickly can Ishant sort out his worrisome no-balls? Rahul scored 108 in one innings but is he really sure where his off stump is? Does off-spinner Harbhajan Singh deserve a place in the squad? And who do the selectors drop once Dhawan and Vijay are back?

These are intriguing, questions. In the coming months, if Kohli and his management find honest and intelligent answers, Indian Test cricket could be headed for achche din

Renovation at Green Park to complete by September 30 -
2/9/2015 9:20:21 AM

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Preparations are in full swing at Green Park stadium for the forthcoming one-day match to be played against the visiting South Africa's team. UP Cricket Association (UPCA) is hopeful that the entire renovation work would be completed by September 30.

At present, the construction work in second bathroom at the Director's Pavilion is in progress. Though there are two bathrooms on the ground floor but they are not sufficient for the two teams and their supporting staff.It was therefore decided to build a new bathroom on the ground floor and club the other two bathrooms into one. Fencing work is also going on in the stands adjacent to the new pavilion.

Meanwhile, curator Shiv Kumar told TOI that on the advice of Daljit Singh, the BCCI curator, who had visited the city last week, the work had also started on the outfield and the centre square.

Prem Dhar Pathak, director UPCA said: The progress of work at Green Park is satisfactory and everything is under control. As soon as the dressing room work is over, white-washing will start in the stadium. In the meantime, other construction works will be completed. Chairs will be installed in a few days. All the work would be over by fixed deadline of September 30, he added

My defence was to attack the bowler, says Romesh Kaluwitharana -
2/9/2015 9:19:33 AM

I think I managed to play my cricket to my potential - Kaluwitharana © Getty

It was an assault the likes of which were rarely seen before in ODIs. Sri Lanka were set a competitive 272 to win after a Sachin Tendulkar century in a group match of the 1996 World Cup at the Ferozeshah Kotla. Two men - Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana - made it a no-contest within the first three overs.

The Lankan openers, who went on to rewrite the manuals of ODI cricket, clobbered the Indian bowlers - Manoj Prabhakar in particular - for 43 runs in the first three overs. Prabhakar, playing in front of his home crowd, went for 33 in just two overs and then resorted to bowling off-spin in what proved to be his last international match in India colours.

Kaluwitharana still remembers that day vividly."No matter what total we were chasing, we (Sanath and me) always played to our strengths. Sometimes when one of us were playing really well, we tried to give the other the maximum strike, like in Singapore where we had put on 80-something for no loss and I was on nought. On that day at Kotla, however, we just felt that the wicket was good and we were getting the ball to hit so we smashed it," Kaluwitharana told TOI on Tuesday.

It was one of the many sparkling partnerships that these swashbuckling openers put on over the years. Kaluwitharana, in fact, laid down the template for explosive wicketkeeper-batsmen, which the likes of Adam Gilchrist followed later.

"From day one, my cricket was simple. My defence was to attack the bowler. I think I managed to play my cricket to my potential. The captain, coaches and the selectors believed in me and that's why they sent me up to open the batting in Australia in 1995," the 45-year-old recalls.

However, the opener's attitude also had their fair share of critics. "Sanath (Jayasuriya) and me thought in the same way. We went after every bowler, no matter what his name was. The critics said it was not cricket, it was slogging. But actually it wasn't slogging just because other teams couldn't do it.Nowadays everyone plays this way and it is the accepted norm," Kaluwitharana, who is the Sri Lanka 'A' team's coach for six years now, said.

One of the former wicketkeeper's prodigies as coach is Kusal Perera, who made his debut in the third Test against India at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC). Perera went on to score fifties in both innings in the Test.

"I have been coaching the Lanka 'A' team for about six years and I am proud of the fact that I have given about 15 players to the national team during this period. Kusal has been playing for the 'A' team for some time now. On the last tour, he averaged over 150 in both the Tests and the One-dayers. He has got plenty of potential and can go on to be one of the greats. He's so talented but needs to play with his thinking cap on," the man named 'Little Kalu' by the late commentator Tony Greig said.

Asked about the future of Lankan cricket, Kaluwitharana said, "We have lost players like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela (Jayawardene) in the recent past but Sri Lankan cricket has gone on. I see a lot of talent in our junior cricket. We just have to identify and blood them at the right time.

Michael Clarke takes indefinite break from cricket -
2/9/2015 9:18:23 AM

I just think my body and my mind needs a break - Clarke © Getty

Former Australian captain Michael Clarke on Wednesday pulled out of his Big Bash League deal with the Melbourne Stars and said he will take an indefinite break from the game.

The 34-year-old, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, retired from international cricket last month after the fifth and final Ashes Test at The Oval. Clarke was expected to honour a two-year contract signed in April with the Stars in Australia's domestic Twenty20 league, but he said he needed time away from cricket.

"Right now for me, I just think my body and my mind need some time away from the game of cricket... and just see what that's like to be without it," he told Triple M radio.

Clarke, who has long battled back problems, said quitting international duties had prompted him to consider his wider playing future, as his pregnant wife Kyly prepares to give birth to the couple's first baby in January. "It's been a big part of my life and I just think that with my retirement from international cricket now I just need to take myself away from the game of cricket for a little while and just see what that's like. To actually be without it," he said.

"You push yourself to the max when you're playing sport at the highest level and now I've pressed stop on that part, in regards to international cricket, I just think my body...and my mind just needs that break."

As well as his injury issues, Clarke also cited the continuing psychological impact of close friend and team-mate Phillip Hughes' death as a factor in his decision "I guess that's part of it as well. How big a part? Right now I'm unsure," he said."I just need this time to allow myself to go through whatever I need to go through to be able to move forward."

Hughes died last year after being hit on the head by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with a shattered Clarke giving a moving eulogy at his funeral.

But Clarke did not rule out returning to the crease at some point, leaving open the possibility of playing the second year of his contract with the Stars. "I'm really hopeful that love and passion that I've always had for the game will come back," said the batsman, who scored 8,643 runs in 115 Tests. "I've got a two-year deal at the moment, so hopefully it all turns out ok and I come back and play next year. But even if they decide they don't want me to play, I'm hopeful I'll be able to help the club have success in another way

Mystery faded, mature Ajantha Mendis bides his time -
1/9/2015 10:17:01 AM

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The R. Premadasa Stadium is about half an hour away by 'tuk-tuk' from the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC), where the third India-Sri Lanka Test is going on. It is one of the bigger, if not the biggest cricket stadium, in the country and at one corner of the field there are a bunch of Sri Lankan players doing running drills.

On the field, a Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) team is taking on the Sri Lanka 'A' side in a three-day match, but this group of players is not part of the 'A' team. Among them are ODI pace king Lasith Malinga with other speedsters like Shaminda Eranga and Nuwan Kulasekara. There is one oddity among them, of course, a spinner - Ajantha Mendis.

Seven years ago, when India toured these parts, the team did not know what hit them. Some called him a 'mystery spinner' others a 'carrom-ball' spinner, but Mendis, along with Muttiah Muralitharan, cut the powerful Indian batting down to size. The off-spinner claimed 26 wickets in just three Tests and became a sensation overnight. Fast forward to 2015, Mendis has only played in 16 Tests after that series and added only 44 wickets to his kitty. In the last two years, he has completely dropped off the radar with floundering form and injury.

As Tharindu Kaushal walks with the tag of 'mystery' at the SSC, one can't help but go up to the original maestro and ask what he's up to. "I had a severe back injury six months back. I haven't been able to bowl at all during this period. Now after rehab, I have started to do a bit of running and bowling over the last six weeks," Mendis told TOI.

"One of the mistakes I made was bowling with back pain. It came to a point where I just couldn't bowl off-spinners because it was hurting the back. I just couldn't continue like that be cause I am an off-break bowler. I am now slowly starting to bowl again, developing and refining my off-break which is my stock ball," he added.

He doesn't forget the support of Murali and Mahela Jayawardene during the tough times he has seen over the last few years. "Murali and Mahela have always been supportive since I made my debut. They were always there for me over the last few years as well. Mahela used to help me plan my bowling, set fields and even suggest which variations to use when I first started playing," Mendis, who is much more fluent with English these days, said.

The tag of the 'mystery bowler' will always follow Mendis around but the Moratuwa-born spinner wants to be known as an 'off-spinner'. "I would like to be known as a good bowler. I bowled with some variations and that's why I was given the tag of a mystery bowler. Now I want to go back to my stock ball. I now know if I want to pick up wickets I have to be more disciplined. I have learned how to bowl in Test cricket," the 30-year-old said.

Another offie reaping the benefits of going back to the basics is Ravichandran Ashwin."He is a very good bowler," Mendis said, "He bowls a good line and length and generates good bounce. As I learnt in Test cricket you have to be more patient and bowl dot balls."