GALLE - In cricket, timing is vital, and just as the career of spin great Muttiah Muralitharan moves toward its ebb, Sri Lanka appears to have unearthed his successor.
The 23-year-old Ajantha Mendis has announced his arrival as Muralitharan's heir apparent with a stunning start to his Test career in the current series against India.
Mendis completed a 10-wicket match haul yesterday in just his second Test, having taken eight on debut in the series opener. His effort was not good enough to stop India from levelling the series with a convincing 170-run victory.
Born in the small fishing neighbourhood of Moratuwa just south of Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, Mendis began playing cricket at school and, on the invitation of an army officer, joined the Sri Lanka Army to play for its cricket team.
After training as a gunner at the artillery regiment, he excelled at cricket and took 46 wickets in the last domestic season and earned a national call-up for the tour of West Indies earlier this year.
He made his mark immediately on his one-day international debut, taking 3-39 at Port-of-Spain.
The high point of his limited-overs career came last month when he mesmerized India's batsmen, taking 6-13 in the Asia Cup final to help his country defend the title. - Sapa-AP