But Randiv and Mendis need to keep evolving, writes One thing is for sure, Suraj Randiv did not deserve to be on the losing side as India successfully chased down the 257 runs they needed to win the third Test and draw the series with Sri Lanka. The tall off-spinner had been drafted into the Islanders' side to fill the huge boots of Muttiah Muralitharan, cricket's highest wicket-taker in both Test and ODIs.
And Randiv took the challenge in his stride, claiming all five India wickets to fall in the second innings to finish the match with a nine-wicket haul. Unfortunately his teammates failed to follow in his footsteps. The Sri Lanka attack went for 707 on the placid pitch at the Singhalese Sports Club in the second Test. Yesterday, defending 257 on a turning pitch on the fifth day the final match at the P Sara Oval, the bowlers, Randiv apart, failed to deliver the killer blow. India, led by a well-struck century from VVS Laxman, completed a series-levelling five-wicket win.
Ajantha Mendis made a brave fist of things in the second innings without any rewards but some of Kumar Sangakkara's captaincy tactics were somewhat flawed and his bowling changes and field settings were not great. Thilan Samaraweera and Mendis had ensured the game went into the final day's play with a record 118-run, 10th-wicket stand in the second innings, after defeat had looked inevitable with Sri Lanka reduced to 87 for seven.
"We put in a good effort through the series," Sangakkara said. "This game we were found wanting with our batting in the second innings. Full credit to the entire team for the effort. Randiv bowled very well. A bit more support from the other end would have helped but all the guys can be proud for their efforts." Sangakkara was certainly putting on a brave face but he will know where it all went wrong for his side.
Mendis and Randiv are now the mainstays of the Sri Lanka spin department and they should be the team's destroyers in chief. But they will have to develop more than a fair share of their mystery deliveries to trouble most international batsmen. The element of surprise has proved time and again to be the wildcard that can turn a losing battle into victory. So the time has now arrived for those aspiring youngsters who may want to follow Murali's path to emerge from the shadows. Mendis and Randiv are two, but there may be others now knocking on the door for a place in the national side.