Kusal Mendis, the gutsy swashbuckling game changer from downtown Moratuwa, will not find himself picking up any Oscars or laurels at this year’s Dialog Sri Lanka Cricket Awards show despite being branded as the player who turned the fortunes of the team in the recently concluded Test series against Australia.
The 21-year-old Mendis’ name was not part of the countdown to the awards, launched on Monday night at the JAIC Hilton Hotel in Colombo, but instead there was the retired batting great Kumar Sangakkara who was portrayed on a screen to stand for the People’s Player of the Year Award on popular voting despite no longer wearing the Sri Lankan colours having hung up his bat more than a year ago.
Sri Lanka vice captain Dinesh Chandimal who in the past won one of the awards, the Emerging Player of the Year twice, was one of the attendees at the launch, but was non committal when asked who he wished to see receive the prize this year.
“I cannot say who should win”, said Chandimal.
But fans of Mendis would be kicking their heels to find out why their hero will not be among the bets to grab the Emerging Player of the Year Award for which he will have to wait another year in keeping with a controversial system.
The period for which the 2016 Awards are made covers January to December 2015. Mendis made his international debut in October that year against the West Indies.
Analysts and observers don’t see any player falling into the scope of the Emerging Player category if an award is to be bestowed this year other than Mendis and to another extent Dhananjaya de Silva who will also not be among the contenders.
But they also contend that neither Mendis nor De Silva will ever be put off by any off-field exercise given the prowess they have showed as current performing players.
Taking the strangeness of the situation into account Sri Lanka Cricket, according to its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ashley de Silva, is likely to review the process for the 2017 Awards.
Mendis turned heads as the new kid on the block when he smashed 176 in the second innings of the first Test against Australia at Pallekele last month which his captain Angelo Mathews declared had changed the fortunes of a team that returned from a battering in England.
Mendis was the only player from among the young crop to stand up to the English fast bowlers as he top scored with 53 in the second innings of the first Test when the side collapsed for a paltry 119.
He also clouted two half centuries (53 and 77) in the ensuing ODI series after making 51 on debut against Ireland.
This year’s awards ceremony, a glittering spectacle of costume and pomp among other renditions, will take place on September 21 at the Waters’ Edge in Battaramulla where as many as 65 trophies will be at stake.
No one will know the value of awards better than Mathews who was the undisputed star of the show in 2015 when he pocketed three awards for Test Player of the Year, ODI Player of the Year and the Dialog Cricketer of the Year.
“Awards are all about appreciating the hard work and talents of not only international cricketers, but also domestic (club) players that gives them the motivation,” said Mathews.