Rixon reckons that the 24-year-old Mendis has the talent and with the right grooming can be a standout player for Sri Lanka. @ AFP

Kusal Mendis, who forged a whirlwind 163-run unbeaten partnership with Oshada Fernando to take Sri Lanka past the finish line in a historic Test series win against South Africa last week, will go on to become a classy player in world cricket, according to fielding coach Steve Rixon.

Rixon, who has earlier had coaching stints with New Zealand and Pakistan, hailed the manner how Sri Lanka went about their historic series win. Kusal Perera’s scintillating 153* proved to be the bedrock of the tourists’ victory in the opening Test at Durban. (ALSO READ: Kusal Mendis in top of ICC Test rankings for batsmen)

“The big message was amplified loud and clear by everybody, especially the main coach. Hathu [Chandika Hathurusingha] told everyone to relax,” Rixon was quoted as saying by ThePapare website about the final day’s chase in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.

“Going out there with a clean head helped. Kusal Mendis will go onto become a classy player in world cricket. He plays some proper cricket shots. I don’t see them played any better in the world. I am seeing bit of class in Mendis. We need to keep him relaxed so the class can come out.” (ALSO READ: Well done, Sri Lanka! Huge respect! Twitter hails Sri Lanka’s historic win against South Africa at Port Elizabeth)

Rixon reckons that the 24-year-old Mendis has the talent and with the right grooming can be a standout player for Sri Lanka.

“The kid is only 24 years of age. He needs a lot of mentoring. But you don’t want to take any individuality away from him. The kid has got something special in him. As time goes on, we will see him expand. He is still in the infant stage and has got some self-doubt. But the reality is, he is class. People will see greater things from him as time goes on. The more we see him, the more we are going to say ‘wow’.

“The other boy [Fernando] was outstanding as well,” Rixon added.

“I thought he batted beautifully… He has not got baggage to bring. He sees what’s there and reacts. His role was unbelievable. He was attacking the spinner from the start. He doesn’t wait for that big one to turn and take the outside edge. Instead, he takes on the spinner. Coming down the track and going over for the spinners was smart cricket. The spinner is then wondering ‘what am I going to do now’. So, he actually took the game away from the South Africans. A spinner on that sort of wicket could have dominated.” (ALSO READ: Sanath Jayasuriya banned from all cricket for two years)

Rixon elaborated on Sri Lanka’s mentality which was crushed specially after they arrived South Africa on the back of a crushing 3-0 defeat at home against England and successive away tour losses to New Zealand (1-0) and Australia (2-0).

“In New Zealand and Australia, I didn’t see a lot of adjustments but from Australia to South Africa, I have seen a change in mental attitude and the way we have gone about our training, which has got smarter,” Rixon said.

“Players feel happier about themselves. Obviously, winning that Test match in Durban was a once in a lifetime experience. It was a case of someone playing out of their skin. That added belief to the young kids who are coming along.

“Well, I wasn’t thinking of winning,” he added about chasing down a 304 target in Durban with a 78-run stand for the last wicket. (ALSO READ: Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne relives historic win against South Africa at Port Elizabeth)

“I didn’t think we had a chance. But the reality of it is, if you stay in the game long enough, you never know. Vishwa [Fernando] did such a good job. He became more comfortable the longer he stayed on at the wicket. KJP [Kusal Perera] from the other end was whacking them out of the park. I didn’t think we had any chance of winning and I moved from where I usually sit to a position where I am ready to shake the opposition’s hand. However, this game is a strange game. I have been watching it for a long, long time and I will never, ever stop being amazed.”

He also praised 25-year-old fast bowler Kasun Rajitha. “Kasun, everything that he does from his fielding to his bowling and the time he spends out in the nets working on his batting, his work ethic is unbelievable,” Rixon said.

“How it has worked for him is that he has worked hard to get there. He deserves every success that come his way. Vishy comes with nice equipment, bit like Vaas. To me, he will just get better and better the more he learns. Those are the kids who are going to carry the team forward. They set the standards for the younger guys to follow.”

Both teams will next be engaged in a five-match ODI series which will begin on March 3 at the Wanderers.