Malinga is back in the national squad and which is a huge boost for the Sri Lankans……
Life comes to full circle in a sense for Sri Lanka fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who started off his ODI career in the Asia Cup back in 2004 – against UAE – and now will be heading to the UAE to represent Sri Lanka in the same tournament. Malinga played an ODI for Sri Lanka exactly a year ago in a disastrous series Sri Lanka lost 0-5 at home against India. He was proving to be ineffective in the series and the series before that against Zimbabwe and also in the Champions Trophy before that. He was not proving to be ineffective and was not able to bowl at his lethal best that we are accustomed to seeing.
Earlier this year, Malinga even contemplated retirement from the game altogether. During the ice cricket even at St Moritz, Malinga revealed that he will call it a day very soon. Also, Malinga was not retained by the Mumbai Indians (MI) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the 11th season and instead returned as their bowling mentor, which further depicted that Malinga’s cricket career might be over. “Mentally, I am over with playing cricket,” Malinga told Press Trust of India.
“I don’t think I will play international cricket anymore. I am planning to announce my retirement soon.
However, at 35, Malinga is still very much capable of doing damage. He was perhaps low on confidence and perhaps a stint in some T20 leagues both home and abroad helped him get his rhythm back. He did not fare well in the T20 matches, barring one or two, but his form in the 50-over format – Premier Limited Over Tournament – Malinga played a pivotal role in ensuring that his side reached the final. He picked up 9 wickets at 23.22 along with an economy rate of 5.22 for Nondescripts Cricket Club.
Malinga missing the 50-over tournament in May and June this year, prompted the selectors to take a stand, which could have ended Malinga’s career. The SLC wanted Malinga to play in the Inter-Provincial one-day tournament. However, Malinga decided to ignore that and focus instead on his role as the bowling mentor of the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
Before getting the axe, Malinga was in good form, especially in the T20s. However, the selectors did not pick him for the Nidahas Tri-nation T20I series at home and have ever since been absent from the side.
Malinga is Sri Lanka’s fourth highest ODI wicket-taker with 301 scalps and is second only to Muttiah Muralitharan in terms of strike-rate (32.6) and is also second in line behind the legendary off-spinner in terms of 4 wicket-hauls (9) and 5-wicket hauls (7). He has as many as 4 hat-tricks in limited-overs cricket and a toe-crushing yorker that the players around the world dread.
With Malinga’s style of bowling, he gets rich rewards most of the times, but there are occasions when he get belted around the park. The match against India at Hobart, when Virat Kohli took him apart quickly comes to mind. With a strike bowler like Malinga, the risk of going for plenty of runs is always going to be there. In fact, he has conceded 80 or more runs in an ODI on 8 occasions, which is the most for any bowler. With him, the captains will not mind going for runs as ling as he can pick up two or three wickets up front and return in the latter stages of the innings to restrict the run flow.
His slingy action and accuracy make life difficult for the batsmen. If that was not enough he has a wily slower delivery as well, which if not picked could prove to be disastrous for the batsmen.
Malinga enjoys a great deal of support on social media. #BringBackMalinga hashtag on Twitter and also the petition on change.org to bring him back into the Sri Lankan side shows how much he is loved by the people of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan selectors decided to go in for an experienced campaigner over someone like Lahiru Kumara who over the last year has shown that he cause headaches with his pace. Sri Lanka desperately needs to do well in the Asia Cup as their performance in the last year at least has dipped, especially in limited-overs cricket. With Angelo Mathews back leading the Lankans and the presence of other senior pros like Dinesh Chandimal and Upul Tharanga makes this a formidable unit. Malinga could very well be the final piece of the puzzle that enables Sri Lanka to go all the way in the tournament.