Whether Lasith Malinga is the ideal person to lead Sri Lanka in ODIs remain a moot question. There are better players than him to carry on the responsibility and Sri Lanka need to move forward rather than living in the past…..
Sri Lanka have played in three ODI assignments since the start of the Asia Cup in September 2018 and have been captained by three different personas out of which two had to face the ignominious axe after being blamed for the poor returns of the team. Many will look at this situation as a clear case of lack of proper backing to the captain by the board and they will be justified in their stance as six ODI captains in space of just over two years isn’t an ideal situation for any team to be in. But Sri Lanka being Sri Lanka, have found themselves amidst a crisis-ridden captaincy musical chair time and again in the last two years.
An early exit from the Asia Cup consumed Angelo Matthews, a shambolic 3-1 defeat at the hands of a touring English side resulting in the axe falling on Chandimal’s captaincy and a 3-0 battering at the hands of New Zealand have defined Sri Lankan ODI appearances since September 2018. For a change we are having the same ODI captain for two consecutive ODI series and that man holding on to his duties is the veteran pacer Lasith Malinga.
Also read: Sri Lanka handled the pressure better
The 35-year old pacer, known for his sling-arm action and toe-crushing Yorkers, was handed the captaincy ropes ahead of the New Zealand series. But with only seven ODIs remaining before the World Cup, the decision to continue with him looks a step back into the past instead of a forward-looking approach. There are many reasons for this argument.
For a start the veteran pacer was kept out of the team for almost a year, due to issues relating to his form and fitness, before he made his comeback in the Asia Cup last year and ever since his comeback, he has taken 17 wickets from 9 games played till now with an average of almost 26 runs apiece and an economy hovering just under the six-run an over mark. One can argue that his selection for the role was based on his good returns after the comeback with him taking 10 wickets from 6 games (before the New Zealand series) at an average of just over 22 and an economy of just over 5 runs an over. But this is simply a very small sample size of performances to select a candidate for a role as important as the skipper.
If anyone wants more vindication on this performance angle then his marginal returns as the skipper in the New Zealand ODI series can be considered. His seven wickets from three games on that tour came at an average of just under 31 and at an extravagant economy of 7.20 runs per over. A clear indication of deterioration under the added pressure of captaincy.
Now one might add that he is so experienced and has served the Sri Lankan Cricket so faithfully for many years. All that is true. He has been one of the modern-day white-ball greats donning the Sri Lankan colors but his regular injuries have drastically reduced his aura of the famed bowler he was once perceived to be. So, what he needs, at this juncture of his career, is the freedom to enjoy his cricket which is surely not going to happen under the added burden of the captaincy ropes which come with their fair share of pressure and responsibilities.
Another perception which needs to go is that a great player can be an equally good leader. That is not the case at all. Look at the example of Sachin Tendulkar who owned almost every record that a batsman can aspire to achieve in his life but when it came to captaining his side, he simply couldn’t flourish in that role and eventually relinquished those responsibilities in favor of Sourav Ganguly. When the opportunity, to captain India, came up again in 2007 in wake of Rahul Dravid stepping-down from his role, Tendulkar was in his 18th year of cricketing career but decided to support the candidature of a three-year-old (in international Cricket) MS Dhoni which eventually proved to be a master-stroke as India went on to lift the first ever T20 World Cup.
A similar investment is needed in the Sri Lankan Cricket also. Now the question arises if not Malinga then who? In answer to this question, the candidature of Thisara Perera and Dinesh Chandimal can be put forward. But, in the present run of form, the former can be backed up as it was the loss of form which led to the ouster of Chandimal from the team and captaincy while Perera, on the other hand, has been brilliant since the start of 2018. In the aforementioned period, Perera has featured in 20 games and has scored 639 runs at an average of close to 43 while also picking up 27 wickets at a very good average of 25 runs apiece.
Added to these impressive figures is his athleticism in the field, an area where Malinga lacks far-behind due to his age constraints, which makes him a complete all-round package. If Sri Lanka Cricket is dead adamant to ignore Chandimal till he regains his form and are willing to invest in a new Captain, Perera is the one with the right credentials. He is young, dynamic and full of confidence – traits desperately needed for the leadership duties of the Sri Lankan Team. Hope the Lankan management sees some sense in this argument and the best man gets to lead the team in the Marquee Event.