Is this the end of the road for Malinga?

Friday, 4 September 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Lasith Malinga


By Sa’adi Thawfeeq

Lasith Malinga’s unavailability to represent Mumbai Indians in the upcoming IPL in UAE due to personal reasons may probably close the final chapter on his rather colourful international cricket career, which has been replete with wonderful memories, controversies and injuries.

At 37, he is not getting any younger, and his last two T20I series against India and West Indies, of which he was the captain, shows a bowler on the wane as he managed just a solitary wicket in 5 matches while leaking 164 runs.

There has been calls for his head by critics after the Indian series loss by 0-2, but the national selectors stood by him and retained him as captain for the home series against West Indies, which again Sri Lanka lost by the same margin.

Malinga’s only chance of retaining the captaincy and his place in the national team at that stage was to perform in the IPL, if it had taken place as scheduled in April-May. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all international sports including cricket came to a standstill.

Even still, he could have shown that he had lost none of his exceptional bowling skills despite the impending years, by performing in the 2020 IPL in UAE. He has been a central figure of the Mumbai Indians’ success for the past ten years, being the tournament’s highest wicket-taker in its history with 170 wickets from 122 matches, with an economy rate of 7.14. But according to reports due to the ill health of his father, he has made himself unavailable.   

Sri Lanka has not played an international match since completing a two-match T20I series against West Indies at home on 4 March, and they are due to resume international cricket with a 3-Test series against Bangladesh in October, which means that Malinga will have to wait longer as no T20Is are currently lined-up. By the time the next T20I series comes along, the big question will be: how will the national selectors evaluate Malinga?

He is not the same Malinga we have all come to admire and are familiar with. With age he has slowed down in pace, although he has a trick or two up his sleeve, and he is not the fastest mover on the field when the shortest game requires speed and anticipation.

Initially, Malinga was looking at the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia for his last hurrah, but now with it being postponed by yet another year and to be held in India in 2021, can he defy age and perform to make himself available? Or will he decide that enough is enough and hang up his boots before he is shown the door by the selectors - a move which he certainly does not deserve.