On the batting friendly pitches of Australasia, Sri Lanka will be pitting their bowling hopes squarely on the shoulders of one man. Lasith Malinga is back, and ready to wreak havoc once again.
He may have been out of the game for a while, but right him off at your peril. He lit up the World Cup back in 2007 as he bulldozed his way through the South African line-up taking 4 wickets in 4 balls in the process. He may be a littler older now, and perhaps a littler wiser, but the searing yorker and wicket-taking ability remain.
He is, for my money, the world deadliest death bowler. This was a view also expressed by England trio Gay Ballance, Joss Buttler and Moeen Ali in a recent interview with Cricinfo. They all described him as the best death bowler they’d ever seen. I would certainly agree with this. He has all the attributes to close out the back end of an innings.
Firstly, his is blessed with natural pace and a good rhythm. Both of these attributes stem from his unusual slingy action, more akin to a javelin thrower than an international bowler. As well as helping him to generate pace, his unusual action is also continuing to bamboozle opposition batsmen. Many of the great batsmen have failed to line him up correctly and have been castled as a result. During this World Cup, Malinga may find that a large amount of his wickets will come against tail-enders and also the associate sides. As they will be most susceptible to his unfamiliar action.
His ability to bowl the old-fashioned yorker at breakneck speed, is a commodity which is grossly undervalued in the modern game. Many a time when watching England I have cried out for a bowler who can bowl a good yorker on demand. Malinga is that man, and is thus, Sri Lanka’s main bowling weapon
While Rangana Herath has been leading the attack admirably for the past few years, on the harder decks of Australia, Sri Lanka will need to turn to their firebrand seam bowler for wickets. Since the retirement of Chaminda Vaas, Malinga has been Sri Lanka’s main attacking weapon in ODI’s.
At the age of 31 and with his recent injury torubles, this may be his last World Cup. As such, Malinga should be fuelled with an extra determination to clinch the trophy. Indeed, for many in this Sri Lankan squad this may represent their last shot at World Cup glory. All of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Rangana Herath are, in all likelihood, playing in their last World Cup. While an ageing side is not ideal for reasons of fitness, it will be vital for the knockout stages when experience counts for so much.
The only cloud hanging over Malinga, are his injury concerns. He has not played in an ODI since 30th August, and did not enjoy a fruitful return in his sides humbling to Zimbabwe yesterday – returning figures of 0/46 from 7 overs. However, hopefully once the tournament proper begins, we will see the best of Malinga as hopes to recapture the magic he has so often produced.
Sri Lanka, as usual, are well fancied to go far in the World Cup. But outside of their familiar sub-continental surroundings they have a reputation of having a soft underbelly. For them to remain strong and give a good account of themselves, Malinga will be crucial.