India vs Sri Lanka: Lasith Malinga's ouster from ODI side could be end of a career in decline

Fitness has been a paramount reason for Malinga's decline. Given that even a team in despair like Sri Lanka do not need his services, it is unlikely that his IPL contract gets renewed this year.

Rohit Sankar, Dec 06, 2017 09:55:43 IST

Many of us live a charmed life, one fraught with lucky breaks and fortuitous happiness. But when fury in the form of life strikes, we take ages to get up.

Unlike life, which sometimes gives second chances, sports does not. It bathes you in glory, takes you to the pinnacle of success and then as the age factor hits, sends you spiralling down.

File image of Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga. AP

File image of Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga. AP

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga is in such an abyss now. The end of his career is well within sights and the extraordinary pace bowler is a shadow of the menacing, noodle-haired avatar he was when he first hit the scenes.

For long, the slingy fast bowler was Sri Lanka's insurance policy in limited-overs cricket. Each time a plan went askew, Malinga was the go-to man for skippers from the Island nation.

After all, the Galle-born pacer conjured magic with the cricket ball. For years, his toe-crushing yorkers were a sight to behold in cricket. From his queer action to his well disguised slower balls, to his dipping yorkers and surprise bouncers, Malinga was a complete package, one laden with bullets unknown to the cricketing world then.

When the “Slinga Malinga”, as he is fondly called, ripped through the heart of Proteas fans with a hat-trick — he took four wickets in four balls — in a World Cup match in 2007, the world shivered. Here was a quick bowler who could invariably control the pace of the death overs, and make the batsmen dance to his tunes.

If Mitchell Johnson is a head-hunter, Malinga is a toe-crusher, one who relentlessly hits the base of leg stump without his accuracy going awry. Hours of practicing by aiming at a shoe on the crease made him a threat like none other.

But every story has an end. The fable of Lasith Malinga, the fast bowler who snapped the monotony of batsman-dominated death overs in limited-overs cricket, is coming to a sorry end.

The legendary seamer was left out of the One-Day Internationals' (ODI) squad for the series against India, and a celebrated comeback into national colours seems a bleak possibility. The sun has possibly set on the legend of Malinga, but rather than an illustrious end, it is a painful, gloomy demise.

Malinga had been dropped from the ODI team following a tragic couple of years which saw him lose fitness and pace while gaining weight.The once pin-point accurate yorkers were turning into half-volleys and full tosses and the very same batsmen who shuddered at the mere thought of facing him were now enjoying giving him the stick.

While his bowling had been on the wane post a shambolic outing against a rampant Virat Kohli in Hobart five years back, it stooped to unprecedented lows following the 2015 World Cup.

Since then, Malinga has taken just 18 wickets in 20 ODIs at an average of 54.16. Those are dismal numbers for a bowler who has over 300 ODI scalps.

Even in the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he is a cult figure in the Mumbai Indians setup, Malinga has been a declining influence. In 2017, his economy soared above eight for the first time in a decade of IPL cricket.

He picked up just 11 wickets in 12 games and was often sidelined in favour of Mitchell McCleneghan. With Jasprit Bumrah, once his understudy, growing in stature and prowess, Malinga was surplus to Mumbai's requirements.

In the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Malinga represents the Rangpur Riders and has thus far been completely below par with six wickets in seven matches and an economy once again crossing eight.

Sri Lanka don't need him either, after his cataclysmic home series against India three months back where he picked up just three wickets in five games at an average of over 80.

He was dropped for the series in Pakistan which his team lost 5-0. A plausible return for the ODIs against India in India looked likely after Lanka's pathetic show in the UAE in ODIs.

That, though, did not materialise as Sri Lanka still deem him to be a spent force. Not even the Sports Minister who stopped the ODI players from leaving the country because he hadn't approved the squad, wanted a return for Lasith Malinga. The same minister had taken a dig at Malinga's fitness during the Champions Trophy and the veteran seamer had retorted violently.

Whatever was fired back and forth, fitness has been a paramount reason for Malinga's decline. Given that even a team in despair and dire straits like Sri Lanka do not need his services, it is unlikely that his IPL contract gets renewed this year.

From the zenith of being one among the premier fast bowlers in world cricket, Malinga's fall has been swift and painful. Will we see the 'Slinga' wearing the blue and gold again? Rather unlikely.

Updated Date: Dec 06, 2017 09:55:43 IST

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