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Malinga has last laugh over his local detractors

April 13, 2014

Sa’adi Thawfeeq, in The Nation, 13 April 2014

957a0-t20win017gossiplankanews-comFast bowler Lasith Malinga certainly had the last laugh at his detractors, who have been hounding him since he decided to quit Test cricket and concentrate on the other two formats of the game to prolong his international cricket career, when he proudly lifted the second World Cup title won by Sri Lanka in 18 years in the ICC World Twenty20 final at Dhaka on Sunday.Hounded and harrassed by fans and certain sections of the media over his bowling performances and his conduct on and off the field, Malinga, a fast bowling genius of unique talent finally proved a point that given the opportunity he could also captain his country to a World Cup victory, a feat achieved only by Arjuna Ranatunga in 1996 when Sri Lanka won the fifty-over World Cup at Lahore.

For 30-year-old Malinga, the last seven days of the World T20 tournament has been like a dream, one even he would not have dreamt of. It followed with the suspension of the officially appointed captain for the tournament Dinesh Chandimal who was found guilty of slow over rate (in Sri Lanka’s loss to England) for the second successive time inside a period of 12 months. As Chandimal’s deputy, Malinga automatically assumed leadership of the team for Sri Lanka’s final group match against New Zealand which was a ‘must win’ contest for both teams.

The way Sri Lanka defended a moderate total of 119 and went onto beat the Black Caps to book a place in the semi-finals convinced everyone that if Sri Lanka was to go on and win another World Cup, Malinga was the man to lead them to it. The way the team fought back and jelled as a unit and the hunger they displayed for success was something that was not there in the past. Like a lion sensing its prey Sri Lanka smelled that they had a World Cup within their grasp if they played their cards right.

So what did the team management in consultation with the national selectors do? They convinced Chandimal to stand down in the semi-final and if they got through that hurdle, the final as well for the sake of the country, and allowed Malinga to lead for the rest of the tournament. This extra sense of responsibility brought the best out of Malinga, for seldom does a fast bowler get an opportunity to lead his country let alone a world tournament.With the help of four captains who were members of the team – Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews, Malinga was able to rally the players around him and go and deliver the knockout punch first to West Indies against whom they had a grudge battle having lost the 2012 T20 final to them, and then to India who has been their nemesis in many finals including the 2011 World Cup.

The World T20 triumph was a moral victory for Malinga over his detractors who failed to understand the stance he took four years ago to save himself from a career threatening knee injury and used it to question his every move about his behaviour on and off the field and even his commitment towards the team.Despite the fact that he had built himself a reputation as one of the most feared bowlers in one-day cricket (ie fifty over and t20) there were some critics who loved to have a ‘go’ at him sometimes maybe for some sadistic reasons.

Malinga has been accused of putting his heart and soul and giving his everything to Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL) above his country’s interests whenever he had leaked runs or ended up wicketless. They said that he was bent on playing only for money and the money offered by IPL was far beyond what he earned from Sri Lanka Cricket as a contracted player. In the hour of victory Malinga took the opportunity to hit out at his detractors. Answering a question of how Sri Lanka managed to restrict India to just 66 runs in the last 60 balls in the final, he replied: “I think it’s because of the IPL. Since I played in the IPL, I had a fair understanding of Indian players and I could control their batsmen and use my bowlers to contain them. I learnt everything from the IPL. I’m really happy to play in the IPL.”

Not enough hounding him from a distance the media even went to the extent of poking their microphones inside his open windowed car when he was driving off after a players’ meeting with Sri Lanka Cricket officials over a contract issue last year and the words he uttered to that reporter was popularised islandwide and even turned into a joke.

Malinga is a character of sorts as most fast bowlers are and has sometimes run foul with his employer SLC who at times have had to caution him and put him back on track like recalling him and spinner Ajantha Mendis from taking part in the Big Bash in Australia recently. They were asked to return home and work with the national team coaches and physios on their fitness ahead of the tour to Bangladesh in January.

Chairman of selectors Sanath Jayasuriya said at the time: “You have to admit that Malinga has a serious fitness issue but if he shows serious intentions and is willing to work hard and improve himself and if he is ready to show commitment towards national duty, then we feel it is unfair to leave him out. He is obviously a world-class bowler. So, we want him to prove himself by coming back from the Big Bash and working with our coaches and trainers and get back to his full fitness in the next few days. He knows that we are keen to help him out and have the patience to manage him and assist him cope with his injury in order to prolong his international career. It is a very encouraging sign and we hope everything will turn out well for the country.” It certainly has, with Sri Lanka winning the World T20 Cup. Read 1018 times –

See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/sport-online/item/28167-‘malingering’-malinga-mocks-at-his-critics.html#sthash.mgjtNWzg.dpuf

 

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