India v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 12, 2012

Mentor brushes aside concern over Malinga

Sri Lanka's bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake has brushed aside any concerns about Lasith Malinga's form, saying that with the number of games Sri Lanka have been involved in Malinga was bound to have a poor game or two. Malinga comes in to the Asia Cup after an inconsistent performance in the Commonwealth Bank series in Australia, in which he was the leading wicket-taker with 18 scalps in 11 games but went at 6.21 runs per over.

Ramanayake discovered Malinga when Malinga was bowling for his college in Galle, mentored him at Sri Lanka's cricket academy and describes Malinga as his "rock". He said conditions in Australia and the fact that Sri Lanka had such a packed schedule there - they played five games in 10 days at the end of the tournament - affected Malinga.

"In Australia there was not much reverse swing, so he struggled a bit," Ramanayake told reporters at the team hotel in Dhaka. "So I hope he'll learn new tricks. He's okay; everyone can have a bad game or two when you play 11 games in such a short time."

One particularly poor game for Malinga was the Hobart match against India, in which Virat Kohli took him apart. The 96 runs Malinga conceded in that game was the most he has conceded in his eight-year ODI career, and his economy-rate of 12.52 in the match was the worst for any bowler who has conceded over 80 runs in an ODI game. He recovered almost immediately, taking 4 for 49 against Australia to help put Sri Lanka in the finals. More ups and downs followed in the finals: after getting hit for 74 runs in eight overs in the first final, he hit back with 3 for 40 in the second before ending the tour with a wicketless 10-over spell that went for 69 runs.

Despite that, Malinga is almost certaint to play in Sri Lanka's first game of the Asia Cup, against India on Tuesday. Ramanayake said it was likely Sri Lanka would pick two other medium-pacers in the XI. "We haven't decided it yet but I think any team will play three quicks with the Powerplays these days.

"Also, the two new balls mean taking three medium-pacers is necessary and reverse swing is still there; the Pakistanis did it last night. In Dhaka, the weather is dry right now so reverse is possible, though it is not like the days when we had just one new ball."

All the four teams participating in the Asia Cup were cooped up in their hotels on Monday due to a political gathering in Dhaka. Ramanayake knows Bangladesh well, having been bowling coach of their national side from 2008-2011, and said it was disappointing the teams could not go out, but they understood the situation.

Edited by Dustin Silgardo

Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka