Malinga 'in the form of his life' - Hussey
David Hussey has described his Melbourne Stars team-mate and soon-to-be ODI opponent Lasith Malinga as "in the form of his life" and believes the ability of Australia's batsmen to handle Malinga's three variations will be critical when the one-day series begins on Friday. Malinga is the equal leading wicket taker in the Big Bash League this summer and his presence in Sri Lanka's team makes them a much more daunting outfit than they were during the Tests.
The spinners Ajantha Mendis and Akila Dananjaya, who boast hard-to-read variations, will also play important roles but it is Malinga who has the potential to really flummox the Australians. Hussey said Australia's batsmen would need to watch closely for the slower balls, bouncers and yorkers from Malinga, who collected 4 for 49 last time Sri Lanka played a one-day international at the MCG.
"They've got some of the best bowlers in the world," Hussey said. "Lasith Malinga, I was lucky enough to play with him at the Melbourne Stars and he's in the form of his life. All our batters have to really get down to business and do their homework and really try to take him out of the equation.
"Never scared [of facing him] - it's always exciting. You always want to play the best bowlers in the world. It's a great opportunity to face him. If you do well against him, it gives not only your team a lot of confidence but yourself and your game a lot of confidence as well."
"You've just got to get your plans and your focus purely on his three different balls. He's got a very fast bumper, a very good yorker which he executes every time, and his slower ball. Just get your individual plans ready to go and try to nullify his game plan. If we take him out of the game, it definitely goes a long way to winning the game."
Hussey will have a key role to play in that, as the second-most experienced member of Australia's batting group for Friday's match, behind the recalled Brad Haddin. The absence of Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, and the controversial decision not to include Michael Hussey after his announcement that he would retire from international cricket at the end of the season, has left a major experience vacuum in Australia's side.
But despite having played 64 ODIs, Hussey knows that his future in the national side may be assessed on a series-by-series basis, and at the age of 35 he is well aware that time is running out to bring his domestic form to the international arena. He is likely to fill the finishing role occupied so successfully by his brother in the past and he wants to make up for his struggles during the one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE last year.
"A few times I've played for Australia in the past, I've had a few regrets and didn't really play the way I wanted to play," Hussey said. "This time I'm just going to have a lot of fun, enjoy myself and play with no regrets and a lot of freedom. I haven't done quite as well as I wanted to do. I haven't really finished games off the way I wanted to finish games off and win games of cricket for Australia. This time, fresh mind, new opportunity and play with no regrets.
"The UAE series probably didn't go to plan. I didn't play very well at all, and then the World T20 I didn't get much of an opportunity. You come back to Australia you really want to right the wrongs and prove a few people wrong. I really have struggled the first part of the Shield season but one-day cricket I've done quite well. This is a great opportunity for me to free the mind, play with no regrets and show a few people that I can play at the level."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here