Knee injury forces Lasith Malinga to return home
Lasith Malinga has been ruled out of the World Twenty20 with injury, dealing a substantial blow to Sri Lanka's campaign. Having flown to India earlier this week hopeful of playing some part in the tournament, Malinga has aggravated the bone bruise in his left knee that has plagued him since November. He has returned to Sri Lanka, and the selectors are expected to name a replacement over the next 72 hours, following practice games in Colombo on Friday.
Malinga had been preparing to play Sri Lanka's opening World T20 match against Afghanistan on Thursday, having increased his bowling load incrementally through the week. He was seen warming up ahead of the game, but pulled up as he ran in to bowl one of his practice deliveries, and stopped bowling thereafter. It was later confirmed he had aggravated his injury, and would play no part in the tournament.
There have been serious doubts over Malinga's fitness right through the approach to the tournament. Malinga was only able to play one match out of four in the Asia Cup, and had also stepped down from the captaincy when it became apparent he could not guarantee his availability for the full World T20.
He had said he was hopeful of playing in the World T20 in early March, but more recently, had questioned why the selectors chose him in the Sri Lanka squad when he felt he was clearly unfit. He had joined the side on Monday nevertheless, but will now have spent less than four days with them before he was withdrawn from the tournament.
This bone bruise is similar to the injury Malinga had sustained in his right knee in 2008. On that occasion, he was out of international cricket for almost two years. As he is now 32 years of age, there is a chance the current injury is serious enough to end Malinga's international career. He has also had trouble with his left ankle in recent years. Malinga underwent surgery on that ankle in 2014, but has been a diminished bowler since his return.
Sri Lanka have some seam-bowling cover in their present squad, which features Suranga Lakmal in addition to Dushmantha Chameera and Nuwan Kulasekara, who played against Afghanistan. Malinga had been the spearhead of the T20 attack however, and was instrumental to Sri Lanka's march to three World T20 finals over the last four tournaments. He remains the World T20's highest wicket-taker, with 38 scalps from 31 matches.