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'It makes me sad that I can't play Tests anymore'

Lasith Malinga talks about why he wants to do the best he can for Sri Lanka, and whether he has become predictable as a bowler

Interview by Andrew Fernando

November 2, 2012

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Lasith Malinga celebrates a wicket, Mumbai Indians v Sydney Sixers, Champions League T20, Durban, October 22, 2012
Malinga: Tests were his No. 1 format © Getty Images
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Did you ever feel you had something special back when you were playing tennis-ball cricket on the beach?
I knew that I could bowl well with the tennis ball, but at that time I hadn't even touched a leather ball. I had no idea that I had the ability to be good enough to play for Sri Lanka. That's something that makes me very happy, to see how far I've come.

Champaka Ramanayake took an interest in you early on. How different would your life have been if he hadn't seen you?
I met him about ten months after I first started playing leather-ball cricket. Since that day, he has done a lot for me. He has been around the A team, club cricket and the national team, and he has helped me in all those capacities. I knew nothing when I started playing with the leather ball - how to control the ball, how to reverse swing it, how to vary the speeds. Under Champaka sir, I was able to learn all that. I didn't get a lot of opportunity to play school cricket, so the person that helped me get into the national team was Champaka sir.

He hadn't seen someone like me before. He didn't say anything major. Just, "Bowl as fast as you can, as straight as you can." He didn't try to tell me where my arm should be or anything like that. Even today, he says the same thing to me. He never tried to change who I was, and that's why I've been able to come as far as I have.

There were a lot of other coaches who really helped me - Anusha Samaranayake, Prabath Nissanka, Rumesh Ratnayake. I am incredibly grateful to them.

You practised bowling yorkers by placing two shoes on the crease and trying to hit them. How did you come up with that?
I used to watch Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram on TV and thought that the yorker was a great ball to bowl. We have a saying that it is better to learn from watching than from hearing. I thought I must learn the thing that I love to watch. The yorker was successful for me, so I thought I would make it even better, and I imagined that a batsman was at the crease and tried to hit his feet.

Reverse swing came naturally to you with your action. Are you disappointed that you no longer play Tests, where reverse swing is more effective than in other formats?
Definitely I am sad about that. I came into the national team as a Test cricketer. I learnt a lot from playing Tests - how to bowl with the new ball, how to get the better of a batsman once the ball had become old, and it showed me how to always look for wickets. It makes me sad that I can't play Tests anymore because of my injury. I only played 30 Tests, but what I learnt in those matches has helped me get a lot of ODI and T20 wickets.

It was only in my 29th Test that I learnt to reverse the ball in both directions. In that match I took seven wickets, against India in Galle. After that series I wasn't able to play any more Tests because of my knee injury. I always ask why that happened to me.

 
 
"I used to watch Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram on TV and thought that the yorker was a great ball to bowl. I thought I must learn the thing that I love to watch"
 

You retired from Tests in the middle of an IPL, after you had been named in a Test squad to England. Why didn't you announce your retirement earlier?
I picked up this injury in 2008, and that's when I had a long time away from Tests. For three years, no one looked at me for Test selection, no one looked to see how I was bowling. But in 2010, when Murali aiya was retiring, he talked to me and said, "Mali, this is my last match. Do you want to come and play another Test with me?" I respect Murali aiya a lot, and no one can ever say a bad thing about him, so I thought, "Even if this is my last Test as well, even if I break my leg playing it, it doesn't matter." In three years I hadn't even played a two-day match. But still, I was able to be the Man of the Match, by taking seven wickets and making 64 runs, and Murali aiya got to take his 800th wicket.

I only played that Test because he asked me. After 2008, I had given up any thoughts of playing Test cricket. The reason was that the knee injury I have is something only four or five other people in the world have - mostly Aussie Rules football players, no cricketers. My doctor told me it would never get better, and that I might have to give up cricket altogether. There was a small chance it would get better, but I would have to spend a long time away from the game. Luckily I got to the stage where I can bowl a few overs a day, but that's why I had to give up Test cricket.

When you played all three formats, which did you enjoy the most?
I loved playing Tests because you get the chance to bowl so much. In ODIs it's only ten overs and in T20s it's four, but in Tests you can bowl 20-25 overs a day. Because of that, in Tests you gain a lot of experience, and learn what to do in specific situations. How should you bowl with the new ball in the morning? How should you bowl in the afternoon when it's hot? How to bowl at the end of the day? But I can't do that anymore, and there's no point dwelling on the past. I can only play well in whatever formats I can still play in.

You don't think you will ever play Tests again, then?
I'm 29 now. I think I will only have three or four more years to play. I think going back to Tests now would be very difficult. I've been away from Tests for one and a half or two years. I have 100 Test wickets now, and I feel like if I were to play again, I would want to get to at least 150 wickets. To do that I would have to play at least ten or 15 Tests, and I don't think I can do that, given how bad my injury is. I think it's much better for the team if a new bowler comes through and plays three or four years at a stretch than if I play for just a few.


Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan at practice, World Cup, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai  April 1, 2011
Malinga played the 2010 Galle Test because Murali asked him to © AFP
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You've played in all four of Sri Lanka's World Cup and World Twenty20 final defeats. How did you prepare for those matches?
I didn't do anything different. I played under Mahela and Sanga and they gave me the freedom to be myself and bowl the way I thought was best. In the first three finals I was good, but in the last final I couldn't bowl well. I think I was a big reason why we lost. I felt helpless and couldn't do anything for the team. But I was glad I was able to take five wickets against England in the Super Eights and bowl a good Super Over against New Zealand. I'm very sad about the final, and what I couldn't do there. But at least I've been able to play in four finals.

Do you talk to Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara much about your game?
I don't talk a lot about cricket with Kumar - not that I totally don't, but not often. But I'm always talking about cricket with Mahela. We talk about how I should bowl when a batsman is playing in a certain way, what balls to bowl in certain conditions, and he has had a lot of input and influence on how I play. We talk cricket all the time.

You've profited a lot from the IPL. Do you think you have ever compromised your international career for Sri Lanka because of it?
I have never done that. I only played in the IPL after I stopped playing Tests. I haven't neglected any limited-overs matches for Sri Lanka because of the IPL. As long as I am playing cricket, I am always ready to play ODI and T20 cricket for Sri Lanka.

You've said that because no one is looking out for you, you have to look out for yourself. Why do you feel that way?
As a cricketer, you have a shelf life. You sacrifice your education and any other line of work to play cricket. The best cricketers might play for ten or 15 years; others might have only five or six years at the top. You don't know at what time you will be injured or at what time you will lose form, and how long you will stay in the team. I think in that short time that you have, you have to do the best for your team and do everything you want to. After you leave cricket, no one cares about you. I've seen that happen to former cricketers. I know that that will happen to me as well. So I just want to play as well as I can when I can do it, and one day be able to reflect on the number of wickets I've taken for my country, and the number of wins I've been able to deliver.

In ODIs, how much has the "new ball from each end" rule affected your bowling towards the end of an innings?
It hasn't just affected me, it has hurt a lot of Asian bowlers who rely on reverse swing. It's much more difficult to take wickets at the death now. I really hope that that rule is reversed and that we get one ball per innings. There would be some kind of justice for bowlers if that happened.

 
 
"If I were to play Tests again, I would want to get to at least 150 wickets. To do that I would have to play at least ten or 15 Tests, and I don't think I can do that"
 

Even in T20s, over the past 12 months you haven't been able to bowl as well as you used to. You've having particular trouble with finding the yorker length. Why is that?
Yes, I haven't been able to bowl my yorkers as well as I want in both international cricket and in the IPL, and I haven't been able to get as many wickets. I think because I've been playing non-stop for so long, I'm physically drained. I've played in every match that I was fit for. I need to take some time out and re-energise, and I hope that I can return to where I was.

Do you think you've become too predictable?
I guess batsmen know the deliveries I bowl, because they've analysed me on video, just like we do to other bowlers and batsmen. That is the nature of the game now. There are new rule changes as well, and I can only be successful if I adapt and handle pressure well. I think in future bowlers will be under more and more pressure.

There are no new balls that I can learn; I know how to bowl everything. But in saying that, there are subtle changes I can make to some of the variations to make them more effective. I'm working with the coaches and with the team leadership on what I can change.

How does it affect you when it is said that you are only motivated by money?
Some people look at me in a bad light and say those things, but I don't think you can look at the wickets I've taken for Sri Lanka and be justified in saying that. They say I only play well for money, but I've set four world records playing for my country. If I was just playing for money, I should have achieved those things in the IPL. I've taken three hat-tricks for Sri Lanka. All those things I've done playing for Sri Lanka. I have taken 200 ODI wickets for Sri Lanka, and I'm the fastest Sri Lankan to have reached that milestone. In 30 Tests, I have taken 101 wickets. There again, I am the fastest Sri Lankan. If those people look at what I have done properly, they will be able to see what my motivation has been.

What would you most like to achieve in the time you have left in the game?
I'm hoping to take 100 wickets in T20s, and if I can play long enough, to take 300 wickets in ODIs. Most of all, I just want to take my team to as many victories as possible for as long as I can.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

RSS Feeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by CricEshwar on (November 4, 2012, 4:14 GMT)

Good interview if nothing has been adulterated here. Based on the past video interviews I didn't find Malinga to be so introspective or knowledgeable but a great natural talent.

Posted by Kepili_Buster on (November 3, 2012, 17:16 GMT)

In Malinga's 24b = 10 superb balls potentially wicket taking, 0 W+NB, Sammy was lucky 5 times. Nothing wrong with Mali's bowling, credit should go to Sammy's batting for hitting many SIXES off just missed on the stumps attempted yorkers and the LUCK.! 12.1-excellent yorker, Bravo 1r 12.2-doesn't get this in the hole, Sammy SIX 12.3-if doesn't get it on the spot it can disappear, Sammy SIX 12.4-another length ball, Sam 1r 12.5-right in the hole again, Bravo 1r 12.6-Sammy 1run 16.1-fine off-stump yorker, Sammy dug out down the ground 1run 16.2-length ball, Sammy tucked a to short long leg 1r 16.3-just missed the length Sammy FOUR 16.4-Samuels lucky SIX, bouncer, late on the hook edge 16.5-full ball on the stumps, Samy SIX 16.6-Malinga to Samuels, 1r 18.1-Malinga to Ramdin, 1r 18.2-another great yorker, verylucky 4 for Sam 18.3-Sam swung to leg, edge to short Lleg 18.4-Ramdin, edge 1r 18.5-lucky again Sam totally mistimed, just missed deepcover 18.6-super yorker,Samy did well to escape

Posted by onenick on (November 3, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

last few years been malinga+mumbai indians... srilankan cricket must find a new fast bowlet sooner befor its get too late

Posted by stormy16 on (November 3, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

I think its unfair the critisism leveled at Malinga. He has been a fantastic bowler but the moment he has bad day or game is critisesed unfairly. His test issue is not understood - they guy was injured and couldnt bowl 20-30 overs but didnt mean he coulndt bowl 10 or 4 overs in T20. People just added 2+2 and came up with 5.

Posted by Palitha-Ferdinands on (November 3, 2012, 8:43 GMT)

How does it affect you when it is said that you are only motivated by money?

Some people look at me in a bad light and say those things, but I don't think you can look at the wickets I've taken for Sri Lanka and be justified in saying that. They say I only play well for money, but I've set four world records playing for my country. If I was just playing for money, I should have achieved those things in the IPL. I've taken three hat-tricks for Sri Lanka. All those things I've done playing for Sri Lanka. I have taken 200 ODI wickets for Sri Lanka, and I'm the fastest Sri Lankan to have reached that milestone. In 30 Tests, I have taken 101 wickets. There again, I am the fastest Sri Lankan. If those people look at what I have done properly, they will be able to see what my motivation has been.

This a bold question and even better answer which will exonerate Malinga our hero from all baseless accusations. Good on you Andrew and good luck Malinga. excellent stuff from Cricinfo.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 4:00 GMT)

Great interview. Malinga has done so much for Sri Lanka, but still there are so many people criticizing him. Without him i'm sure we would have lost many odi matches in the last 4 years. His reason to retire tests is correct, every time he played a test match he got injured. Malinga is the best Sri Lankan fast bowler produced with Chaminda Vaas. All the best for Malinga

Posted by SharadBhasin on (November 3, 2012, 3:05 GMT)

You are and will always be one of the great bowlers of all time. Thanks for the continued enjoyment and the memories. I do hope you last long in the short form ofd the game. You are a joy to watch!!!!

Posted by Vikum72 on (November 3, 2012, 2:06 GMT)

I saw Malinga once, when he was away from cricket for a long period with his knee injury. This was long before his IPL fame and at that time most people have even forgotten that there had being a budding fast bowler called Malinga. It was very sad for me to see him limping away. I wondered at that time whether he'll ever be able to play again. I totally agree with his philosophy of making the best while he can. He's a professional cricketer and its totally within his rights. How many past players are SLC looking after, after all.

Posted by   on (November 3, 2012, 1:56 GMT)

Its difficult to be a star, becasue then you belong to the public and have to face whatever they say about you. However, I would like to consider the short shelf life of a professional. He's got to make a buck too, and make the best of his professional life in a small span of 10 - 15 years at the most. So, I believe professionals have every right to make their money. That's what we all do in our jobs.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (November 2, 2012, 21:20 GMT)

Good to hear from Malinga. Its always great to hear from Sri Lankan cricketers, their life stories are so interesting. He has been one of the most exciting cricketers in the world. Sri Lanka were unlucky not to beat WI in the final. 20/20 is a bit of a lottery, in my opinion Sri Lanka is a better cricket team than their WI counterparts in all formats who SL would have beaten at any time in the last 15 years 9 out of 10. You would have backed them to beat WI at home easily. So Malinga and SL were unlucky on the day. But that's crickets unpredictability. Still I will always support Sri Lankan cricketers and Sri Lanka. All the best for the future, Lasith Malinga. A top cricketer.

Posted by ahead-of-time on (November 2, 2012, 20:24 GMT)

This interview has changed my attitude towards Malinga's decision to retire from test cricket as it brought to light the genuine reason for this move. I hope this interview has also influence others to view malinga's decision in less of a negative light. It would be great to see more of these candid interviews that allow the voices of the players to be heard. Well done.

Posted by RJ_Upasena on (November 2, 2012, 19:04 GMT)

DD Abesinghe,wish there were more folk like you out there. Top comments bro. Slinger Malinga is a true Lankan Legend... All these shallow minded critics who claim he is only motivated by money no very little of the man himself. This bloke loves cricket and loves playing for his mother Lanka. Cherish this freakish talent mon without just criticising him because you can... Each time I watch him play I marvel at the fact that he can be that fast and that accurate with that action! You are me hero Mali do not listen to the ill-informed folk, stick to your guns and the majority adore you!

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

Some of our fans make such irresponsibleand idiotic comments about Malinga and money just because they want to write something where as some of you are vey fair and correct about him. Hats off to Darshan Dias Abeysinghe for writing that piece of education to some of the writers.

Posted by Engee on (November 2, 2012, 17:02 GMT)

I always find Malinga humble with good old fashioned values and sensibilities. More than the wickets he has taken and toes he has crushed, Malinga is a phenomenon and should be cherished. We won't see the likes of him for a while and without doubt he has added a lot of excitement to cricket.

Posted by Pablo123 on (November 2, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

I don't actually believe him - about his knee. I see it that he simply has no time for tests

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

malinga only like money,not for the proud of his country. he only like india because for money.

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (November 2, 2012, 12:08 GMT)

leagues are good for money making but they de-valueing cricket. I still prefer test cricket. Test is real cricket and test player is a real player. dont like his style in particularly but he is a good bowler.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 11:36 GMT)

We should bear in mind that e was not coached in his younger days . With his freak unorthodox action he lasted took 100 wkts Youngsters please do not copy his action.

Posted by legsidewide on (November 2, 2012, 11:27 GMT)

Poor Malinga, gets far too much stick for being a professional. People are quick to criticise, but if their employers were as bad as SLC, then they might have a similar attitude, and feel like they need to look out for themselves. Don't forget, Malinga was amongst the Sr Lankans who played for their country for most of 2011 without being paid at all. If he's buttering his bread with the Mumbai Indians, then good for him

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

For people who think Malinga plays only for money, think about yourself? How many of you would work part time for double and triple the pay with less effort? Only an idiot would pass up such an opportunity. After the way the board treated him during his injury I am glad he still plays for SL and plays well at that. I would not have gone back to the cricket board if I was snubbed at a time I needed support the most.

For Sri Lankans who say Malinga doesn't give a 100% for his country, how many of you even wrote a "get well" soon message to malinga when he was injured??? How many of you showed your support when he needed it?

Posted by KingOwl on (November 2, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

It is good to see another interview with Malinga. But there is nothing really new in this article. This has been said before and I don't think any knowledgeable fan ever thought that Malinga only cared about money. Every players cares about money. But most care about playing for their country as well. The only reason they would lose interest playing for the country is if they are mishandled by their cricket boards.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

He has done great things for sri lanka cricket, people should never forget that, he is always going to have bad days, that's what happens when you bowl with a side arm action, period.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 10:05 GMT)

i don't care what people say. he's the world's best bowler in t20.

lapses happen to great players too.

fan from pakistan

Posted by Stark62 on (November 2, 2012, 9:26 GMT)

But on the other hand, I'm very happy bowling 4 overs and making a lot of $$$$.

Posted by ShehanJ on (November 2, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

Apart from the bad batting in the finals by the SL batsmen, Malinga's bad bowling lost Sri Lanka the T20 WC.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 7:58 GMT)

Respect for Malinga...he is among the dangerous blower Srilanka ever had.....and i hope he continue playing for Srilanka!!!

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 7:34 GMT)

amazing player whoever thinks he plays for money should understand the sacrifice Malinga has gone through particularly his knee injury so as to play both ODI and T20s for his country.

wish India had determined fast bowlers like him throught their career

Posted by IsuruPerera on (November 2, 2012, 7:28 GMT)

Keep going men you can do more good think to Sri lanka, good luck,

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 7:27 GMT)

Malinga... We Love You for Giving Your Best for Sri Lanka!! If you could play even 1 or 2 TEST games per year against TOP opponents WE would really appreciate it too...

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 6:44 GMT)

"Bowl as fast as you can, as straight as you can" - good advice from the coach.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 6:29 GMT)

I really like him - even had the opportunity to even have a chat with him last year and he was really humble :) Though quite disappointed to see him brag so much about his personal records. In fact, you don't even hear someone like Sachin stress upon his records in his interviews (despite having heaps of 'em!)

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

Andrew Fernando thank you so much for this interview :) this is just great also bit emotional, "Champaka sir" this shows how great gentlemen he is inside the wild looking mali. its really happy to see that he have understood the importance of a rest think he badly need it, people are talking about the amount of money he gets from IPL but they all have forgot Malinga n the rest of the team played for us even without a salary for more than a year just RESPECT all these modern day greats !!! Way to go Malinga ,wish him all the very best :)

Posted by Nmiduna on (November 2, 2012, 4:51 GMT)

i have heard many of my friends blaming you in the name of ipl. but if they assess your performances with an open mind, they'll understand it's a case of 'wearing out'.in recent times malinga has been more expensive folks, but he still produced goods, and in many matches have been Sri Lanka's best bowler.SLC is surely succumbing to the IPL n BCCI pressure. But players, including malinga, try their best a midst multiple hindrances as bayliss said on his exit. Malinga is human, just like all of us, after all he has his own weaknesses and sometimes may take wrong steps, but who are we to judge what is wrong and the extent of the wrongness in such a lopsided society as this?? I've never doubted malinga's dedication to my motherland, we all saw christ gayle, who seemed far more disloyal to his country than malinga, enjoyed his country's victory far more than any ipl win! we all like to be treated well, and its instinctive that we treat those equally well, country or not country...

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

excellent one... true team man..never doubted about his intention when he quit Tests.. because it was only he who knew his exact condition and he responded quite well to that. i really admire him..

Posted by Sulaimaan91 on (November 2, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

"I think it's much better for the team if a new bowler comes through and plays three or four years at a stretch than if I play for just a few", completely agree with Malinga on this.Its useless him coming back to Tests now. And yes the two new balls should be scrapped, not only reverse swing even spinners are finding it difficult.Simply cannot understand how especially the subcontinent cricket boards agreed to this.

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 4:32 GMT)

you dont see many people playing in beach, one day play international cricket making 4 world cup records for his country. extraordinary cricketer ...

Posted by   on (November 2, 2012, 4:24 GMT)

maybe you are right that you are unable to dowl long spells in test cricket...but the approach you took to retire from test cricket is ugly

Posted by mfmfaiq on (November 2, 2012, 4:16 GMT)

Spot on Lasith Malinga!! We Are Not in that Category of Saying That You Played Only for Money!! We Know World Knows You as a Srilankan..Only as a Srilankan!! You Have Lot of Cricket Left With You... In Sha ALLAH You Will Bring Us More & More Record In the Future!! No One Can Equal You.. You're a Bowler Who BORN ONCE IN A LIFE TIME!! Thanks Andrew Fernando for Magnificent Interview!!!

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