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February 9, 2009
Lasith Malinga is back and ready for Tuesday's Twenty20 game, the first big step on his return from injury. The hair is as wild and woolly as ever, the highlights are intact - as is the confidence, despite a year's lay-off due to a dodgy knee.
The journey out of anonymity, though, has been a roller-coaster ride - and with a few mystical moments. He first noticed the pain in his right knee on February 22 during a CB Series game in Australia. It was diagnosed as a swollen bone but it didn't prove so simple. He was out of action for nine months.
No running, no gym. For nine months, the man known for his sprint in and a furious whirlwind of rotating arms, couldn't run or bowl or train. He couldn't even climb stairs - the shooting pain was unbearable.
Malinga underwent treatment in Australia but while the pain diminished, recovery wasn't complete. It was then that Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, intervened. And this is where the story takes a mystical turn.
"The president introduced me to Dr Eliyantha White. He works with supernatural powers and herbs," Malinga said. "I don't know what he does and how he does it but it works. I am very grateful to him and the president." The treatment lasted five days and the pain disappeared. Malinga was fit to start his training. Dr White has since successfully treated Sanath Jayasuriya for a long-standing back problem.
Malinga trained hard over the last three months and resumed bowling, playing five limited-over games for his club, NCC, when he got the opportunity to play in the Twenty20 game against India.
Has he lost pace? "Not sure," he said. "We will see tomorrow." He adds quickly that there has been no change in his bowling action.
He has sorely missed playing cricket and is just glad to be back and bowling. He knows, though, that tough work lies ahead of him. Since he has just started to bowl and hasn't played in any longer version of the game, Malinga has not been selected to play in the Provincial tournament that starts next month. "When I feel confident that I can bowl for long, I will start playing in the longer format," he said.
Malinga is eyeing the next domestic season, which starts in October this year. "First there is the IPL, of course," he said. "Then I will continue my training and will start playing in three-day games later this year."
If things go well, the world will see him in action in Test cricket next year.