Australia in Sri Lanka 2011 August 23, 2011

Malinga's absence in Tests leaves a gaping hole

Lasith Malinga was devastating for Sri Lanka in the ODI series but the hosts will have to find a way to cope without him in the Tests

If there was any lingering doubt about Lasith Malinga's value to Sri Lanka, his performance in the ODIs against Australia proved again why his absence from the upcoming Test series will be a big blow for the hosts. Australia won the ODI series 3-2, but the result may well have been different had Malinga been fit for the first match, which Sri Lanka lost. As it turned out, he was instrumental in both Sri Lankan wins.

He topped the series bowling charts, taking the most wickets, 11, at the lowest average, 11.45, and for good measure became the first bowler to take three ODI hat-tricks.

So it came as no surprise when Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, said he was thankful that his team would not have to cope with Malinga's slinging action and pinpoint yorkers in the Tests. "He is an excellent bowler," Clarke said. "He's got an excellent yorker and an equally good slower ball. I am glad that he is not playing us in the Test series."

In the final one-dayer, Malinga ripped through Australia's lower order to set up a consolation four-wicket win. Australia were in a good position at 210 for 5 in the 45th over when Malinga produced one of his special overs to send back Mitchell Johnson (bowled), John Hastings (lbw) and Xavier Doherty (bowled) to record his third ODI hat-trick.

Malinga's fiery burst led to Australia losing their last five wickets for just one run and Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, said that he was lucky to have the bowler in his side. "Malinga is a great asset. Everyone can't do Malinga's job. He is an experienced wicket-taking bowler. Every time you give him the ball he will take wickets for you not only today but in the last few years."

Unfortunately for Dilshan, his luck will be restricted to the ODIs as he will have to find a way to manage without his best bowler come the Tests. When Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas, arguably Sri Lanka's best bowlers ever, retired, Malinga was touted as their successor.

But a knee injury which he picked up during the Australia tour in 2007 threatened to cut short his career. It was only thanks to the healing powers of Dr Eliyantha White, the personal physician of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, that Malinga recovered from the injury to return to international cricket in 2010. But after appearing in two Tests against India, he found the strain too much for his knee and did not play the final Test of that series.

In April this year he made the surprise announcement that he was retiring from Tests to spare his knee further damage. "Some people thought that I took this decision for financial gains," Malinga said. "But it was not so. I love the game so much that I want to play as long as I can. I know my knee won't allow me a long career if I continued to play Test cricket.

"I took the decision to concentrate on the shorter versions of the game because it gave me a lot of time to rest my knee between matches. I have no ambitions to return to Test cricket in the future. My future is in the one-day game and Twenty20 cricket. That way I can serve my country better and longer."

Today Malinga is among the best one-day bowlers in the game with his toe-crushing yorkers and slower balls but he was unaware of the historical significance of his latest feat. "I realised that I had become the first bowler to take three hat-tricks in ODI cricket only after the match," he said. "I am extremely happy that I emulated the feat of two other fast bowlers whom I had seen and admired - Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas.

"It is these kinds of performances that you are remembered after you have retired from the game. I was not expecting anything like this when I came onto bowl. My job is to take wickets and help the team to win."

That job, however, does not extend to Tests, and Sri Lanka will be hard pressed to find someone to fill his shoes.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • FAZ on August 26, 2011, 20:38 GMT

    this is a hopeless team - following is the best test XI for sri lanka:

    (1) Paranavitharana (2) Tharanga (3) Dilshan (4) Sanga (5) Mahela (6) p jayawardene (7) Angelo Matthews (8) Nuwan Pradeep (9) D Fernando (10) A mendis (11) S prasanna

  • Andrew on August 26, 2011, 0:45 GMT

    @ Balumekka - re: Malinga, is an outstanding short format bowler, (had a great Test S/R too), however I don't rate him as the best ODI bowler. That is still Brett Lee. Lee take his wickets almost 2 balls a match quicker, his ODI average is 3 better, & he has a marginally better S/Rate, all this over a career twice as long as Malinga, Lee COULD be argued as the greatest Strike Bowler ever in ODIs, fastest player to 250, 300 & 350 ODI wickets. I say all this without knocking Malinga's great achievements thus far in his career. Like Lee, he has had significant injuries to overcome as well. BTW - Steyn is a Test freak, his Test S/R is truely amazing, amongst the greatest of all time & certainly about the best since WWII!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on August 25, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    malinga is definitely among the top 3 odi bowlers.. but will be unfair to say that his inclusion in the first match could have won the cup for srilanka.. what if bret lee played in d last odi he could have easily bowled out sl under 200... this is the other side of the theory.. pls dont bring in any if factor if the player did not play the match..

  • Bhagya on August 25, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    @chilled_avenger :::Yes you are partially correct.But he is one of the best bowlers in the world......He gets improving day by day.......

  • Anjana on August 25, 2011, 2:22 GMT

    @chilled_avenger: Please know the facts and leap in mate! Malinga's statistics are way better than those of Steyn's in ODIs. Malinga's ODI stats: Mat. 94, Wkts.149, Avg. 25.03, Econ. 4.93, SR 30.4. Steyn's ODI stats: Mat. 54, Wkts, 81, Avg. 27.62, Econ. 5.11, SR. 32.2. Malinga has troubled all the batsman you named in your list, if you are not sure just see the videos in youtube just in case. I agree with you that Malinga is not the World's best bowler because he is not playing tests. In that case, Steyn is a better bowler. However, Malinga is the best bowler in shorter formats with no doubt!.

  • Felix on August 24, 2011, 19:09 GMT

    I understand that Nuwan Pradeep is still going thru recovery process. He has started running... Let's pray for speedy recovery for him. In the meantime, Eranga and even Prasad must be given a chance. Both better than Welegedera, kulasekera for tests. Lakmal should be ok as well..

  • Wala on August 24, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    Malinga is the best bowler in the world for the shorter versions of the game. Sad to see this ICC ranking system. As India being number 3 at tests, anyone can see how wrong this rating system is. May be somebody who knows about cricket should come up with a better seeding system.

  • Priyashrav on August 24, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    @Somapala90 He isn't in the top 5 in T20 because IPL doesn't count in the rankings! And please SL fans,don't call him the world's best bowler when Dale Steyn is around! Malinga hasn't exactly performed in the Test Format and though is a good bowler in ODI/T20,he is more lethal against tailenders and minnows than the real deal! Steyn has performed in every corner of the world,be it Africa or Asia or Oceania!He has troubled batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar,Ricky Ponting,Dravid ,KP etc. and he has continuously looked a threat in the longer version of the game.Plus,his stats are better than Malinga in T20s and in ODIs too his record is decent,if not exceptional! So I cannot see as to how Malinga is overall the best bowler in the world today?

  • Andrew on August 24, 2011, 11:48 GMT

    @LaLanka DeSilva - I haven't heard much about Nuwan Pradeep, I'm a bit concerned that he has been injured already, bit like our quicks back in Oz. Cummins is a 17yo quick who bowls at over 145kph, (as he gets older assuming no injuries, he should bowl heaps quicker), but he missed the Oz A tour to Zimbabwe thru... injury.

  • Chatty on August 24, 2011, 11:23 GMT

    Somapala90: ICC Rankings or not, Malinga is the best one day and T20 bowler in the world, there is no two words about that.

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