India in Sri Lanka 2012 August 2, 2012

India minimise Malinga threat, again

One of the world's best death bowlers is taken for runs at the death by India's batsmen. A renowned game-changer has struggled to change games against India. Why does it happen?

Records show that no team plays Lasith Malinga better than India do. In 27 ODIs spread over eight years against India, Malinga averages nearly 43 for his 31 wickets, at an economy-rate of almost six an over. The trend has continued in this series, in which Malinga's five wickets in four games have cost 44 runs each and he has conceded 6.19 runs an over. Even in the third game, when he removed MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma off successive deliveries, Malinga went for 60 in his ten overs. That kept another trend intact - Malinga has never taken more than two wickets in any game against India.

One of the world's best death bowlers is taken for runs at the death by India's batsmen. A renowned game-changer has struggled to change games against India. Why does it happen? Is it because of over-exposure, through the endless bilateral series India and Sri Lanka play, and the IPL? Is it because India's batsmen are strong on the leg side and are able to handle Malinga's inswinging, full deliveries better?

Virender Sehwag, earlier the series, said that it was due to India's batsmen getting used to Malinga, both through international matches and the IPL. Mahela Jayawardene agreed with Sehwag about the familiarity factor, but said international fixtures, and not the IPL, were more responsible. He pointed out that India had not played Ajantha Mendis a lot during the IPL, but had dealt with him very effectively. For the record, even before the IPL, Malinga's average against India was above 40, and he had an economy-rate of 5.73.

If only international matches are taken into account, even Australia and Pakistan have played 20 and 21 games against Malinga, to India's 27. His average drops from 42.77 against India to 35.73 against Pakistan, and is a creditable 25.02 against Australia. Even more revealingly, his economy-rate improves from 5.98 against India to 4.71 against Pakistan and 5.05 against Australia. So while India's familiarity with Malinga is a factor, it can't be the only reason for their success against him.

Virat Kohli said after his match-winning century in the fourth game said that he was able to score off Malinga because he was strong on the leg side and the bowler's full length balls tended to arrive on the pads. MS Dhoni, who Jayawardene said plays Malinga very well, is also capable off his pads, and also has the helicopter-scythe that he plays through midwicket and wide mid-on.

What about the left-handers then? Suresh Raina said after the third game that he was watching Malinga's release closely and knew that the line to the left-hander would be outside the off stump. Jayawardene had two men posted at point and backward point to Raina against Malinga, indicating the possible line of attack. In the third ODI, in which India's left-hand batsmen - Raina, Gautam Gambhir and Irfan Pathan - all contributed, Malinga was taken for 39 runs through the off side by them, and only 17 on the leg, including a straightish six over long-on by Raina.

Another factor could be Malinga's preferred length. Given a choice between full and short or short of a good length, there is no guessing which length India's batsmen are more likely to score off. The full length becomes even more targetable in the sub-continent - which is where India and Sri Lanka meet most of the time - with the low bounce.

It has to be a combination of over-exposure, predictability of line and length, and the skills of the India batsmen. The mix has proved to be consistently successful against Malinga, who needs quite a few productive bursts to break the long-running trend. Can he produce one in the final ODI on Saturday?

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 4, 2012, 8:31 GMT

    if thats the case just drop malinga when sri lanka play india, simple as? and yes Mahela IPL is one of the reasons why malinga is not effective plus over killing india vs sri lanka matches. please stop this nonsense games its boring!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Prashan on August 4, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    @Great_Aussie, hey dont forget we Lankans beat you all 2-1 in ODIs in 2010. We also beat you all in 3 ODIs in the CB series and also in the 2nd finals. We are not that bad buddy. We have a good ODI record against Australia. Please dont under estimate Sri Lanka. We are determined to do well this summer in your shores. Our mental approach against India has been too negative surprisingly.

  • Mihil on August 4, 2012, 5:13 GMT

    The appearence of these deliveries have been less in the last couple of matches. Gambhir,Kohli, Raina are very vulnerable to short ball, the one that comes to chest not the shoulder. If he get's it correct he can get these men out.

  • Mihil on August 4, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    @Great Aussie: India A team can't beat SL mate. It's not that SL can't bat, they just can't get Indian batsmen out. But yes Aussie bowlers are very capable of running through almighty indian batting line-up, but face it your batsmen are rubbish.

  • Rtvn on August 4, 2012, 4:18 GMT

    guys it's not malinga's fault at all! give at least some credit to virat kohli. he has scored centuries against all opponents except south africa: he made 118 against australia in a chase (and i'm sure a lot more to come against the aussies!), a 105 against NZ in the following game, a couple of centuries against west indies, century against bangladesh in world cup, a hundred against england in india as well as the 107 in england (who were at their peak), the mammoth 183 in only his third ever game against pakistan, and the back-to-back centuries against sri lanka on both subcontinental pitches as well as australian hobart pitch!!!

  • Jay on August 4, 2012, 1:10 GMT

    @johnathonjosephs: hahaha !! is that the best you can do ? Fine, Indian batsmen are sloggers. Just can't wait to see what our 'sloggers' will do to your precious English bowlers during the winter. We here in India already smell blood in the air. Sure the IPL has contributed to some excellent hitting, which you chose to call as 'slogging' but batting is strong in our batters' blood. It comes naturally to our batsmen to score easily. It's a treat to see our batsmen wallop some of the bowlers around the world. Love it or hate it, when an Indian batsman is on fire, it's a spectacle. Malinga is a world class bowler but we have found a way to handle him. This is certainly a strength of India's but not necessarily a weakness of Malinga's. He can dismantle many battling line ups around the world.

  • V.L on August 3, 2012, 14:56 GMT

    @johnathonjosephs Sloggers? Sloggers don't average in 50's (Dhoni, Kohli), 40s(Gambhir) and high 30's(Sehwag, Raina). Sloogers are those who average in mid20's or less(Perera , Thiramanne and the like). India have got better of the Lankans most of the times especially in the past 5 years. Just 1 more point and India will tie with Aus in the rankings with 119 rating points.

  • Prashan on August 3, 2012, 14:37 GMT

    @Jindal Priyank, thank you again for your impartial comments. Anyway, I am crossed with Malinga for quitting tests. He must play at least 1 test match each series.

  • Prashan on August 3, 2012, 14:35 GMT

    @tanstell87, as per ICC FTP, India are suppose to play Pakistan in July August next year and as a Lankan I am eager to see it happen.

  • Sarma on August 3, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    In a ODI situation, on SL pitches, against India, Malinga has not been faring well. While stats of 8 years are bad, stats during the last 3 years are worse. He took a wkt every 134 runs against India in the last 25 matches against them in SL conditions. His economy rate is 7.30 runs per over. Retirement of Muralitharan, Jayasuriya has not helped SL bowling. Maharoof, Dilhara Fernando bowled better than Malinga and so are Kulasekara and Trissara Perera. Malinga is a spent force, as far as ODI & Tests are concerned.

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