Malinga recalled from BBL over 'fitness issue'
Sri Lanka Cricket has recalled fast bowler Lasith Malinga and spinner Ajantha Mendis from the Big Bash League with immediate effect, so the pair can undertake a training programme in Sri Lanka. Malinga's fitness is among the selectors' chief concerns, as the team prepares for a busy limited-overs schedule in the next three months, which features the Asia Cup and World Twenty20.
"We felt it is important for all national squad players to undergo a strict training regime in the next few weeks, as Sri Lanka has a heavy schedule ahead," the SLC secretary, Nishantha Ranatunga, told Daily Mirror. "The decision to call back Lasith and Ajantha was taken in consultation with our coaches and national selectors."
This decision comes weeks after the board and selectors had also refused Thisara Perera permission to play in the BBL. On that occasion, the chief selector, Sanath Jayasuriya, cited Perera's work ethic as a concern and he has now expressed similar sentiments about Malinga's fitness. Malinga has visibly gained weight over the past eight months and, though he remains a significant asset in the limited-overs sides, his performances have also become less consistent.
"You have to admit that Malinga has a serious fitness issue," Jayasuriya said. "But if he shows serious intentions and is willing work hard and improve himself and if he is ready to show commitment towards national duty, then we feel it is unfair to leave him out. He is obviously a world-class bowler. So, we want him to prove himself by coming back from the Big Bash and working with our coaches and trainers and get back to his full fitness in the next few days."
Malinga has so far been amenable to the board's request, prompting optimism from the selectors. "He knows that we are keen to help him out and have the patience to manage him and assist him cope with his injury in order to prolong his international career," Jayasuriya said. "It is a very encouraging sign and we hope everything will turn out well for the country."
Sri Lanka's next commitment, after finishing their Test series in the UAE, is a tour of Bangladesh, although the limited-overs matches do not begin until February 12.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here