Lasith Malinga will now be available for Mumbai Indians through the entirety of April, with Sri Lanka Cricket granting the paceman permission to skip the domestic Super Provincial One-Day Tournament, which he was earlier expected to take part in. However, Malinga is keen to participate in the domestic tournament, because, as Sri Lanka's limited-overs captain, he wants to have a close look at some of the players that are likely to feature in the World Cup squad.
In a statement on Tuesday, SLC said that the decision to release Malinga was because "he would get an opportunity to play with much stronger opposition in the IPL tournament, which consist of international players."
Malinga told ESPNcricinfo that he would consult the Mumbai Indians management on whether he would be allowed to participate in the domestic one-day tournament, which is likely to be played between April 4 to 11, although the SLC has not yet released the final schedule for the tournament.
"As the captain of the Sri Lanka ODI team, I also think it is important to play the provincial tournament, because I will also be able to see our players in action first hand" LASITH MALINGA
"I'm very thankful to the board for having released me for the full IPL," Malinga said. "But as the captain of the Sri Lanka ODI team, I also think it is important to play the provincial tournament, because I will also be able to see our players in action first hand. I will go to Mumbai and I'll talk to the management there about getting released to play the provincial tournament."
Malinga will now join the Mumbai team, and is likely to be available for selection for their next match, away against Royal Challengers Bangalore, on Thursday. In case Malinga does return to Sri Lanka to play in the domestic one-dayers, he might leave after the April 3 match against Chennai Super Kings and miss about three matches in case his team - Galle - reach the final.
Incidentally, it was only last week the SLC had a very different view on Malinga's participation in the IPL. Last Friday, the SLC had stipulated that Malinga must play in the weeklong provincial one-day tournament in Sri Lanka in order to be considered for selection in the World Cup squad. But the board climbed down from that position over the weekend, until the final decision to allow Malinga to skip the provincial tournament in its entirety.
The SLC decision comes on the back of intervention from BCCI, which wanted to ensure maximum availability of prominent overseas players in the IPL at least in the first half. Before the player auction in December, all the international boards had already notified the BCCI about the cut-off dates for their players to be released from the IPL. Barring New Zealand and West Indies, players from rest of the World Cup-participating countries would be leaving the IPL early to take part in preparatory camps or ODI series in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Although there is some dissatisfaction on the Malinga issue within the board (at least one official believes Malinga used his contacts in India to get the BCCI to campaign for his release from the domestic tournament in Sri Lanka), the board's decision is a reflection of the power the BCCI wields. Not only is SLC heavily reliant on India tours for broadcast income, the board is also hoping for the BCCI's support with the launch of the Lankan Premier League, which is tentatively scheduled for September.
Even if Malinga doesn't play in the domestic tournament, he may yet be required to cut his IPL stint short in May, when Sri Lanka's World Cup squad assembles for a pre-tournament camp. Sri Lanka are expected to undertake several weeks of acclimatisation and training in Scotland, ahead of the World Cup in England and Wales.