Mumbai Indians fast bowler Lasith Malinga, the highest wicket-taker in the IPL, has pulled out of the 2020 season in the UAE, citing personal reasons. Australia fast bowler James Pattinson, who is yet to play an IPL game, has been named as his replacement.
It is understood Malinga's father has been ill and may require surgery in the coming weeks. Since Malinga wanted to be with his father at home in Sri Lanka, he opted against travelling with the Mumbai squad to Abu Dhabi last month. It was believed that he would link up with the side during the business end of the league, but now Malinga has pulled out of the entire tournament, which will run from September 19 to November 10.
"Lasith is a legend and a pillar of MI's strength," Mumbai owner Akash Ambani was quoted as saying by the franchise's website. "There is no denying the fact that we will miss Lasith's cricketing acumen this season. However, we fully understand Lasith's need to be in Sri Lanka with his family during this time."
Ambani also welcomed Pattinson into the set-up, saying he was the "right fit" for them. While Mumbai have Jasprit Bumrah and New Zealand's Trent Boult to lead the pace attack, they could still miss Malinga's vast experience. He is the second-highest wicket-taker in T20 cricket, behind Dwayne Bravo, and has regularly delivered at the crunch for Mumbai.
In the 2013 IPL final, Malinga ripped out Mike Hussey with an inch-perfect yorker in the first over of the chase and then removed Suresh Raina for a duck next ball as Mumbai secured their first title. In the 2015 final, also against Chennai Super Kings, Malinga bowled MS Dhoni for 18 to help Mumbai clinch their second title. More recently, in 2019, Malinga nailed his signature slower dipping yorker to trap Shardul Thakur off the final ball and wrap up an unprecedented fourth IPL title for Mumbai.
"At that stage [in the last over], I wanted to go with experience because Malinga has been in that situation before a million times," Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma had said after the narrow win.
In contrast, Pattinson is yet to make his IPL debut although he has been part of the Kolkata Knight Riders franchise in the past. In all, he has played only 39 T20 games, taking 47 wickets at an average of 24.12 and an economy rate of 8.25.
Pattinson, however, has recent form on his side. In the Big Bash League (BBL) earlier this year, the 30-year-old claimed a career-best 5 for 33 for Brisbane Heat against the Adelaide Strikers at the Gabba. In that match, he worked up good pace and bounced out both Jake Weatherald and Travis Head. All told, he played six games in the 2019-20 BBL, picking up nine wickets at an economy rate of 7.97.
Pattinson isn't part of the Australia squad that is currently on tour in the UK. Having suffered multiple injuries, he last played a white-ball international in September 2015, but has worked his way back into the Test side. Pattinson was in action in the New Year's Test against New Zealand at the SCG.
When he joins Mumbai during the weekend, he is set to link up with fellow Australian Nathan Coulter-Nile. Chris Lynn will join the Mumbai camp after finishing his Caribbean Premier League (CPL) stint with St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. Defending champions Mumbai are expected to play last year's runners-up Super Kings in the IPL opener.
Mumbai Indians squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), Sherfane Rutherford, Suryakumar Yadav, Anmolpreet Singh, Chris Lynn, Saurabh Tiwary, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan, Rahul Chahar, Trent Boult, Mohsin Khan, Prince Balwant Rai Singh, Digvijay Deshmukh, Hardik Pandya, Jayant Yadav, Kieron Pollard, Krunal Pandya, Anukul Roy, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ishan Kishan, Quinton de Kock, Aditya Tare, James Pattinson