Lasith Malinga has suggested Sri Lanka would be wise to groom another bowler as a World Cup failsafe as he prepares to undergo surgery on Monday that will keep him out for around 16 weeks. Malinga consulted his orthopaedic surgeon in Melbourne on Sunday, and decided his long-term ankle complaint had degenerated to an extent that it required surgery.
If there are no complications during the arthroscopic procedure or recovery, Malinga is expected to return to full intensity at training in mid-January, giving him around a month of practice before Sri Lanka play the World Cup curtain-raiser against New Zealand on February 14. Sri Lanka's selectors remain hopeful that he will be available for at least some of the seven ODIs Sri Lanka are scheduled to play against New Zealand in January.
Malinga will undergo a three-dimensional CT scan before going under the knife on Monday and is wary that the surgery could put his World Cup plans in disarray. "I will do everything I can to be back for the World Cup," Malinga said. "But I think it would be good for us to give a young bowler a few opportunities in the meantime, so that we can at least have someone prepared."
The surgery will aim to "clean up" a joint in his ankle, Sri Lanka physio Steve Mount said. "It has been a long-term issue for Lasith, and he's had chronic pain there for some time," Mount said. "It's a regular complaint for fast bowlers, but it has reached a stage where his ankle didn't respond how it previously has done to methods like cortisone injections and load monitoring.
"If everything follows the normal recovery time, he could be a chance to play in some of those New Zealand one-dayers, but we'll also be careful not to rush him back."
Malinga will recover for around 10 days in Australia before returning to Sri Lanka. He had been expensive in his last two ODI series, against Pakistan and South Africa, when he was also clocked at consistently lower speeds than he had been bowling at in the past. He said the pain in his ankle had caused the dip in form.
"When you have a problem in the ankle you land on in your bowling stride, it affects the pace and also the control," Malinga said. "I did my best, but I couldn't put as much strain on it as I usually do."
Concerns over the state of his ankle had been raised when it failed to respond to a cortisone injection on September 5. However, he played the Champions League qualifiers for Mumbai Indians on his own prerogative, SLC's cricket operations manager Carlton Bernardus said.
The surgery will be carried out by Dr. David Young, who has previously treated Malinga for a separate injury on his right knee, which has prevented him from playing Test cricket since 2010.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando