If there was a possibility, Lasith Malinga enhanced his reputation as a death-bowling genius with a fine spell on Saturday against England. England, who were cruising at 190 for 3 in the 37th over, were restricted to 278 for 9, with Malinga’s 5 for 44 stopping the visitors from going for a final flourish. But more than enhancing his reputation, it was about giving the selectors, who had overlooked him a few months ago, a sound remainder that his skills were still potent.
Maybe the added weight and dropping fitness levels that became a bone of contentions with Angelo Mathews weren’t concerns when it came to the slingy pacer. Just like Mathews had reminded the team management of his impressive batting numbers recently in ODIs, Malinga did the same after his fifer. “500,” he claimed several times – a reminder of having reached the 500 international scalp landmark.
In four games since his return to the national side, Malinga has bagged 10 wickets. However, the pacer is still not sure of his place in the side for the next year’s world cup. “I feel that if I get the chance to play the World Cup, I will,” he said. “It will be my last World Cup. I’m not expecting to get the chance, given the kinds of things that have happened to me over the recent past. But I will take it if it is given.”
Malinga didn’t come back into the ODI side at the back of any 50-over performance. In fact, during the domestic provincial one-day tournament, he was busy offering his services as a bowling consultant to Mumbai Indians in the IPL. However, a reasonably good show in Canada’s Global T20 and the domestic T20 tournament, paved his way back to the national side.
“The selectors are entitled to make those decisions,” Malinga said. “I’m just a player. My only job is to play when I get the chance. When I was out of the team, I went and played in Canada. I also played the district competition and got the highest wickets. Thanks to those performances I got another chance at this level. Because I’m nearing the end of my career I’m motivated to get wickets.”
One of the prime reasons for Malinga’s downfall was his dropping pace. With pace not becoming a factor to worry, the change in pace and the corresponding variations were becoming easier for batsmen to pick and hit. Now he is slowly finding his way back from that, and came out clocking in excess of 140kmph several times during the game against England. More importantly, in a team that is struggling to win matches, he has been a rare shining light.
But so was Mathews.