Over the last few years, Mumbai Indians have made an effort to retain the core of their squad. Rohit Sharma, the skipper, and Harbhajan Singh, who earlier led the side, have been the mainstays. However, in terms of impact, none has been as effective as Lasith Malinga.
His slingy action and accurate yorkers have been one of the key reasons in current champions Mumbai Indians claiming two IPL titles. Going into IPL 9 though, they will feel handicapped as the Sri Lanka pace bowler will not be in action until the second half of the tournament due to injury, coach Ricky Ponting said on Thursday.
“He’s not with the squad. He’s unlikely to take part in the first half of the tournament. If we want to name a replacement, we have to do so before the fifth game,” the former Australia skipper said ahead of Saturday’s tournament opener between Mumbai and newcomers Rising Pune Supergiants.
“If you look at last season when we were playing our best cricket, Malinga was bowling at his best as well. He’s been one of the great performers in world cricket with the new as well as the old ball. He will be definitely missed, but we have more than adequate replacements if he’s ruled out,” he added.
The Sri Lankan was the catalyst in Mumbai’s turnaround last season. With five losses in the first six games, the side was gasping for breath. It was Malinga’s spirited performance that helped Mumbai register a win and resurrect the campaign that eventually led to the title.
Malinga took 24 wickets in 15 matches in the last edition. However, the 32-year-old has not been able to replicate his fiery spells since then. A knee injury saw him stay out of the game for three months last year.
He made an attempt at returning to action ahead of the World T20. However, the injury continued to plague him, ruling him out of the tournament. Still, there were expectations that he would recover in time to play in the IPL from the beginning.
“He will join the squad sometime in the next few weeks and spend some time with the support staff. We will see how his fitness comes along, but it’s safe to say he won’t be part of the playing XI at least for the first few games,” Ponting said.
Rohit to open
Rohit Sharma opens the innings for India in One-day Internationals and Twenty20 games. However, for Mumbai Indians, the 28-year-old has batted at three or four. On Thursday, Rohit said he would take up the role for his IPL team as well.
“A lot depends on what sort of balance is needed. We have spoken about it. I would preferably open the innings. I would like to start the innings and see after 4-5 games. We got some exciting players in the auction,” said Rohit.
“I am happy with the way things have turned out in the practice sessions. It’s all about getting the right balance in the team and if that means coming down the order, I will do so.”