As India prepares to take on Sri Lanka, the think tank might spend time deciphering Lasith Malinga, for he could probably be the biggest threat. While Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have got the better of Malinga on various occasions, the ones who haven't faced him enough might be a little wary.
The first problem is getting used to his action. Batsmen are conditioned to play against bowlers with high arm action and hence look at their points of release—earlier the release, shorter the ball. While this is a foolproof method of judging the length, it doesn't work out as accurately against Malinga, since his points of release are different. The second thing is his variable bounce. A sling action means the bounce isn't directly proportional to the length.
Lastly, his ability to mix his variations with accuracy makes him a difficult bowler to play. In one over against Australia at the Oval, he bowled three well-disguised slower-ones, an accurate yorker, a bouncer and a high-speed length delivery.
Since Malinga isn't the traditional seam up bowler who relies on swing and movement off the surface, he not only needs accuracy, but also can't afford to slow down. If conditions are conducive to fast bowling, he tends to struggle as pitching on the seam becomes a prerequisite, which his action doesn't allow too much.
He thus relies on beating batsmen by pace, or at times by the lack of it. Malinga might have lost a bit of teeth recently but he still has the ability to change a game.
On Thursday, he must be hoping to win just one more battle.
The writer is a former India opener.