Even though Lasith Malinga missed a few games, he’s topping the wicket-takers’ table. Sattish Bate/HT
Lasith Malinga is an example of how looks can be deceptive. With a curly, golden mop of hair and tattoos adorning his arms, the Sri Lankan comes across as one of those fast bowlers who love life in the fast lane. But, get to the know the man, and he's the opposite. There's no fascination for fast cars or those racing bikes. The only speed that thrills him is hurling those toe-crushers with his dreaded slinging action.
The Mumbai Indians' bowler, who again is on the top of the bowling charts, spoke to HT on a wide range of issues, including the burning country versus IPL debate and his recent back injury, which forced him to miss a few games.
He countered the talk of his selectors not being happy for rushing back into IPL, by saying that it was his call to be a freelance player.
Even after five years in the IPL you have been on top and been tough to decipher. How have you maintained the consistency?
I don't think I'm the best bowler, but the main thing is I like to play under pressure. I bowl at the end of the powerplay, then come to bowl in the death overs. There's no secret, just that I want to be there when the pressure is on. I understand pressure better now. That's it. The batsman may know I am going to bowl a yorker or a slow ball now but he still has to hit it. Anytime the captain asks me, I have to be ready. My role is to bowl.
Bowlers keep looking to improve. Anything new in your arsenal?
I am developing a new ball but haven't used it yet. I am waiting for the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. I want to use it then.
Can you explain it? Is it something you picked up after seeing someone bowl?
It's a slower ball. I can bowl but I can't explain it. You have to see it on TV, how I am doing it. It's something I tried on my own. I have tried in my training sessions but not in the nets. I want to go back to Sri Lanka and gain more confidence as here I don't do much bowling in the nets. I haven't bowled in the nets so I don't know how the batsmen will cope with it.
You had an injury break in the IPL. Can you clear the air about it?
I had back pain and missed three games. I went to Sri Lanka and got treated. Now it's 100 percent fine.
Are your selectors okay that you are playing the IPL instead of resting?
I don't have a contract with the Board. I am a freelance player. I just want to play cricket, doesn't matter whether I am playing in Sri Lanka, IPL, club or county cricket. I have three-four years maximum left. After 10-15 years, nobody will know how I used to bowl.
How tough is it to not be paid regularly by your board?
I don't mind. I don't bother about the money; I want to play, whether it's for the national team or the IPL.
Some of your former players like Arjuna Ranatunga say Sri Lankan players prefer IPL over country?
Only one guy is saying that. I don't mind.
There is a strong opinion that youngsters shouldn't be playing T20 cricket as their development as Test cricketers is affected.
I don't think that (I preferred T20 to Test cricket). I also played Tests but then I got injured and my body couldn't take it. Twenty20, 50 overs and Test cricket are different types of games. If we need to learn, we have to play Test cricket, like how to bowl reverse swing, how to bowl in different situations. In Tests, we have a lot of time to think and strategise. T20 is just one-and-half hours, it is important to think quickly and do it right. T20 is a mind game, Test is a mind and physical game and you need to have a good level of fitness.
How has been the experience of playing at the Wankhede, for Sri Lanka and Mumbai Indians?
I played the IPL before the World Cup and the crowd supported me. The Indian fans backed me in the final and I was very happy. I don't feel much difference whether I play for Sri Lanka or MI.