IPL 2019: How Lasith Malinga polished a new weapon to snare Andre Russell
Malinga worked on his fitness, got back in the Sri Lanka squad, and proved to MI there was still something left in the tank. He is back on MI’s roster this season, and with Jasprit Bumrah has extended their successful partnership.Updated: May 07, 2019, 09:59 IST
Lasith Malinga may no longer be his fiery old self, firing in those yorkers at will like he did in his pomp. But he still has that ability to surprise batsmen.
Slower ones, slower bouncers and a few other variations are still effective, delivered in his slingy action. But on Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium, Malinga did what he rarely does, bowl around the wicket and dig it short. That’s how he got Andre Russell to nick to the keeper before the Kolkata Knight Riders all-rounder could start swatting away the bowling.
Russell has proved a nightmare for teams this IPL with the manner in which he has attacked bowlers late in the innings. Although experts spoke of shackling the Jamaican power-hitter with short deliveries, it was about who would deliver them effectively. Malinga did, and it dashed KKR hopes of a win to qualify for the playoffs.
Mumbai Indians’ coach Mahela Jayawardene said after the win that it’s important to always try something new to take the opposition by surprise. Malinga going around the wicket and bowling that line was something they had worked on for a while before his Sri Lankan compatriot became confident of trying it in a game.
“We’ve been working on it for a week or so, trying to create a different angle because the batsmen were getting used to him. That’s something we are practising,” said Jayawardene.
Malinga’s former Sri Lanka captain added: “He had a good practice session (on Saturday) and felt very good. We told him it’s about time he tried it in a game. That’s the thing in modern-day cricket, even though you have been a great you still have to find new ways of creating things. It was nice to see he was open to the idea and get the rewards.”
Two years ago, it appeared Malinga’s career was over. Crippled by injuries, he missed a majority of Sri Lanka’s assignments. He wasn’t much effective with MI in IPL 2017, and last year MI didn’t pick him in the auctions but made him their bowling mentor.
But Malinga worked on his fitness, got back in the Sri Lanka squad, and proved to MI there was still something left in the tank. He is back on MI’s roster this season, and with Jasprit Bumrah has extended their successful partnership.
This season, he has taken 15 wickets in 10 matches at a strike rate of 15.13, which is below his career strike rate of 16.47. He even made a dash to Sri Lanka in between to play in local games to make it to the World Cup squad.
Zaheer Khan, MI director of cricket operations, had said before the season why Malinga would make a difference.
“The kind of experience he brings to the table is immense. Not only with his bowling, but also when you are in a game situation, it’s a relief for the other bowlers who trust the experience that brings and the valuable advice (he can offer). As a coaching staff you can plan things, but when the game is happening, and things are happening in real time, if someone is proactive that makes a huge difference in terms of decision-making,” Zaheer had said.