MI always want big-hearted bowlers: Malinga | Crickit
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MI always want big-hearted bowlers: Malinga

ByRutvick Mehta, Mumbai
Mar 18, 2024 10:34 PM IST

MI's attack could be stronger this season thanks to the return of Bumrah in peak fitness and form and Hardik, the bowler

Take any of the five IPL titles where Mumbai Indians (MI) have gone all the way and you'll find a large stamp of impact by their fast bowlers. Right from the days of Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult, MI have built their bowling attacks centred around quality experienced or exciting pacers.

Jasprit Bumrah in action for MI.(BCCI)
Jasprit Bumrah in action for MI.(BCCI)

It's no different this time around. A year after betting big on Jofra Archer and Bumrah firing in tandem only for both to have injury-troubled seasons, MI again splurged on genuine pace in their eight new buys at the auction for the 2024 edition.

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Among them were South African tearaway Gerald Coetzee ( 5 crore), Sri Lankan left-arm pacer Dilshan Madushanka ( 4.6 crore) and Nuwan Thushara ( 4.8 crore), a slingy Sri Lankan who picked up a hat-trick this month in a T20I against Bangladesh. Although there are fitness concerns around Madushanka -- he suffered a hamstring injury during the Bangladesh T20Is -- and Coetzee, who last played in the Centurion Test against India in December 2023, bowling coach Malinga believes MI's latest pace arsenal is loaded enough to unleash its collective might when they play their first match against Gujarat Titans on Sunday.

"Most people think T20 is the batters' game, but I still feel bowlers win matches. That's why we (MI) always want big-hearted bowlers," Malinga said after awarding the winning teams of the MI Junior tournament. "Like Boom (Bumrah) and Akash Madhwal, for example. These are two good Indian bowlers who have experience of playing (for MI). MI always believes in having a proper fast bowling unit. And I feel we have got that this time."

What could make the MI attack stronger this season is the return of Bumrah in peak fitness and form and Hardik Pandya, the bowler. Bumrah has been exceptional since coming back from a long injury lay-off last year, and England found out what a fit and firing Bumrah can do in Test cricket. Add comeback man and captain Pandya possibly chipping in with a few overs, and it has got Malinga excited.

"Experience, we can't buy that," Malinga said when asked about the duo's worth in the MI fast bowling bank. "They are in top form as well. Bumrah has been playing Test cricket over the last few months and has performed really well. Plus, they have the knowledge and experience of T20 cricket. How they handle things, they can share with the all the youngsters in our team. This is the best thing to have happened in MI."

With their attack appearing to lack teeth without the in-and-out Bumrah and Archer last season, Madhwal stepped up and impressed, picking up 14 wickets in eight outings. Malinga termed him as a bowler with plenty of potential.

"He is good, and has a lot of potential. Confidence wise, he is really strong. He knows exactly what to do. We just have to keep talking to him. I want to know what he is from the inside. I like to share my experiences with him, and try and get from him his thought process about things," Malinga said.

Fast bowlers came at a premium at the auction last December. Four of the top five buys were pacers, led by Mitchell Starc (KKR, 24.75 crore) and Pat Cummins (SRH, 20.50 crore). For Malinga, the trend only reiterated his long-held belief.

"I always believed that bowlers win you tournaments. We all know that Starc and Cummins are world-class bowlers. Everyone wanted them. They have experience. We (MI) have young bowlers, and they can bridge that gap," he said.

Malinga’s job as coach, he reckons, is to provide the right kind of environment for these men with pace and potential to flourish.

"I try and give them confidence in what they want to do. They have the experience, being around for years, they know exactly what the players are doing, what they have to do, how they can perform well. For us, it is just about managing them well and giving them a comfortable zone to perform in," he said.

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