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Lasith Malinga blames ‘lost generation’, urges Sri Lanka to back failing team

Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka’s ageing pacer, feels the side’s string of defeats is due to lack of experience and wants everyone in the island nation to back the team

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Sep 01, 2017 19:30 IST
N. Ananthanarayanan
N. Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Colombo
Lasith Malinga,Sri Lanka vs India,India vs Sri Lanka
Lasith Malinga took his 300th ODI wicket when he dismissed India captain Virat Kohli in the Colombo game, which Sri Lanka lost by 168 runs. (AP)

Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka pace bowler, feels his international career could be on its last legs, but the cricket-loving nation should rally around the young players in the struggling national squad if they want it to turn things around.

The 34-year-old slinger took his 300th ODI wicket on Thursday but it was cold comfort in a 168-run thumping at the hands of India. The visitors extended their lead in the current ODI series to 4-0 with a game to go.

(Read | Sri Lanka fail to seal 2019 cricket World Cup direct qualification after India loss)

Thursday’s loss at the Premadasa Stadium was Sri Lanka’s sixth in a row, starting with the fourth game of the home series versus Zimbabwe during their shock series defeat.

Currently ranked eighth, the Sri Lankan team will only invite harsher criticism after failing to seal an automatic berth for the 2019 World Cup ahead of the September 30 deadline. A rejuvenated West Indies can beat them to it before the cut-off.

The slump is unthinkable given how an entire generation of players --- Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Muttiah Muralitharan --- had kept Sri Lanka on top even some time back. Sangakkara, in fact, is still blasting runs in the Caribbean Premier League.

(Read | Sri Lanka captain Lasith Malinga blames anxiety after heavy 4th ODI loss to India)

Malinga said the loss of seasoned players rather than weak domestic cricket – experts blame the structure doesn’t provide an ideal step-up between school cricket and international cricket – was to be blamed.

“Our problems are because we lost a generation of players. If that generation was here, we wouldn’t have an inexperienced team like this. We had players like Chamara Silva, Thilina Kandamby, Jehan Mubarak, Malinga Bandara, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Kaushal Weeraratne, Tharanga Paranavitana and Malinda Warnapura.

(Read | No two to tango for Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma in 4th ODI win vs Sri Lanka)

“They played about 10 years of domestic cricket by the time they were 29 or 30, and played internationals for two or three years, and then were out of the international scene. We lost that 10-12 years of experience from them. It’s really hard to get that experience from a fresh-out-of-school cricketer or a club cricketer.

“The loss of that generation is being felt in our cricket. If they had still been here – I don’t know why we lost them – we would have had the ability to field six or seven experienced players in the team,” he said referring to his own debut in 2004.

“Now our cricket has declined. We are hoping to go to the World Cup and I hope we’ll be able to take the cricketers who are here now. We should all try to make that happen.

Need for perspective

Facing a volley of questions from the Sri Lankan media, Malinga still urged perspective. “It’s when you get experience at international level that you understand how to handle difficult situations. A lot of our players are inexperienced, though they get their places because they perform at domestic level. If we gave some chance to the young players, we will get players who can play for a long time,” he said, talking in Sinhalese.

(Read | India vs Sri Lanka: Manish Pandey says players need time to adjust to new roles)

“If we can give them experience for the team that goes to the 2019 World Cup, then you will have players who have played 30-50 ODIs.

“In previous teams, you had players who had played a 100 ODIs, or at least 50. We need that. Every other team in the world has that experience in their XI. We need to get there. We need to give the young players some more matches and get them to the place we need them to be. That’s what’s important.”

No comparison with jobs

Asked about players not making a mark even after a year, Lasith Malinga hit back at such criticism. “Even when you do a job, you get a probation period of about six months to see if you are good or not,” he retorted. “In a year you might play 25 ODIs. And I haven’t seen a single player playing all 25 matches. Myself, Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne aside, most of the team has not played more than 30 ODIs.

(Read | Hardik Pandya, Indian cricket’s pin-up boy, reflects his edgy attitude)

“When you look at other teams, you can see how many of their players have played a lot of matches, and then you will see our shortcomings.

“That’s why when a difficult situation comes and we’re playing against a good team, we find it hard to come out of that. Now we need to give these guys a place and experience until 2019. We need to be patient.

“We need to get together as a country. If we keep criticising everyone one by one, we will keep getting these new teams. We have to protect the players we have.

“The current thinking is always ‘the player who is in the team is bad, but the one outside deserves a place.’ As a player who has played 14 years’ international cricket, I think people who are in the team are there because they are better than those outside.”

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 18:48 IST