Malinga re­fus­ing to pack his bags

If I go, I will go on my own and not be­cause some­one else is putting pres­sure

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Champika Fer­nando

I don’t think any­one un­der­stands how se­ri­ous my in­jury was. I have played through pain for my coun­try and, just be­cause I had a bad se­ries against In­dia, now I am not good enough to be in the side.

Is it the end of in­ter­na­tional cricket for La­sith Malinga? On Wed­nes­day, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) se­lec­tors an­nounced a 15- man squad for the five-match ODI se­ries against Pak­istan start­ing Oc­to­ber 13 but Malinga, a vet­eran of 204 ODI matches did not find a place. There’s all pos­si­bil­ity that he will not be con­sid­ered for se­lec­tion for the 50- over game in the fu­ture as he is re­port­edly not in Sri Lanka’s plan for the 2019 World Cup but the 34-year-old is likely to re­tain a place in the shorter for­mat—the T20. But Malinga, who has al­ready re­tired from the longer for­mat due to a re­cur­ring knee in­jury, has no plans to hang up his boots any­time soon. “If I go, I will go on my own and not be­cause some­one else is putting pres­sure on me,” he said, when asked whether it’s the end of the road for him. “I want to play till 2020—the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 T20 World Cup—and I will keep per­form­ing when­ever I get an op­por­tu­nity, be it do­mes­tic or in­ter­na­tional cricket. That’s the only thing I can con­trol and I know if I per­form well, I will be in the team." Since his re­turn from a long in­jury lay­off, Malinga has largely been a di­min­ish­ing force, av­er­ag­ing 62.30 in 13 matches. He has picked up only 10 wick­ets dur­ing the same pe­riod—a far cry from a man who has in­flicted fear on op­pos­ing bats­men with sub­tle vari­a­tions in his bowl­ing. His great­est weapon, though, has been the york­ers which the bats­men found in­creas­ing dif­fi­cult to cope with.

“Ob­vi­ously, I am dis­ap­pointed with my own per­for­mance more than any­one else. But they need to un­der­stand that I am com­ing af­ter an in­jury—a se­ri­ous in­jury which threat­ened my ca­reer sev­eral times. I have played through pain and con­tinue to don the na­tional jersey for well over 14-years now,” he said. “Peo­ple have for­got­ten all what I’ve done dur­ing those 14 years and talk of my per­for­mances in the re­cent se­ries."

His re­cent record would have been dif­fer­ent, had the catches off his bowl­ing been taken. He says field­ers have dropped as many as 14 catches off his bowl­ing since his re­turn to the side.

Malinga made his de­but in 2004 against UAE at Dam­bulla and since then has been one of the key fig­ures in the Sri Lankan side. He was the first man in the his­tory of the game to pick four wick­ets in suc­ces­sive balls when he took Sri Lanka to the brink of vic­tory against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup. He also has two more hat- tricks against Aus­tralia and Kenya, the only crick­eter to achieve the feat, and was the bowl­ing spear­head in Sri Lanka’s ex­cel­lent run in global tour­na­ments from 2007-2014.

Malinga led the na­tional team to vic­tory at the 2014 World T20 tour­na­ment, the coun­try’s sec­ond global sil­ver­ware af­ter the 1996 World Cup vic­tory. With his knee in­jury threat­en­ing his ca­reer, Malinga re­tired from Test cricket at the age of 27 in 2011 but con­tin­ued to im­press in lim­ited-over games un­til a re­cur­rence of the in­jury forced him into an­other long break. “I don’t think any­one un­der­stands how se­ri­ous my in­jury

was,” he said. "I have played through pain for my coun­try and, just be­cause I had a bad se­ries against In­dia, now I am not good enough to be in the side. If the se­lec­tions were done on cur­rent form, I don’t think there would have been any player left in the side by now. I will keep work­ing hard to earn my place in the side.

Though, Malinga’s ax­ing has much to do with his per­for­mance, some say he was a "bad" in­flu­ence on the other play­ers in the side— some­thing which may have worked on se­lec­tors' minds when fi­nal­is­ing the squad. But Malinga says he has only been a good in­flu­ence on the play­ers.

“I didn’t go to a big school in Colombo, nor had any in­flu­ence from any­one. But I worked hard to be the crick­eter I am to­day. This helped me to win re­spect from fans and also from some play­ers within the team. Is that what they call a bad in­flu­ence?” he asked.

Malinga was re­cently in trou­ble af­ter crit­i­cis­ing the coun­try’s Sports Min­is­ter af­ter the lat­ter ques­tioned the fit­ness of play­ers. At a sub­se­quent brain-storm­ing ses­sion, he high­lighted some of the key is­sues which he be­lieves had con­trib­uted to the slide of the na­tional team.

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