When the ODI series against Sri Lanka began, few players were on the threshold of personal milestones. MS Dhoni has done his reputation a world of good by putting up two-match winning knocks and is playing his 300th match in the fourth ODI at Colombo. He is also one short of world record 100 stumpings in ODIs and one short of a record 73 not outs in the 50-overs game. And he looks like achieving it soon. But more than Dhoni, who was playing for his place in the squad in the series, it was the hosts’ favourite player Lasith Malinga who was eyeing history during the course of the series.
Lasith Malinga was two wickets short of joining 300-wicket club before the series began. He failed to pick up a wicket in the first two ODIs, going for over 6 runs per over. In the third ODI, he got a wicket in Shikhar Dhawan who edged an incoming delivery onto his stumps. He finally crossed the 300th mark when centurion Virat Kohli drove uppishly straight to point fielder Dilshan Munaweera for 131 in the fourth ODI at Colombo.
Malinga celebrated his 300th wicket in style, flinging his arms open as fielders embraced him to congratulate the bowler on the milestone. Even Malinga’s Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma and teammate Hardik Pandya congratulated the bowler for the milestone.
But Malinga cuts a sorry figure these days. He took 11 ODIs to take his tally of wickets to 292 to 300 at an average of 59.55 and strike rate of 60.50. That’s unjustified coming from a bowler who once terrorised batsmen with his yorkers. His career bowling average is 28.72 and strike rate is 32.50. It explains how Malinga is no more the threatening bowler he was in world cricket.
His yorkers are no more the toe-breakers, his slower deliveries are easily readable and bouncers come at a comfortable height to be easily hooked and pulled for boundaries. Besides, his fielding is lethargic that costs the team few extra runs.
Malinga is enduring the worst phase of his bowling career where he is easily taken for runs. He also does not have control over his bowling and concedes a few extras with his wides.
The problem with Sri Lankan cricket is that they do not have a suitable replacement to phase out old warhorse Malinga. They are also struggling with injuries to key players. Malinga was once a feared bowler with his toe-crunching yorkers. Now, he is a fodder for easy runs.