While several experts have restrained from picking a favourite for the World T20, fiery pacer Lasith Malinga had no qualms in putting his money on Sri Lanka to lift the title.
With an exceptional ability to strike at regular intervals and a career economy rate that barely touches seven, ‘Slinga’ is clearly the most important lethal weapon for skipper Mahela Jayawardene during the tournament starting today as the hosts take on Zimbabwe in the tournament opener at Hambantota.
Sri Lanka has been a bit unlucky when it comes to big-ticket tournaments. They lost to Australia in the 2007 World Cup final in the West Indies. SL fought hard to reach the 2009 World T20 final only to be beaten by Pakistan in the summit clash. Under skipper Kumar Sangakkara, they lost the 2011 World Cup final against India at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
However, Malinga, who is equally cheered by Mumbaikars when he puts on the Mumbai Indians jersey during the Indian Premier League as he is for his country, sees no reason why Sri Lanka cannot win the World T20 title this time.
“All the players are in good touch. We know the conditions better than other teams. We definitely have a good chance to win the World T20. There aren’t any reasons for not winning it,” Malinga said.
SLPL, an ideal preparation
Malinga reckoned the just-concluded Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) was ideal preparation for the Sri Lankan players. “It (SLPL) was an ideal platform… a good preparation for the World T20. We played some good, competitive cricket,” said Malinga.
Here’s why Malinga is regarded as a huge asset for the Sri Lankan team. He is the only bowler to take two World Cup hat-tricks and the only one to take three hat-tricks in ODIs. Malinga also holds the record for his four wickets in consecutive balls in an international match (vs South Africa March, 2007).
Malinga has mastered bowling in the death overs with his toe-crushing yorkers — a big factor in T20 cricket. The burly, blonde pacer in an interview to MiD DAY during IPL-V had revealed that he is working on a ‘special’ delivery which will be unleashed during the World T20.
However, at the moment Malinga is concerned about his own form. During the last two ODI series at home, Malinga has taken six and eight wickets against Pakistan and India respectively. He managed to claim only seven wickets in six games for Ruhuna Royals in the SLPL. In the first warm-up match against Chris Gayle-less West Indies, Malinga managed to take only one wicket and conceded 27 runs in four overs. He was the most expensive Sri Lankan bowler against India in the second game where he conceded 50 runs in four overs.
Malinga seems to struggle against India in T20s. He has taken only three wickets in five games and his economy rate shoots up to 8.71, which is his second worst after West Indies (9.09).
“Yes, my form is not good (at the moment). But I am working hard on my bowling and trying to do my best,” Malinga concluded.