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Time For Mumbai To Keep Their Emotions Towards Malinga In Check

May 13, 2017

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One of the finest limited-overs bowlers of this generation and perhaps the only one to earn a nickname to the courtesy of his bowling style, Slinga Malinga has been an absolute wonder to the game of cricket. His lightening quick inswinging yorkers coming from a round-arm action turned out to be distinctive and equally destructive at the same time. A deceptive slower one and an outstanding bouncer alongside those deadly toe-crushers made him quite a package. And to top it all, though the batsmen knew what would come up, Malinga retained his capacity to keep them surprising.

What hasn’t he done! While any other bowler would dream about taking a hat-trick once in his entire international career, Lasith Malinga has done it as many as four times – once in T20s, twice in the World Cups, thrice in ODIs. Till date he remains the only bowler to have claimed 4 wickets in 4 consecutive deliveries in any form of international cricket. He kept on doing the business for a majority of his career for whichever the teams he played and just when people started to think that he was finished, it was found that the criticisms had only helped him to perform better.

Till the 10th IPL, there was hardly anything that could prevent Mumbai Indians from retaining their speed-star. Over these years, Malinga too, repaid the franchise’s faith on him in every possible form. Whenever the captain gave him the ball in search of a wicket, he responded. Whenever he was asked to stop the flow of runs, he stopped. Whenever he had to bowl the penultimate over with not many to defend, he still defended. And such has been his commitment towards Mumbai Indians that in CLT20 2014 he chose Mumbai over his Sri Lankan side Southern Express. No wonder that the crowd roars louder at Wankhede than in any other grounds in Sri Lanka while chanting “Ma-Lin-Ga . . . Ma-Lin-Ga”.

But unfortunately, all the great things in the world must come to an end someday. And what we have witnessed in this year’s IPL is not something what we are accustomed to. Coming at the back of a T20 hat-trick against Bangladesh Lethal Lasith has had his moments in this tournament nevertheless; but the games where he looked way below par compared to the bowler he is, suggested that the bowler who has been a menace to every batsman for such a long time, may well be riding off into the sunset soon.

I shall therefore discuss a few attributes of his bowling based on which I shall try to present a comparative study on what he was in the past and what he is now.

-Pace-

Then: He used to bowl on an average speed of 140 kmph or more and thereby beating the batsmen for pace. His slinging action was an added dimension to his bowling which made his deliveries hard to pick. As a result of the combination it was a familiar sight that even before the batsman could figure out from where the ball had actually come, it would go on to crash the timber.

Now: He has lost his pace with age. The speeds that looked staggering in the past have come down a few notches of late and subsequently nullified the advantage he enjoyed for the most of his cricketing career.

-Accuracy-

Then: 6 yorkers in 6 balls with all of exactly the same line, same length and same pace might sound weird, but it was a daily grind for a Lasith Malinga of his peak. He was simply deadly accurate with his execution in this regard.

Now: Malinga’s percentage of getting the yorkers dead-right has dropped down substantially. Missing the length in attempt of bowling a yorker means the ball landing nice and full into the batsman who will never mind to see the ball over-pitched.

-Control-

Then: The most impressive thing about Malinga has been his supreme control over the deliveries. Despite having a round-arm he had never been wayward with his line. While his arm pointed the ball to go elsewhere, the ball would rather end up falling at exactly the place a batsman would not want.

Now: It looks like as if he has an issue with his rhythm and balance. The bowler who used to deliver accurate balls at any time of the innings irrespective the batsman in the crease is now struggling to get his line right. He is no longer at the pink of his health and with the lack of fitness he seems to have lost his control quite a bit – the result being a no of wides and no-balls.

-Death bowling-

Then: For just about a decade or so Slinga Malinga has been the undisputed no. 1 bowler in the world when it came to bowling at the death. Not very often one would see him going for runs in the final overs. One thing was very clear that we would bowl the 18th and the 20th over of the innings, not the time when batsmen could see him off and take chances off other bowlers.  While a team batting first aims a 20-run-final-over, he often restricted them for 5 or 6 and a team batting second needing just 8 or 9 in the final over with wickets in hand could still find themselves a couple of runs short at the end of the innings.

Now: His impact as a death bowler has reduced significantly. Mumbai Indians know this too. That’s the reason why Bumrah and McClenaghan have been given the responsibility to bowl at the backend of the innings. Malinga on the other hand is bowling the middle overs or may be an over or two upfront. All these years Malinga has been miraculously good at death bowling, the run-away winner in this department and hence MI never ever let him go. But the question arises here that if they have found someone who can do the job what the Sri Lankan used to do, whereas the latter doing a relatively easier job which perhaps doesn’t necessarily require a Lasith Malinga as its executor; what’s the point in being so conservative with him given the bench-strength Mumbai Indians have?

-A good day, a bad day and an average day-

stats

Still one can see that he is very much acceptable on his good day. But an average day stat shows that he is now nowhere near to the bowler we used to see in the past. And whenever as a team you are investing this much on an overseas player, this is something that you seriously need to take care of. What he is doing now, others can do too. While now in his good days too he doesn’t look as much terrorizing as he used to be in an average day from the past, in the bad days we are left with no other option but to recognize him with his jersey number, as 99 at the back of his shirt hasn’t changed and never will.

Mumbai already have both the right-arm Bumrah and the left-arm McClenaghan in form. So if there is choice to make, it falls in between Tim Southee and Mitchell Johnson; the former might be preferred to the latter for his bowling attributes being somewhat close to those of Malinga and his ability to contribute with the bat. We are into the business end of the tournament and it’s high time for the emotions not to run high. It won’t be easy though, just as writing this article hasn’t been. It reminded me of all those golden years when Malinga used to dominate the world. It also gave me the feeling that somewhere between those days of chanting “Ma-Lin-Ga . . . Ma-Lin-Ga” and today, as I urge Mumbai Indians to put a second thought on arguably the best bowler they have ever had; I have grown up; grown up from a crazy fan to a meticulous blogger.

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