Lasith Malinga has his sights set on captaining his country at the T20 World Cup in Australia next year, and possibly beyond, firm in the belief that his body has two more years of cricket left in the tank.
It is somewhat of a change in tune from the 36-year-old, who previously stated that he would retire after next year’s tournament.
Malinga, who stepped into the role for a second time when Sri Lanka left both former captain Angelo Mathews and the experienced Thisara Perera out of a youthful squad that took on New Zealand in September, seems to have been rejuvenated by leading the inexperienced side. But without official sign-off from SLC on his role at the 2020 event, Malinga is certainly not counting his chickens.
“[SLC] said for the World Cup I have to be lead there but you never know in Sri Lanka,” Malinga told ESPNcricinfo. “T20 is four overs and I feel with my skill, I can manage T20 as a bowler. As a captain, because I’ve played so many T20s around the world that I feel I can manage that period for maybe another two years.”
And Malinga, the only man to 100 T20I wickets and first in history to reach a century of scalps in Tests, ODIs and T20Is, still believes he is more than capable of leading a youthful Sri Lanka team’s transition into a new era.
“Sri Lanka are lacking that skillful bowler, they lack those consistencies. We can’t get one year, one and a half years, all fixed, it might be that we need to get patience, maybe two or three years,” he said. “Consistency is very important. I feel whoever is doing the next selection have to understand that [for] people [to learn], they have to be there. If he’s on the bench, nobody can learn.
“If I believe I can give something for the youngsters, then I need to be there. I can tell, but now I can show them ‘this is the way how you do it.’ But if I don’t play then I can’t do that.”
Since Malinga’s return as captain, Sri Lanka have won one, tied one, and lost eight of their ten T20Is under him. Malinga, though, showed he is still more than capable of leading by example in his side’s sole victory during that spell.
Malinga took 5 for 6 in the third and final T20I of the New Zealand series, taking four wickets in four balls for the second time in his career en route to his best ever T20I figures. It was an astonishing spell, littered with the late swing, dipping yorkers, devious cutters and menacing bouncers that have made him one of the premier bowlers of his generation.
Malinga’s toolkit is as well stocked as ever, currently being sharpened at the Abu Dhabi T10 where he believes bowlers require all the tricks of the trade to succeed.
“We need skills on the spot, otherwise I don’t think anyone can survive this game,” said Malinga, who represents Maratha Arabians in the 10-over competition. “This is the format, I feel, that tests the skill of all the bowlers.”
Malinga has done it all in franchise cricket and earlier this year provided further evidence that while he may be in the twilight of his career, he is still one of the best in the world. His defence of just eight in the final over of this year’s IPL final made him a four-time winner with Mumbai Indians.
In addition, the vast experience – let alone immense talent – he brings to any bowling attack in the world made him a hot favourite to be picked up in The Hundred’s inaugural draft. However, alongside fellow T20 forefather Chris Gayle, he was overlooked by the eight franchises having set his base price at the maximum £125,000 mark.
It came as a surprise to Malinga but he sees it as yet another opportunity for a young player to benefit.
“I think that format looks suitable for me, so I don’t know why they didn’t pick me,” said Malinga, the IPL’s all-time leading wicket-taker. “I play IPL and so many leagues but some leagues didn’t pick me. This is not disappointment; I think [it’s good that] another young player gets an opportunity to play this format.” (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)