Malinga: A square peg in a round hole



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Lasith Malinga with Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka’s most successful ODI player in 2018.


by Rex Clementine


Sri Lanka Cricket has let Lasith Malinga off the hook with a mere slap on the wrist following his outburst through the social media outlets under his control. The fast bowler made serious allegations against his colleague Thisara Perera.  As the national cricket team suffered a 3-0 whitewash in the ODI and then lost the subsequent T-20 International, it appeared that the captain had lost total control over the proceedings.


His appointment as the captain of white ball teams was done after poor research and his subsequent diatribe against Perera has resulted in divisions within the team, in New Zealand.


Thisara was Sri Lanka’s most consistent ODI cricketer last year. Stats prove it. He was the most successful batsman in 2018 with 415 runs to his name. The 25 wickets that he took last year were the second highest behind Akila Dananjaya’s 28 scalps. His batting average of 34 and bowling average of 20, in 2018, saw him gradually enter Lance Klusener territory. What possessed Malinga to call a proven performer’s credentials into question?


Thisara has always played the game in the right spirit and rises to the occasion whenever the team gets into trouble. He is the one who put his hand out to take the team to war-torn Lahore when the likes of Lasith Malinga chickened out.


Malinga should have been dealt with severely for bringing the game into disrepute. But he went scot free.


Far be it from us to tell Chairman of Selectors Ashantha De Mel how to do his job. Having done the job on several occasions during tougher times of our cricket, he knows what he is doing. His argument that the captain should be an automatic choice in the side is sound. However, Lasith being Lasith, can create an unhealthy environment in the dressing room. With him it’s a case of my way or highway. There are persons that he strongly likes and dislikes and for him the middle path does not simply exist.


Sanath Jayasuriya was one of Sri Lanka’s most successful captains and the secret of his success was that he had the ability to bring the best out of all his charges. That’s something that Malinga sadly lacks.


One of Malinga’s first moves as ODI captain was to demote his predecessor and bete noire Dinesh Chandimal to number five. Chandimal was placed at three for him to bat through the 50 overs as the team had failed to utilise the quota of overs in recent ODIs. But Malinga went and pushed him to the deep end and after Chandimal failed in two games, he was axed for the dead rubber.


Chandimal and Malinga – both southerners – one from Ambalangoda and the other from the neighbouring Rathgama, have a colourful history.


Chandimal was the captain during the ICC World T-20 in 2014. It has been a well-guarded secret in Sri Lankan cricket that Malinga deliberately slowed down the over rate during the competition in a bid to get the captain suspended and then elevate himself to that position. It is still not late for Sri Lanka Cricket to investigate what happened in Bangladesh in 2014.


If an impartial inquiry is conducted, some of our former captains who preach fair play via twitter will get exposed for what they really are – hypocrites.


It also needs to be found out why Sri Lanka has the worst slow over rate in the world. For a team that depends heavily on spin bowling, there’s no way that they are unable to finish their overs on time. Either the players are unfit or some of them deliberately slow down the over rate. Such elements do not deserve to be in the national squad.


Malinga is certainly not the man to take Sri Lankan cricket forward. How can he lead this side? After all, he is someone who turned his back on Sri Lankan cricket having retired from Test cricket prematurely. Malinga was 27 when he quit Test cricket. He preferred the Ambanis in the IPL to his country at a time the team desperately needed him in the post-Muralitharan era.


Angelo Mathews has been groomed for this job but unfortunately some people don’t like his face. So the next best candidate for the job is Chandimal.


True, Chandimal let his supporters down during the ball tampering saga in the Caribbean. But everyone needs to be given a second chance. Chandimal unlike Malinga will be someone who is capable of bringing the side together. With him at the helm, Malinga, Mathews, Thisara Perera and everyone will be treated equally. What we need at the moment is a leader who is capable of going on the middle path rather than the extremes. Let’s give Chandimal his job back.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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