T20 World Cup: Sri Lanka fear end of Malinga

Or, as our expert argues, the beginning of new Slinga era

A few weeks ago when India's dashing opening batsman Virender Sehwag confirmed the worst fears of Sri Lankan cricket fans as to the adverse influence of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on national team performance -  some scoffed it as mind games.

"I guess IPL has been a factor. The Indian players have played a lot against Malinga," Sehwag had said.

Prior to that comment, India cruised to a 21-run win against the islanders in the opening ODI - courtesy the in-form Virat Kohli who smashed 106 and Sehwag who made a significant contribution with an innings of 96.

Malinga took a pounding conceding 83 runs without taking a wicket as India posted a winning total of 314 for six in Hambantota on Saturday.

Fast forward to this past weekend and Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit an unbeaten 55 and Irfan Pathan picked up five wickets to propel India to a 26-run win against host Sri Lanka in a World Twenty20 warm-up match.

Lasith Malinga was taken for 50 runs in his four overs.

Lanka go in to the T20 World Cup at home possibly without the favourites tag thanks in no small part to the lack of Slinga Malinga’s impact.

Sri Lankan fans are not amused, "Before IPL (he took) 10 wkts in 10 matches. After IPL 16 wkts in 14 mtchs. Seems like he learnt nothing from IPL, but earn lot from it," wrote Nadeeshan in Facebook after dissecting Malinga's performance against India in www.cricturf.com.

The Indians have Malinga’s number.

India plundered 96 runs in just 7.4 overs against Malinga to chase down a formidable target of 320 in 36 overs during the Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia.

The runs Malinga conceded in that game was the most he has conceded in his eight-year ODI career, and his economy-rate of 12.52 in the match was the worst for any bowler who has conceded over 80 runs in an ODI game.

Despite his inconsistent performance in this series, he was the leading wicket-taker with 18 scalps in 11 games but went at 6.21 runs per over.

He was left out of the Asia Cup clash against India in Bangladesh.

Malinga has failed to deliver the goods against India although he has been a star in the IPL where he turns out for Mumbai Indians.

In last year's tournament, he took 22 wickets at an average of 15.90. He has captured a total of 83 wickets in 56 matches in the four editions of the tournament.

But his one-day international record against India has been pretty ordinary. He has a modest record of 26 wickets in 24 matches against India with a best of 2-21 and has bowled a full quota of 10 overs on only eight occasions.

The only bowler to take four wickets in consecutive deliveries - a feat he achieved during the 2007 World Cup - Malinga seems to have become a spent force.

Expert view: Lanka’s Malinga is still a power Slinga

John Rajkumar

We should ask Gautam Gambhir, with his wrist swollen after being struck by Malinga in the warm up game a couple of days ago, if he feels the Slinga is no longer a threat. 

Gambhir retired hurt, but x-rays revealed no fracture.

Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are the two Indian batsmen that have dominated Malinga over the last year, while we can’t ignore the unique abilities these two have, we should also not ignore how frequently Malinga misses his lengths when bowling to them.

Cricket has always had individual rivalries most often associated with a bowler having a batsmen’s number: Donald v Atherton, Warne v Culinnan,  Zaheer v Smith, Ajmal v Englishmen; but the reverse can also be true.

A batsmen can always have the edge over a bowler. 

These aren’t technical weaknesses that are being exploited,  if this were so, the entire cricketing fraternity would be able to do the same. 

With every match being recorded in HI-DEF, there are no secrets in cricket anymore.

No, this isn’t cricketing skill being questioned, these are mind games being won and lost.

The IPL is everyone’s favorite whipping boy, only global warming has not been blamed on it yet.

If all it took was facing Malinga twice over 45 days to figure him out, then every team should be able to do it in the last few matches of a best of 5 series played over a fortnight. 

The two new balls being used in ODIs has limited his reverse swing, but it is the  96 runs he conceded in 7.4 overs against Kohli that has done the most damage. 

Self-doubt is a sportsmen’s worst enemy and the Indians have taken full advantage of this.

Sehwag’s recent comments about Malinga were runs scored without a ball being bowled, well played India.

But champions eventually overcome.

I’m looking forward to Malinga’s response.

John is the founder, editor and all-rounder at Dubai-based cricketinc.com 

For exclusive coverage of the World Cup check out our Special T20 World Cup 2012 section here

Click here to read: Tendulkar not India's best batsman anymore

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