After finding himself out of the national team setup, fast bowler Lasith Malinga was the only player, outside of the preliminary 23-man squad to tour Bangladesh next month, present at a special training session – the first under new coach Chandika Hathurusingha – in Colombo on Thursday. It was revealed subsequently that Malinga attended as a “net bowler”.
“I came because, when I started playing cricket whenever there was a national team practice they needed net bowlers. I came in the capacity of a net bowler,” Malinga told ESPNcricinfo.
Malinga has said his next goal is the 2019 World Cup. If he does play, it could be his last tournament.
“If they pick me I’m ready, but the reason for why I haven’t been picked is what I’m still waiting for,” Malinga said. “Usually it’s a player who is 25 or 26 that needs to be rested because they still have a lot of cricket left in them. But for someone of my age, from what I know, there’s really no purpose in being rested. We can only play cricket for another one or two years anyway, but if we’re rested then we won’t get to play cricket, so what’s the point?”
Malinga, who has not played international cricket since a one-off T20I against India in early September, was ‘rested’ for Sri Lanka’s T20I series against India. He was also left out of the touring squad to Bangladesh.
Though his recent form has been patchy – he picked up 8 wickets at an economy rate of 8.61 over his last 8 innings in the Bangladesh Premier League for the Rangpur Riders – his returns in international cricket haven’t warranted undue concern since returning from injury at the start of the year. In 2017, Malinga has taken 12 wickets in 6T20Is, at an economy rate of 8.25, and 10 wickets at an economy rate of 6.00 in 13 ODIs.
“I picked up 10 wickets in the 13 matches I played after returning from injury,” Malinga said. “For the 14 years I’ve been playing cricket, it’s the first year in which I haven’t been able to pick up many wickets. And in those 13 matches, 12 catches have been dropped off my bowling. But in the end, the man who bowled the ball to create a catching opportunity is out.
“If someone wants to talk about my performances then I’m more than willing to have that conversation. But as far as being left out of the team, all I can say is that I’ve been playing cricket for several years, I’ve played under the most number of selectors. And a cricketer’s next opportunity at being selected really does depend on which set of selectors are in place at any given time.”
Since finding himself out of the national squad, Malinga has been keeping himself busy. Apart from playing in the BPL, he has been training with domestic club Nondescripts Cricket Club. “Just because I’m no longer in the national team it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop playing cricket. I’m still going to be batting and bowling.”
For the time being though, impressing Hathurusingha could be the best route back into the national team. With the new coach being given sway over team selection – a first for a Sri Lankan coach – albeit in an unofficial capacity, for Malinga a fitting swan song may yet be in the offing.