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Malinga: Mustafizur can produce match-winning bowling any time

  • Published at 09:15 pm January 14th, 2019
Lasith Malinga

Dhaka Tribune caught up with Sri Lankan legendary fast bowler Lastih Malinga for an exclusive interview after his arrival in Sylhet, where the pacer discussed about his career, his extensive playing experience, and expressed his future plans, along with the prospects of the Khulna Titans

Sri Lankan fast bowler Lastih Malinga, one of the finest bowlers in the shorter-format, arrived in Sylhet Monday to support Bangladesh Premier League franchise Khulna Titans. The former Sri Lankan skipper, who lifted the World T20I trophy here in Bangladesh back in 2014, has had many experiences of salvaging his sides in international and franchise cricket, and he has now been endowed the responsibility of Khulna. Dhaka Tribune caught up with him for an exclusive interview after his arrival in Sylhet, where the pacer discussed about his career, his extensive playing experience, and expressed his future plans, along with the prospects of the Titans. Here are the excerpts: 

What suggestions would you give to the young fast bowlers? 

First thing I have to tell them is to analyse the game. Second thing is, they need to understand what kind of variety and skill are required to perform well in the international level. Third, they have to acquire a particular skill that sets them apart. And fourth thing is to be consistent. And also, they have to approach the game in a proper way so that they can handle match pressure. In training sessions, there is no pressure or match situation. But in a game, you have to deal with pressure. When there is pressure, a player can make mistakes in the playing field. If you have the skill to handle pressure then you can perform well in the top-level, like conceding fewer boundaries. Fast bowling is a very hard job. When a fast bowler is hammered in one match, the next match they might be dropped. And they might have to wait three-four matches to get another chance. So when you are coming in to the scene, you need to improve your skills. Otherwise as a fast bowler, you might be too late to develop, and the opportunity might be gone.

You have seen Mustafizur Rahman in the IPL last year. What are your thoughts on him?

There is no doubt that he is the guy for white-ball cricket. Mustafizur and Jasprit Bumrah - these two bowlers have the skills and control, and can also produce match-winning performances at any time. Bangladesh cricket is lucky to have a talented bowler like Mustafizur.

How did your career start? 

I used to play tennis ball cricket at the age of eight-nine years. My village is Rathagama in Galle. I first played leather ball cricket in 2005 due to shortage of a player in my school cricket team. That’s how I started my career with leather-ball cricket. Then I went to Colombo in the fast-bowling academy with Champaka Ramanayake there. He gave me the opportunity in Galle Cricket Club, and that’s where I started my first-class career. He wanted to give me an opportunity and that’s why I am here. In first-class cricket, I got eight wickets in a match after three-four weeks, and that got me a regular starting place in my club. I was young and still school-going at that time. But eventually my consistent performances got me in the A team and finally in the national team.

You were good as a student, but still you chose cricket as a career...

In the higher level I was good at math. I still study and play cricket. But back then, I had to move to Colombo from my village for cricket, and as a result I couldn’t continue my education then. But I am happy because I managed to do well in cricket, and play for the national team.

Why choose fast bowling?

Everyone used to say cricket is batsmen’s game. But if you look more carefully, you will realise that bowlers can change the momentum and situation of the match and produce match-winning performances.   

Malinga reacts after arriving in Sylhet

How did you become so good at bowling yorkers?

In 2005, I came to the ODI squad of Sri Lanka. Mahela (Jayawardene) and (Kumar) Sangakkara were there, and Champaka was the fast bowling coach then. Mahela and Sanga always used to say that if you want to establish yourself in ODI cricket then you have to develop your skills. Most people do planning, but they don’t know how to improve skills. At that time, I realised what kind of skills I need to improve. You know in white-ball cricket, there are the first 10 overs, the middle overs and then the death overs. You need to understand the situation in white-ball cricket. So I realise that I need to develop my slower balls and the yorkers. Anyone can bowl bouncers and length balls as a fast bowler. But as a pacer, if you can develop more skills then you are in the top category. That’s when I realised that I need to develop my yorker length ball with consistency. Consistency is very important. I analysed some methods and tried to bowl yorkers every ball. And at end of the day, I am happy that I managed to improve my skill.

You were the captain of Sri Lanka which won the 2014 World T20I in Bangladesh? Was that the greatest moment of your career?

Yes obviously. The feeling of World Cup winning captain is amazing. In that team we had Mahela, Sanga, Angelo [Mathews], [TM] Dilshan, [Dinesh] Chandimal, [Rangana] Herath etc. They all were senior players and exciting cricketers. As a captain my job was relatively easier due to those great players.

How excited are you to be a part of the Titans?

My theory is, whichever team I play in, I will always give my 100%. Last time, I played for Rangpur Riders, and we won the tournament. This year I am playing for Khulna Titans and I want to win it as well because I don’t give up in any situation.

It’s not been the ideal start losing all four matches...

We can definitely turn around. I had an experience in IPL where my team lost the first seven games in row. At that time we needed to win the remaining seven matches to qualify for the qualifiers and we did that.  In cricket you never know what is going to happen, until the last ball is bowled. I still believe if Khulna start to win, then players will get habituated with that. I know the captain, players, coaches and owners are waiting for that first win. Hopefully the turnaround will start from (today).    

Jayawardene is the coach of the Titans. How excited are you to work with him?

I have played with him for a long time. I was a part of the Mumbai Indians under his coaching. I think Khulna Titans are really lucky to have a coach like Mahela because coaches like him can understand the situation and the culture in sub-continent cricket. He also understands people and what they need to perform. He can search for new talents and I am really excited to be a part of his team as a player.

Target for the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 World T20I?

(The years) 2019 and 2020 are the two last World Cups that I can probably play. I would love to play those two tournaments because I love to play cricket for my country.

And after that, what are your plans?

After the end of my career I want to coach and produce some good thinking players for the national team. I want to give and share my experience with the young players about how they can manage pressure and improve their skills and performances.

You quit Test cricket in 2010? What was the reason behind that, and are there any regrets?

I had a knee problem in 2008. I did not play any cricket for almost one-and-a-half years after that. The doctors said, “if your condition improves from this then you are lucky”. Then in 2010 I was lucky that I was able to bowl again. After playing my last Test match in 2010, my doctors informed that if I play longer formats I may become injured again then I might not be able to play cricket anymore. As I said I really love to play cricket, so to prolong my career I quit Tests and decided to play just ODIs and T20s from then. Mahela, Sanga and all the senior players gave me support in my decision then. I think that was a great decision and because of that I am still managing to play cricket in the shorter formats.

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