Something’s amiss with Lasith Malinga these days. It’s not the permed curls or that thrusting run-up, but a part of Malinga as quintessential as those. It’s his biggest weapon, those curling toecrushers, that has gone nearly invisible since his comeback from an injury lay-off. What once was his stock ball is now just a novelty ball, and even that is bereft of the metronomic precision and supersonic pace that it once possessed. Maybe, age has caught up with him—he turns 34 in two months. Maybe, multiple injuries have taken a toll on his body—a knee injury forced him to miss the entire 2016. Maybe, his body can no longer take the rigours of bowling 10 overs at full pelt. Whatever the reasons be, the man with coloured curls and the slinging action that plods around the field resembles a pale imposter. Not that he is an entirely diminished force, with his cutters and nuanced change of pace, but what’s Malinga without those stinging yorkers.
Just one yorker off 65 balls
In Sri Lanka’s opener against South Africa, Malinga bowled 65 balls. Of those, there was just one yorker, against Hashim Amla. He attempted a similar delivery next ball, only that it ended up as a juicy full toss. Otherwise, he bowled mostly good length (26) and short-of-length (13). He hardly used the bouncer either—he pinged the ball short just once—and generally bowled at 130 kmphs or thereabouts . A more revealing marker of his waning prowess is that, at the death, where generally he is at his destructive best, he not only went wicketless but also leaked 28 runs in 3 overs. Even in IPL-10, there were clear signs that his gifts were withering—he took only 11 wickets in 12 matches, bleeding 8.42 runs an over.
His numbers in the last few years suggest an obvious dip in his overall efficiency. Since 2012, his economy rate has shot up. Apart from 2014, he hasn’t been among the wickets either.
In the last 21 games, he has whittled out only 28 wickets at 37.75, conceding 5.96 an over.