Lasith Malinga’s only involvement during his team’s practice session on Thursday was his participation in the team huddle. The Sri Lanka’s T20 captain hasn’t recovered from a bad knee and his absence was a reason why the Islanders bowed out of the Asia Cup with a whimper. Malinga, however, hopes to get fit for the World T20. In an interview with Shamik Chakravarty, he spoke about his recovery, international future, Sri Lanka’s transition and Jasprit Bumrah. Excerpts:
How is your knee now? Is there a question mark over your participation in the World T20?
I am recovering well. It was painful in the first match (against the United Arad Emirates) and it became a little stiff. With the World T20 coming up, I decided to sit out in the next two matches.
You dropped a hint that World T20 could be your last international event…
I have to take a call after the World T20. The number of injuries I have suffered… it’s not easy to come back and hit the groove straightaway. Sri Lanka need me in World T20. After that I will see how my body works.
Sri Lanka have been going through transition. You seem to have entered the final lap of your career. So, do you think your team has a realistic chance in the World T20?
Don’t forget we are one of the most consistent teams in the ICC events, playing five finals of late. We are going through transition yes. Also, you can’t replace the likes of Mahela and Kumar overnight. They were huge players and it would take time for the youngsters to fit into their shoes. But we have Angelo (Mathews), and batsmen like (Dinesh) Chandimal and (Chamara) Kapugedera to play around him. We have exciting young players. Any team can win in this format and we are good enough to go the distance.
Losses in India and an early exit from the Asia Cup don’t inspire confidence…
We sent an experimental side to India. We didn’t play to our potential in this tournament, but World T20 is a different event and I expect the boys to be on top of their game.
How did it feel to return to cricket after three months?
For the last three months I couldn’t bowl a single delivery due to the injury. I trained for just one day before the UAE game. I played through pain.
But you still bowled your yorkers with pinpoint accuracy…
A lot of credit goes to Mahela and Kumar in helping me grow as a death bowler. For the last 10 years or so, they used me at the back end of the innings, thus helping me earn the confidence. You must have a good yorker, when you are coming in at the death. You need to have different variations of it. People say yorkers come to me naturally. But it’s wrong. I think nothing comes to you naturally at the highest level. You have to practice hard, really hard. My training method has had been simple. I bowl at least 15-16 yorkers in the nets every day, keeping a shoe on the block hole. This is both with the new ball and the old one. My training has given me the confidence to bowl yorkers under pressure in any situation.
You are one of the best exponents of slower bouncer as well.
At the highest level, you always have to keep the batsmen guessing. It’s imperative to change your pace – bring it down from 140k to 120k without an apparent change in action. You would struggle if your slower delivery is one-dimensional. Slower bouncer is another variation and once again, hard work has been the key.
Have you ever thought about changing your action because of injuries?
No, not really. Yes, I retired from Test cricket in 2010 and injuries played a part. But I have always been comfortable with this action.
How do you see Jasprit Bumrah’s emergence? Did you help your Mumbai Indians team mate perfect his yorkers?
Bumrah approached me. He wanted to learn the art of bowling yorkers. I was more than happy to be by his side. We practised together, where he had always been intent for perfection. I gave him a few advices but in the end, credit goes to him for the progress.