Lasith Malinga did not set out to try and lead his team to glory at the ICC World Twenty20 2014. With Dinesh Chandimal at the helm, and the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Angelo Mathews in the mix, Malinga would have arrived on Bangladesh’s shores expecting only to be wreaking havoc with the ball.
But, as Sri Lanka stood one step away from a major world title, Malinga found himself at the receiving end of volleys, only of the verbal kind, fortunately, as he addressed the media on the eve of the final against India.
The first matter he had to deal with was how Sri Lanka would tackle Virat Kohli, who lit up the Dhaka night sky with an incandescent display against South Africa in the semifinal on Friday. “We all know Virat is a great player. But even the greatest player needs only one ball to get out. I have a good feeling that someone from my side can bowl that one good ball tomorrow,” said Malinga on Saturday (April 5). “We have to plan for all 20 overs. They have six or seven good batsmen. We don’t think only about getting one particular batsman out. We have to focus on bowling 20 good overs.”
Then there was the matter of the captaincy, handed to him after the think tank decided that Lahiru Thirimanne was a better fit in the first XI rather than Chandimal, the designated captain. Hours before the final of the 2011 World Cup, against India in Mumbai, Sri Lanka made four changes to their team in an attempt to balance the eleven after Mathews, the allrounder, was forced out through injury. “Chandimal led us well in the first few matches. He is a promising up and coming player. Lahiru got his chance and proved how good he is. We haven’t decided our team for tomorrow,” said Malinga. “We have to look at the pitch and decide what kind of combination we want. Everyone has a good chance of being selected. Chandimal also has a good chance of playing tomorrow.”
India’s batsmen, who have seen a fair bit of Malinga as a result of the frequent bilateral One-Day International encounters the two countries have been involved in, and through the Indian Premier League where the slinger plies his trade for Mumbai Indians, have had more success against him than players from other countries. Did this mean Malinga had a point to prove? “I never go into a match trying to prove myself. There are other bowlers in my team who can do the job for the team as well,” said Malinga. “As I said, anyone can produce a good ball and pick up a wicket. As great as any batsman is, it takes only one ball to get him out.”
India lost to Sri Lanka in a practice match leading up to this tournament, but Malinga felt that would have no bearing on the final. “A practice match is a practice match. A tournament match is very different, both mentally and physically. The final is a big game; the tension is completely different. Whoever plays well on the day can win,” he said. “We all know it is a final but we have to treat it as a normal T20 game. That’s the way we are approaching it, and then you don’t take any extra pressure. Whoever makes fewer mistakes will win. That’s what we are looking forward to doing tomorrow.”