NIDAHAS TROPHY 2018
Malinga can contribute to Sri Lankan cricket in the future, says Hathurusingha © Getty
Sri Lanka’s head coach Chandika Hathurusingha has given an assurance that the door is not completely shut on struggling fast bowler Lasith Malinga and that he could make a comeback. Sri Lanka’s selectors have overlooked Malinga since September last year as he wasn’t picked for the tours of UAE, India and Bangladesh. The fast bowler was overlooked for the tri-nation Nidhas Trophy as well. The tournament gets underway on Tuesday with the hosts taking on India.
Malinga has been in good form in the ongoing domestic T-20 competition. He took three for 14 on Sunday to power Nondescripts Cricket Club to the semi-finals of the tournament. He is the third highest wicket-taker in the competition.
However, with one eye on the World Cup in 2019, it is believed that Sri Lanka are looking at other options than the 34-year-old Malinga, who will turn 36 during the tournament to be held in England and Wales. However, Hathurusingha claimed that Malinga is very much in Sri Lanka’s plans and compared him to basketball superstar Michael Jordan.
“Lasith is a wonderful player – someone who has a global reputation, not just in Sri Lanka. I think he’s an icon player for the game. Like in basketball they have Michael Jordan, and Malinga is that with cricket. In terms of form, he has done well in the recent past. I can’t talk about what was talked about in the selectors’ meeting, but I think he can contribute to Sri Lankan cricket in the future.”
India has sent a depleted side for the competition sans captain Virat Kohli, star player M.S. Dhoni and several other stand out performers, but Hathurusingha conceded that Rohit Sharma’s team will start as favourites. “If you go by the ratings, India is the number one team. So they always start ahead of the other teams. Whoever comes for India, they are still a very strong team. We have to start well because we haven’t been doing well at home. With Bangladesh, because of the last series, we probably have a little edge over them mentally. But still, India is the number one team.”
Sri Lanka had tremendous success during the tour of Bangladesh opening the batting with young Kusal Mendis. However, after the tour, batting coach, Thilan Samaraweera cast doubt whether the 23-year-old will continue to be an opener saying that he was utilized to negotiate an overdose of spin by Bangladesh.
The hosts have quite a few options to open the batting in Upul Tharanga, Kusal Janith Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka apart from Mendis.
“We have a few options. We will open with whoever we feel will play the best. We’ll also look at the other teams’ strengths and limitations before coming to that decision,” said Samaraweera
“Kusal’s mentality is really good these days. He knows his game and understands himself better. Our coaches have worked very closely with him and explained those things to him. He has clarity about what he does now. Mentally you’ve got to be very strong in order regain your form,” he added.