For Sri Lankan cricket fans of the 90s, nothing would have spellbound them like a Sanath Jayasuriya square cut for a six or a trademark pickup shot to the leg side. But for a Sri Lankan cricket fan of the 21st Century, who neither had the luxury of seeing the Jaysuriya mavericks consistently nor the prowess of Aravinda de Silva, after 2003, it is Malinga’s toe crushers and lethal bouncers that incite Lankan-esque celebrations and dancing in the aisles. Perhaps, after Jaysuriya nobody has ever managed to procure the curiosity of the general fan following or the in other words no one has managed the aura that Sanath brings into a cricket field. When the man arrives at the crease, the destiny of the bowlers can easily be seen in the eyes of Lankan cricket fans. Every time Jaysuriya came to bat there was something for the spectators to look for even if it ended up in  a losing cause.

Every time he bowls, we expect a wicket. It was rather usual to see the batsmen hopping, ducking and tumbling having no answer to Malinga’s bumpers, yorkers and slower ones

With the waning of the Great Lankan Opening Batsman’s effectiveness, it was Malinga who brought back the same bravado into Sri Lankan cricket. Every time he bowls, we expect a wicket. It was rather usual to see the batsmen hopping, ducking and tumbling having no answer to Malinga’s bumpers, yorkers and slower ones, though these sights have started to vanish gradually, much due to the new ODI rules.

Malinga has been a match winner for Sri Lanka and very often than not, has helped Sri Lanka snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He is somebody who sees the invisibles, which makes him do the impossibles. No Cricket fan can ever forget his double hat-trick against South Africa when a Sri Lankan defeat was all but assured. He is the only cricketer to have taken 3 hat tricks in ODIs, and the world is yet to see someone who can bowl yorkers as consistently as he can.

There is no second word that he is perhaps the most feared fast bowler ever produced by Sri Lanka. In a country in which bowlers who can bowl over 145 kmph consistently are as rare as water in mars, let alone their accuracy, Malinga brought in express pace coupled with his weird action  and impeccable accuracy that has even troubled the best of the bests.

After Chaminda Vaas, he became the automatic successor of the spearhead role of the Sri Lankan fast bowling. After Murali he had to lead the whole bowling line up. Sri Lanka depended and depend on him to succeed in the cricketing field, even now. When Sri Lanka performs poorly it is no-brainer to say that Malinga has done the same too. The fact that the outcome of Sri Lanka’s performance depend invariably on Malinga’s performance says you how much the nation depend on him.

A time during which Malinga’s commitment and patriotism are severely questioned  by media, public and the administrators, this article, I believe would provide insights into where the actual fault exists.

While Vaas was still playing for Sri Lanka, there existed no need for the selectors to find some fast bowling talents, since Vaas was more than happy to shoulder the burden of leading the bowling attack which waserratic consistently to say the least, the selectors were given the luxury of squandering the many fast bowling talents. It was during the twilight of Vaas’s carrier Sri Lanka’s need to find someone who would fill his shoes began. When no other bowler could consistently play alongside Vaas, the fast bowling crown was passed on to Malinga.

During Vaas’s carrier Malinga suffered the most noxious injury that would continue to haunt him for the rest of his carrier. Sri Lanka cricket was blase, since Vaas was doing the job for them. There was no necessity for the board to nurture their second choice bowler. That meant Malinga lost his central contract in 2008 and the image of a fiery bowler started to peter out.

Since Vaas was more than happy to shoulder the burden of leading the bowling attack which were erratic consistently to say the least, the selectors were given the luxury of squandering the many fast bowling talents

“After the injury nobody looked after me and I was not offered a contract. The 2008 interim committee did not care for my well-being. But thanks to the IPL I didn’t lose anything but I improved my cricket a lot. I’m saddened the way I was treated but not disappointed.”, Malinga told Cricinfo.

Since Sri Lanka’s bowling was not in dire straits then, the selectors were not perturbed by his injury, nor was the Cricket Board bothered about what this man did. It was after the World Cup, with the retirement of Murali, the selectors realized the consequence and desert of Malinga. The fact that we don’t realise the value of something until we lose, was true as far as SLC was concerned. After the stalwarts of  Sri Lankan bowling retired the selectors could not look beyond anyone but Malinga to lead the bowling attack in all three formats of the game.

Malinga made a return to test cricket in 2009 with the man of the match performance against the Indians  in Murali’s last test match.  The injury that he sustained in 2008 was so severe and started to loom after his concerted effort in the test, that he was rested for the second test. In the third test he came back, but in the fifth day morning when Sri Lanka needed Malinga to pick early wickets to have the game at their mercy, Malinga could not bowl, thanks to his injury. Malinga played no test there after.

Malinga, would not have contemplated retirement from test cricket, and would have hoped for  his ailing right knee to heal before playing test cricket at regular intervals, but the mercenaries of Sri  Lanka cricket forced him to quit test crickets questioning his commitment and demanding him to play in the English tour. Malinga announced his retirement citing, “long-standing degenerative condition in the right knee”. He intended to continue playing the shorter formats, though, and hoped to play in the 2012 World Twenty20 and the 2015 World Cup.

Sri Lanka Cricket a href=”http://www.espncricinfo.com/england-v-sri-lanka-2011/content/story/512051.html” target=”_blank”>asked him to return home and undergo a rehabilitation programme, but Malinga clarified that his condition stops him from playing only the longest format.

“Although I am sufficiently fit to play both ODI and T20 cricket, I have a long-standing degenerative condition in my right knee that needs to be carefully managed,” Malinga’s statement read. “The condition relates directly to the chronic knee injury I sustained playing for Sri Lanka in Australia back in February 2008, an injury that prevented me from playing ODI cricket for 16 months.

“The injury was a career-threatening injury and my orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that given his experience with other professional athletes in Australia I was very fortunate to play again. I have since been advised by the national team physiotherapist and my orthopaedic consultant that my condition will deteriorate when fielding or bowling for prolonged periods.

“I did try to return to Test cricket after a three-year absence last year [against India] following requests from the team management and the selectors, but it left me unfit nursing severe knee pain for two months.

“I have realised that the heavy workload of Test cricket, which requires a fast bowler to be able to bowl more than 15 overs, sometimes on consecutive days, could lead to permanent injury. I have carefully considered my options and have decided that not playing Test cricket will help me achieve my goal of representing Sri Lanka in the 2012 World Twenty20 and the 2015 World Cup.”

Malinga said he was available for all limited-overs internationals, and planned to travel to Sri Lanka soon to discuss his plans with the selectors.

But the Selection panel headed by Duleep Mendis menaced Malinga insisting that he either returns to Sri Lanka to attend a rehabilitation programme, a mystical entity that he was deprived of 3 years ago, or play test cricket. Failure to do either of this would mean that he can’t play for Sri Lanka ever in any formats. The ineptness of the administrators couldn’t have been better exposed than the eventual dependence of the selector’s on Malinga to win matches for Sri Lanka, when Malinga neither returned home nor played test cricket, but continued to play ODIs and T20s, which the selectors said  that he will not be allowed to.

A board should be able to take bold decisions. If they really feel what a player has done is unfair, and if they think a player is not committed to the team, then they have all the rights in the world to rusticate him. Though Malinga, never returned back home, nor did he play test in England, the board didn’t proscribe him from playing cricket for Sri Lanka, which goes on to tell stories about what the real intention of Sri Lanka Cricket was. All what they tried with Malinga is to deter, threaten and coax him into accepting their whims and fancies.

Sri Lanka cricket always needed someone to hind behind. They don’t have any vision or a long term goal. All what they are endowed with is short term goals.

Sri Lanka cricket always needed someone to hind behind. They don’t have any vision or  a long term goal. All what they are endowed with is short term goals. In this instance, they didn’t care about Malinga’s future,  or how Sri Lanka’s bowling would be affected with Malinga quitting all cricket with a Knee injury, but instead they wanted success in England, since an ignominious defeat in England would severely expose Sri Lanka Cricket. In Sri Lanka, the administrators come under criticism only when the team performs poorly. Hence, contriving victory at any cost means, that the administrators have something to hide their corrupted face behind.

Malinga’s response to his no-to-tests-and-knee-injury criticism was emotional and hysterical.

“They don’t wake up with sore knees every morning like I do and they did not spend over a year worrying whether I would ever be able to bowl again!

It is not a question of whether Test cricket is more or less important. It is a question of what is physically possible and what the team feels is the most sensible thing to do.”

Malinga has often fallen the victim of Sri Lanka Cricket’s conspiracy. Media doesn’t want to spare him too. “??? ??? ????? ??? ????? ??????(Haven’t you seen me before?)” was made a profanity in Sri Lanka, by the same media that doesn’t venture to expose or bring out the corruptions, conspiracies and intrigues of Sri Lanka cricket or the politicians, for the fear of being bludgeoned by a government sponsored goon. The media in Sri Lanka always looks for the softest of the targets and poor Malinga fell a victim.

Now, after the 3-2 defeat against Pakistan in UAE, they needed a scapegoat to hide their mistakes, and that scapegoat was none other than Lasith Malinga. How could a cricket board, that comprises of members who have played Cricket before, and managers who are expected to manage human resources properly blame one single human being for the failure of the team. It was clearly evident that our batting never clicked during most part of the series in the flat tracks of UAE, which held the major share of the causes of our defeat. Blaming a bowler who bowls most of his overs at the death, in a world where hitting sixes is as easy as making a a href=”https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/govt-spends-15-million-for-chogm-website-just-a-rehash-of-perth-2011-harsha/”>15$ dollar website for 15 billion$, is not only ridiculous but also an insult on the intelligence of the masses that follow cricket.

It is true that Malinga has lost his efficacy, but much due to the two ball rule that was effected and has been in existence since 2011.

Malinga’s ODI stats before and since Oct 2011
InningsWicketsAvgSREconBBI
Before Oct 20119014925.0330.44.936/38
Since Oct 1, 2011335131.0733.55.555/54

The lack of reverse swing and the fact that the balls do not lose their hard mantle means, hitting the bowl is as easy as ever at the death, not to mention the amusing field restrictions.

Something that the critics have forgotten or purposely overlooked is Malinga’s new ball bowling that has improved length wise and breadth wise.

Over-wise break-up of Malinga’s ODI bowling
PeriodFirst 15 – averageER/ SR16-40 – averageER/ SR41-50 – averageER/ SR
Before Oct 201136.324.57/ 47.6723.124.60/ 30.1217.216.21/ 16.61
Since Oct 1, 201129.054.94/ 35.2953.415.62/ 57.020.316.29/ 19.37

It’s a fine prove that this man has adapted to the new rules, and has found that the best period to pick up wickets is the first half of the innings due to the amount of swing the two new balls produce.

So it’s always a boon to have someone bowling at the death and going over little more than six an over, a luxury any team would acknowledge with glee, unless the team is Sri Lanka.

Malinga has been the golden egg laying goose of Sri Lanka Cricket. But in a haste to reap prompt results the board is trying to slaughter the goose and get all the golden eggs out, an action that would yield no avail. Malinga’s carrier can be prolonged only if the injury he sustained is managed properly. Forcing him into playing test cricket would mean that he will not even be able to walk anymore. But the history is that Malinga has quit test cricket, mainly due to the pressure inflicted on him by the SLC.

Now, his commitment to the team has been censured. Rumors say that he is autonomous and doesn’t abide by the bowling coach, which was ‘rubbished’ by the bowling coach. In a democratic country any citizen has the right to make his own calls. It may be whether to prioritize IPL over country or whether or not to chose a lucrative job offered by a foreign franchise, over a local job with a mediocre salary. When Sanga’s Champions League dilemma became  a Countery vs Money issue, Sanga openly slammed the board and the media for escalating it to that level. One thing that Sri Lanka Cricket need to understand is the fact that, if they want Malinga to play  for Sri Lanka, so that Sri Lanka’s bowling can succeed, which is the truth, then the SLC should implore and grovel  Malinga to get his service. In a democratic country you can’t threaten a personnel to get his services. Remeber Cricket Australia increased the salary of Ricky Ponting threefolds, when he was approched by an IPL franchise, to play IPL at the cost of playing for Australia.

There is no second word to the fact Malinga is paramount for Sri Lanka’s future plans. Given that he is the most sought out bowler in T20 leagues, playing for Sri Lanka is not so important for Malinga to earn a living, as it is for some of the other players. There are many franchises, leagues, and tournamnets that would submit themselves to Malinga. If SLC want the services of Malinga, then he should be treated, at least, fairly. More of these accuses and rumors, Malinga would not mind quitting playing for Sri Lanka, which will do serious damage to Sri Lanka Cricket but not to this man. The anaphoric statement may be that Sri Lanka depend on Malinga which is not true vice versa.

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MALINGA’S INJURY -An Analysis

Malinga has been diagnosed with PFJ changes of Grade 4. PFJ stands for Platellofemoral joint.

What is Platellofemoral joint?

Definition: The patellofemoral joint is where the kneecap (patella) and thigh bone (femur) meet.

The underside of the patella sits in a groove within the femur called the patellofemoral groove. Within this groove, the patella moves largely lengthwise, but it has some side-to-side movement and can tilt and rotate as well.

Misalignment or repetitive contact of the joint surfaces may lead toa href=”http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/knee_injuries/a/knee11.htm”>patellofemoral pain syndrome. The result is joint irritation, inflammation, knee pain and limited range of motion in the knee.

Irritation of this joint is generally caused by the following factors:

  • Acute injury to the patella
  • Misalignment of the joint
  • Overuse from excessive running, particularly if there is an associated weakness of knee muscles
  • Chronic wear and tear of the knee joint
  • Poor foot mechanics

Patellofemoral irritation may also lead to breakdown of cartilage on the underside of the patella (a href=”http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/knee_injuries/a/knee10.htm”>chondromalacia), which in its most chronic condition, could require surgical repair. Source:http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/glossary/g/Patellofemoral-Joint.htm

Though there are no adequate sources to know what is exactly wrong with Malinga’s PFJ, it can be safely assume that he is suffering from runner’s knee, a common ailment throbbing many athletes. In mediacal terms it is knowns as Chondromalacia.

What is Chondromalacia?

Chondromalacia, also known as “runner’s knee,” is a condition where the cartilage on the undersurface of the patella (knee cap) deteriorates and softens. This condition is common among young, athletic individuals, but may also occur in older adults who have arthritis of the knee.

It is often seen as an overuse injury in sports like running, and is sometimes treated by taking a few days off from training. In other cases, it is caused by improper knee alignment and resting does not provide relief. Although runner’s knee is characterized byknee pain and grinding sensations, many people who have it never seek medical treatment.

Malinga suffers from Grade 4 level Chondromalacia, which is the designated grade for the most severe cases.

Grading

There are four grades, ranging from Grade I to IV, that designate the severity of runner’s knee. Grade I is least severe, while Grade IV indicates the greatest severity.

Grade I severity indicates softening of the cartilage in the knee area.

Grade II designates a softening of the cartilage along with abnormal surface characteristics. This usually indicates the beginning of tissue erosion.

Grade III shows thinning of cartilage with active deterioration of the tissue.

Grade IV, the most severe grade, indicates exposure of the bone with a significant portion of cartilage deteriorated. Bone exposure means bone-to-bone rubbing is likely occurring in the knee. Source:http://www.healthline.com/health/chondromalacia-patella