Sri Lanka drop Lasith Malinga for Pakistan ODIs
What's the story?
Veteran fast bowler Lasith Malinga has been dropped from the Sri Lankan team for their upcoming ODI series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. Sri Lanka Cricket's (SLC) recently revamped selection committee headed by Graeme Labrooy decided to axe the 34-year-old pacer following a spate of poor performances in the side's previous bilateral 50-over series, against India on home soil.
Meanwhile, batting mainstay and former captain Angelo Mathews also does not feature in the squad after failing to recover from the calf injury that had ruled him out of the two-match Test series against Sarfraz Ahmed's team. With a 21-run victory in the first Test at Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka have defied expectations and begun a seemingly tough tour on an exhilarating note.
In case you didn't know...
Following Sri Lanka's 0-3 defeat in the Test series and meek surrender of the ODI series to India, the selection committee, led by erstwhile skipper and batting icon Sanath Jayasuriya, decided to tender their resignation. SLC appointed Graeme Labrooy, who had played nine Tests for the island nation as a fast bowler, as chief selector in a new panel also containing Gamini Wickramasinghe, Jeryl Woutersz, Sajith Fernando.
Asanka Gurusinha was subsequently added to the new committee even though he had resigned from the previous panel.
The heart of the matter
With 301 wickets from 204 matches at a bowling average of 28.92 and economy-rate of 5.31, Malinga is the fourth leading wicket-taker for Sri Lanka in ODIs. The usually reliable fast bowler has endured a rough patch during the last couple of seasons as indifferent form and a lackadaisical attitude towards fitness had placed his position under scrutiny. During the 5-match series against India, the experienced campaigner picked up just 3 wickets at a miserable average of 81.
Malinga was also the stand-in captain for the fourth ODI which saw Sri Lanka plummet to their worst-ever ODI loss (in terms of runs) on home soil. At the end of that particular game, he admitted that his form with the ball was below-par and went on to hint towards him reconsidering his future in the Sri Lankan team.
The five-match ODI series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan is scheduled to begin on October 13 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The second and third ODIs will be played at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on the 16th and 18th. The fabled Sharjah Cricket Stadium will host the last two games of the series.
It remains to be seen if Malinga retains his place in the T20I squad for the 3-match series which follows the 50-over contests.
Sri Lanka Squad: Upul Tharanga (c), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Mendis, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedera, Thisara Perera, Seekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Dushmantha Chameera, Vishwa Fernando, Akila Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay
Considering the fast bowler's experience and legacy in white-ball cricket, Sri Lanka's decision to drop Malinga appears to be a bold move. The axing should send a message to everyone within the team that current form remains the sole criterion for selection. Meanwhile, the seasoned pacer's international future appears to be uncertain at the moment.