Lasith Malinga, 35 and not quite at his quickest any more, is back in the Sri Lanka 50-over squad for the Asia Cup 2018, and the team expect great things from him as usual.
Malinga played the last of his 204 one-day internationals in September 2017. Injuries, in the main, have kept him out of international cricket for long stretches both before and after that appearance, but he has been active in the Sri Lankan domestic circuit, and is now back in the national ODI side.
A total of 301 ODI wickets at an average of 28.92 and an economy rate of 5.31 marks Malinga out as one of the best in the game when at his peak.
Now, though, with Malinga returning to the squad around the time most teams are trying to get their ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 plans in place, it would seem that the veteran might be in the fray for one last splash at the marquee event – his fourth, if he makes it – and get a chance to add to his 43 wickets in 22 games, at a stunning average of 21.11.
“I believe that Malinga fits into our equation for this tournament,” said Chandika Hathurusingha, the Sri Lanka coach, before the team open their campaign against Bangladesh on Saturday.
“He is one of the best death bowlers in the world. In the last few matches, he has performed well and his fitness is up to the mark.”
The team's plans have been hampered somewhat, with Dinesh Chandimal, the senior batsman, and Danushka Gunathilaka, the batting all-rounder, dropping out with injuries. Niroshan Dickwella and Shehan Jayasuriya have come in as their replacements.
Sri Lanka's campaign at the Asia Cup starts on the opening day itself, against Bangladesh, and then there are the Afghans waiting in Group B too.
“We don't take any team lightly and we have focused on aspects such as the dew and wet wickets which are the swaying challenges I see,” said Hathurusingha about dealing with the conditions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where the matches will be played.