Sri Lankan great, Lasith Malinga retired from franchise cricket after Mumbai Indians released him from their squad during the Retention Window ahead of the IPL 2021 Auctions slated to take place in February. Malinga was an Indian Premier League (IPL) great and an icon for Mumbai Indians (MI) with whom he was associated for 12 consecutive years from 2009 and 2020.
In these 12 years, he performed different roles for the franchise – from being their leading strike bowler to master strategist, from bowling coach to mentor – excelling in each one of them. He played a pivotal role in Mumbai Indians becoming the most successful franchise in the history of the IPL – the most coveted league in the world. Malinga was central to the franchise winning the trophy on 5 occasions.
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The Highest Wicket Taker in IPL history
Malinga is the highest wicket-taker in the history of the IPL with 170 wickets in 122 matches. He had taken his wickets at a brilliant average of 19.8 and strike rate of 16.6. His average places him at number 3 (min. 30 wickets) in IPL history after Kagiso Rabada and Doug Bollinger. Malinga picked 4-plus wickets in an innings on 7 occasions in the IPL – only Sunil Narine matches this feat.
Not only was Malinga a phenomenal wicket-taker but also a master restrictor choking the opposition batsman for runs. His economy rate of 7.14 is the third-lowest for a pace bowler in the tournament’s history after Dale Steyn and Jofra Archer (min. 30 wickets).
The Role For MI With the Ball
Malinga has represented Mumbai Indians in 9 seasons as a bowler – it is the only franchise he has played for in the IPL. His loyalty, commitment and dedication to Mumbai Indians gave him the status of a legend and icon within the dressing room and with the management. Malinga was synonymous with Mumbai Indians and vice-versa. He was a part of the larger Mumbai Indians’ family.
He picked 18 wickets at an average of 17.33 and an economy rate of 6.3 in his debut season in 2009 and was the leading wicket-taker for the franchise. Malinga never looked back thereafter. He was the highest wicket-taker of the season in 2011 and returned with 28 wickets in 16 matches at an average of 13.39 and an economy rate of 5.95 – it was a personal best for the Sri Lankan too both in terms of his wicket-taking prowess and restrictive abilities.
Malinga was brilliant with the ball in 2013 – the first time MI lifted the trophy. He picked 20 wickets in 17 matches at an economy rate of 7.16. Malinga was the leading wicket-taker for his franchise in 2015 with 24 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 18.5 and economy rate of 7.4 playing a pivotal role with the ball taking MI to their second title triumph.
He missed the 2016 season due to a knee injury and had his worst season in 2017 – the year MI won their third trophy. Malinga did not play the 2018 season too and had an ordinary season in 2019 till the final over in the final against Chennai Super Kings. Malinga, having been hammered for 42 in his three overs was trusted with the ball by Rohit Sharma to bowl the final over. He brought in all his experience and skill and though not at his peak, still defended 9 off the last 6 deliveries including two of the final delivery to hand his franchise a record fourth IPL trophy.
Thus, Malinga – the bowler was at his lethal best for MI between 2009 and 2015. During this period, he was the best bowler of the tournament. Post that, his career was marred with injuries and he assumed more of a mentorship role with the team letting the likes of Jasprit Bumrah to rise and grow under his guidance and expertise.
Malinga had this knack of rising to the occasion and performing in the big matches – in the matches that mattered the most. He took his game to a higher level in the tournament knockouts and finals. This requires a special ability – the ability of having big-match temperament when the pressure gets to the best in the business.
Malinga picked 14 wickets in 15 knockout games in the IPL at a phenomenal economy rate of 7.48. Given that he bowled a majority of his overs at the death (16-20) these are outstanding numbers by Malinga. Through his lethal yorkers, slower deliveries and other variations he kept the opposition batsmen in check.
He returned with 2-22 in 4 overs in the 2013 final against Chennai Super Kings getting the big wickets of Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina. Malinga got the prized wicket of MS Dhoni in the 2015 final at the Eden Gardens and conceded just 25 runs in his 4 overs.
Mentor, Guide, Coach & Malinga’s Longevity with MI
Post 2015, Malinga’s form with the ball started to decline due to wear and tear and injuries. In 2018 he was picked as the Bowling Mentor by Mumbai Indians to nurture and guide the young fast bowlers within the franchise. His most famous student in the MI dugout is now amongst the leading fast bowlers in international cricket. Jasprit Bumrah benefitted immensely from being under the tutelage of Malinga. He learnt the tricks of the trade from the Sri Lankan master including bowling the yorkers, nuances of bowling at the death, slower bouncers and low full-tosses.
Malinga was also a master strategist on the field imparting his knowledge and expertise to skipper Rohit Sharma during crunch moments in the IPL. A number of bowlers in the MI squad often looked up to Malinga for advice and guidance from his brilliant limited overs’ and franchise career.
Malinga grew with Mumbai Indians. He was part of the core team that took Mumbai Indians to the first title in 2013. He built the nucleus of a great side. From the main strike bowler till 2015, he became a mentor and guide in his last few seasons harnessing talents like Bumrah while also producing some magic of his own as he displayed in the 2019 final. Despite being an overseas player, he was loyal to Mumbai Indians for a period of 12 years giving his all to the franchise. He had made Wankhede his home and the Mumbai Indians his family.
The Sri Lankan legend has left a lasting legacy in India.