Lasith Malinga holds the record for most wickets in IPL history © IANS
Lasith Malinga holds the record for most wickets in IPL history © IANS

Lasith Malinga has had a tough time in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015 so far. The Sri Lankan slinger hasn’t looked his dominant self, as those yorkers aren’t all that frequent and the pace has dropped. Nishad Pai Vaidya delves into the Malinga conundrum for the Mumbai Indians (MI).

Lasith Malinga has arguably been MI’s greatest talisman since their early years. Despite missing out on the first season, the Sri Lankan slinger is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament’s history. With 123 wickets in 87 matches at an average of 18.24 and an economy rate of 6.64, Malinga has consistently dominated the Indian Premier League (IPL). However, IPL 2015 has been a struggle for MI’s trump-card and it comes at the back of a very tough time.

Late last year Malinga had suffered an injury, which kept him out of the game for a long time. He returned to action only during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and had a mixed outing. He was taken apart in the first game by New Zealand, but bounced back against Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The pattern followed through the World Cup. One can safely say that it wasn’t his most convincing outing. READ: Jayawardene praises Malinga for ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 performance

Unfortunately for MI, that struggle spilled into the IPL 2015. Malinga has conceded runs at a rate exceeding eight an over, which is significantly higher than his career economy rate. In the last two matches he was carted around like a “mortal”. In both matches he went for over 40 from his four overs. It was not as much about the fact that he was taken apart, but the manner in which the batsmen attacked him. They are no longer daunted by the task of facing the slinger at a crucial juncture of the game.

Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) batsmen even made him look pedestrian at times. Steven Smith took him for 15 in an over at the death to turn it RR’s way. CSK’s opening onslaught left Malinga in tatters; his first two overs went for 33. On both occasions the batsmen were able to work the fuller deliveries away.

One of the biggest factors that has been plaguing Malinga of late is the fact he isn’t getting the yorker as consistently as he used to. When he got it right, he castled Faf du Plessis with a peach. Otherwise, the length was full and in the slot. IPL 2015: Schedule with venue details

The other big factor in Malinga’s struggle has been the lack of pace. As one of the commentators pointed out, Malinga has lost quite a few clips since his recovery. It is never easy to come back after an injury and bowl at full tilt. Malinga isn’t hitting the 140-plus mark, and the lack of pace gives the batsmen more time to play. Also, they know what to expect and with those deliveries coming in slower, they are able to play him a lot better.  IPL 2015: Points Table and Team Standings

Despite three tough outings one after the other, MI look set to persist with him. Back in 2014 they had the chance to retain an in-form Mitchell Johnson ahead of Malinga, but chose to back their old warrior. They have immense faith in his abilities and will back him to come good. At the same time, they should consider Mitchell McClenaghan and Marchant de Lange, two good bowlers who are warming the bench.   IPL 2015: Complete Coverage

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)