The dreaded Lasith Malinga has rarely troubled Indian batsmen

Lasith Malinga, on an average, strikes after conceding 42 runs against the Indians, whereas that number falls down to a decent 25 against the Australians and 20 against South Africa © AFP

It was yet another emphatic century from Virat Kohli that saw India home on Tuesday. As before, Kohli had no qualms in making mincemeat of the Sri Lankan attack, going on to register his fifth One-Day International (ODI) century against the island nation. The intriguing point here is that not even Lasitha Malinga, one of the world’s most feared bowlers in limited-overs cricket, could stem the flow of runs. Kohli scored 16 runs in the 40th over bowled by Malinga, and it’s not the first time Lankan spearhead to the cleaners. In fact, if Malinga’s statistics are observed, it becomes evident that the Sri Lankan speedster has performed better against other nations than against India.

Below is the table revealing Malinga’s bowling performances in ODIs till date:

 

Versus 

Matches 

Wkts 

Best 

Figures

Avg

Economy

Strike Rate

Australia

20

34

5/28

25.02

5.05

29.7

England

18

29

4/44

26.96

5.05

32.0

India

27

31

2/21

42.77

5.98

42.8

New Zealand

13

21

4/28

21.95

5.09

25.8

Pakistan

21

23

5/34

35.73

4.71

45.4

South Africa

9

21

5/54

20.85

5.76

21.7

 

The bowler whose yorkers have tormented batsmen worldwide has tasted little success against India — and to an extent Pakistan. Best figures of two for 21 hardly depict his stature. Moreover, his average when bowling to the Indian batting line-up is not great. Malinga, on an average, strikes after conceding 42 runs against the Indians, whereas that number falls down to a decent 25 against the Australians and 20 against South Africa. His economy rate, too, takes a beating. Also, his strike rate reveals that he dismisses a batsman every 43 balls against India, which is quite appalling by his own standards.
The comfort with which the Indian batsmen have been facing Malinga is quite praiseworthy. Although Gautam Gambhir was dismissed in the very first over during the fourth ODI, he wasn’t troubled much by Malinga’s swinging yorkers — fired at the base of the stumps at a tearaway speed — in the past. Sachin Tendulkar too has countered such deliveries well by making it a point to go deep into the crease before flicking them away with relative ease. Tendulkar had the added opportunity to decipher Malinga as he got ample opportunities to face the Lankan in the Mumbai Indians net sessions. But the Indian batsman who has really been a thorn in Malinga’s flesh is Kohli.
None can forget the thrashing Kohli handed Malinga at Hobart a few months ago. The former scored 44 runs off the 15 balls he faced off the latter, and like Nishad Pai Vaidya mentioned in one of his earlier articles, that destruction must rank as the most devastating in ODI history. The ferocious speedster was made to look ordinary in a matter of few minutes. The fact that one of the best bowlers was literally pulverised makes the knock all the more significant. Malinga eventually recorded the worst figures in ODIs for a bowler bowling eight or less overs.

So what makes Kohli tick against Malinga? Perhaps the fact that he waits for the ball and backs his strength on the leg side enables him to counter a bowler of such calibre with ease, or perhaps his fearless approach deserves credit. A year ago, Kohli struggled against West Indian Fidel Edwards, who had intentionally painted a target on his rib cage. But it must be said that the young batsman has improved tremendously in that department thereafter. The fact that he showed no signs of discomfort whatsoever when Malinga peppered him with a few short balls in the last ODI is proof of that. On one instance, Kohli comfortably hooked a short pitched delivery from Malinga that almost carried to a six towards deep midwicket, and he kept doing that to the other Sri Lankan bowlers as well. It’s probably that unflinching attitude that helps him thrive against the best of the bowlers.

There is no questioning Malinga’s quality or capabilities with the ball, and most teams will testify to that. But he is yet to prove a point against the Indians – something that will rankle him as a world class bowler.

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. His zeal for writing and love for the sport of cricket is what has brought him here. Karthik can also be followed on Twitter)