Lasith Malinga Turns 30: Has He Made Most of His Career?

Antoinette MullerFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17:  Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka charges in to bowl during the ICC Champions Trophy Group A fixture between Sri Lanka and Australia at The Kia Oval on June 17, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Lasith Malinga turned 30 on August 28 2013. It's hard to believe that somebody who has had, what feels like a very long career is still so young.

Malinga made his Test debut in July 2004, taking six wickets on debut and picking up big scalps like Darren Lehmann—two timesAdam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Shane Warne and Michael Kasprowicz). As his career went on, he became Sri Lanka's fastest bowler and a really vital part of the team.

In 2011, he retired from Test cricket, saying he would like to prolong his ODI and T20 career. He revealed that the main reason was because of a degenerative knee disorder. He had struggled with injury for a long time, and although he attempted to make a comeback to Tests, he could not. 

Although I am sufficiently fit to play both ODI and T20 cricket, I have a long-standing degenerative condition in my right knee that needs to be carefully managed. The injury was a career-threatening injury and my orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that given his experience with other professional athletes in Australia I was very fortunate to play again. I have since been advised by the national team physiotherapist and my orthopaedic consultant that my condition will deteriorate when fielding or bowling for prolonged periods.

Malinga came under fire for that decision since it appeared that he was opting for T20 league cricket instead of sticking with playing cricket for his country. As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the pace ace defended his decision, though, saying:

The Test retirement was never about money. I can't be a commentator, coach or umpire. But I can bowl well and get wickets. It's unfair to say money was the root cause of my decision.

Malinga still plays one-day and T20 cricket for Sri Lanka and still musters impressive spells in those formats. But has Malinga made the most of his skills?

His slinging action became his trademark and the subject of many debates. Malinga's action was deemed legal in 2007 and to this day he carries the nickname "Slinga Maali."

Lasith Malinga's Test record is absolutely fantastic, having taken over 100 wickets in the 30 Tests he played. Let's take a more in-depth look at how he fared throughout that period and compare his record to Chaminda Vaas.

Compared to Sri Lanka's second-highest wicket-taker and the Sri Lankan seamer with the most wickets, Chaminda Vaas, it's easy to say that Malinga would have gone on to have an equally successful career, if he continued to take wickets at such a rapid rate. Malinga never took a 10-wicket haul though, while Vaas took two. Malinga also had a much higher average, most likely because his action is of such nature that when he gets his line wrong, batsmen could easily hit him around the park. 

Malinga played most of his Tests in Sri Lanka and picked up his most wickets there, too. In the overseas countries he played, he was most successful in Australia and New Zealand, although at a slightly high average in Australia.

That Malinga's Test career was curtailed is a great shame. There is some room for the argument that perhaps he should have quit T20 and ODI cricket instead. However, the nature of Test cricket is far too harsh on his medical condition. 

Malinga has certainly made the most of his career. He's ensured that he continues to play cricket, and good cricket at that, for as long as he possibly canjust in a shorter format. Let's have a look at his records in the shorter format of the game. That's where his craft is currently being defined, and this is where he has excelled. When compared to Chaminda Vaas in one-day cricket, the two are evenly matched on average, but Vaas trumps Malinga on economy rate while Malinga has a superior strike rate.

Malinga might not be the most naturally talented, instead he has a freakish action which has helped him live up to his earning potential even if he has a poor record against some teams, particularly against India, against whom he averages 41.84.

 

VersusOMRW4wBestAvgS/RE/R
Australia223.31711004535/2824.4429.804.92
Bangladesh73.242691403/2219.2131.433.67
Bermuda5210303/103.3310.002.00
England164.4108403114/4427.1031.875.10
India260.3915483703/6441.8442.245.94
Kenya7.4038616/386.337.674.96
Netherlands814800   6.00
New Zealand123.3106122824/2821.8626.464.96
Pakistan174.1128222315/3435.7445.434.72
Scotland9.4230515/306.0011.603.10
South Africa10235852735/5421.6722.675.74
United Arab Emirates10239101/3939.0060.003.90
West Indies45.422171203/3018.0822.834.75
Zimbabwe17.3076303/2525.3335.004.34
          

Table source: Howstat

With proper management and restricting the amount of cricket he plays, Malinga could very well play for another three to five years. He will, however, continue to be criticised for his decision to play in various T20 leagues around the world. 

Happy Birthday, Slinga. Here's to many more yorkers.