Does Lasith Malinga's Retirement Expose Changing Attitudes to Test Cricket?
On Friday, Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga announced his retirement from Test cricket effective immediately. This came on the back of some mild controversy where Malinga revealed he would not participate in the five-day game part of the upcoming tour of England due to injury, yet would continue playing in the lucrative IPL.
Known as "The Slinger" for his low, rangy bowling action, Malinga has been forced to retire due to a degenerative knee condition which hampers his fitness in the longest form of the game. He will continue to participate in international ODIs and T20 matches, an arena where he has proved most deadly in recent times, including a hat trick in the World Cup just gone.
The question I posit though is not a new issue—isn't Test cricket supposed to be the pinnacle of a player's career? Should one not give up the shorter formats first in favour of helping his nation achieve success on the larger stages? Australian captain Ricky Ponting certainly thinks so, given his recent retirement from T20s to prolong his Test career.
The problem is not unique to the Sri Lankan quickie, mind. England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff initially gave up Test cricket to enable participation in the shorter formats before injury forced him into leaving cricket as a whole. Rumours abound that teammate Kevin Pietersen has been thinking of doing just that, especially given his recent woeful form in the five-day game.
So why would a player chose to do this? The answer lies in the explosion of Twenty20 cricket. As Malinga has shown, his withdrawal from Tests allows him more playing time in the IPL which in turn means a lot more money for his services. It's not just India where a player can make big money playing either, with big wages being paid by English, Australian and New Zealand leagues as well.
As I've mentioned previously, Test cricket is the most prestigious form of the game and should be protected as such. Many players demonstrate their desperation to play at this level—look at Eoin Morgan and Imran Tahir, two players who forsook their home nations to play at the very top for England and South Africa respectively. Cricketers, like all international sportsmen, should respect the wishes of their countrymen, the fans. After all, Central Contracts aren't setting them up for a life of poverty.
Yes, I understand there are literally thousands upon thousands more on offer, but that's not to say having an international career kills those opportunities. Many players make a good sum with the IPL when the schedule allows it, and look at Shane Warne, he gave his best years to Australia and is still going strong in the IPL after retirement.
Back to the question I asked at the top, though; is Malinga's retirement justified? Yes. His time in Test cricket was always numbered down to the aforementioned action which takes a considerable strain on his body. He needs protecting, much like Australian Shaun Tait did, another bowler whose action took its toll.
However, he should be in rehab being constantly monitored by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board. They'll need him fit in England, and chasing riches in India should come second.
That being said, I wish "The Slinger" all the best in his future career. At 27, it's a shame to lose such a talent in the longer format, and the sport will be weaker for the loss of his skill and charisma.
I know that cricket isn't big on this website, but I'd love to hear from you guys. What are your thoughts on the topic? Is allowing the IPL to have its own window in the ICC calender a solution? Are there any other cricket topics you'd like me to cover? Please let me know below!
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