Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has decided to call back their stars Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis with immediate effect to Sri Lanka from Australia where they are currently playing in the cash-rich Big Bash T20 domestic league sources, SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said.
Ranatunga said that they communicated their decision to the relevant players who will now return to the island tomorrow.
“We felt it is important for all national squad players to undergo a strict training regime in the next few weeks as Sri Lanka has a heavy schedule ahead. The decision to call back Lasith and Ajantha were taken in consultation with our coaches and national selectors” Ranatunga said.
Chief national selector Sanath Jayasuriya confirmed that he asked the SLC to recall Malinga and Mendis with immediate effect as he felt training was imperative for both players.
“We have a crucial period of cricket ahead of us including the Asia Cup and ICC World T20 scheduled within the next two months. The series against Bangladesh is also coming up. We have to get into some serious team building if we are to stay competitive. I asked Lasith and Ajantha to return immediately and start working with our coaches and trainers” Jayasuriya said.
Asked if the selectors have changed their mind over Malinga and have decided to include him in the series against Bangladesh, Jayasuriya confirmed that Malinga would be considered if he falls in line with their guidelines.
“You have to admit that Malinga has a serious fitness issue. That is why we decided to drop him after the ODI Series against Pakistan. But if he shows serious intentions and is willing work hard and improve himself, if he is ready to show commitment towards national duty, then we feel it is unfair to leave him out. He is obviously a world class bowler. So, we want him to prove himself by coming back from the Big Bash and working with our coaches and trainers and get back to his full fitness in the next few days” explained Jayasuriya.
The legendary former Sri Lanka skipper also pointed out that they were not impressed by the “Big Bash” which kept Malinga in cold storage for extended periods which made them feel the slinger would be better off to be in constant training with the local staff.
“Malinga’s team played their last match on January 11 and their next match is not scheduled till January 21. It is an extended gap” Jayasuriya said. Malinga plays for the “Melbourne Stars” and has captured only five wickets in five matches.
Jayasuriya also revealed that Malinga telephoned him after the SLC directive to return to Sri Lanka and admitted that he has a fitness issue which he is keen to address. “He knows that we are keen to help him out and have the patience to manage him and assist him cope with his injury in order to prolong his international career. It is a very encouraging sign and we hope everything will turn out well for the country” said Jayasuriya.
The 30-year old star with an uncanny action retired from Test cricket citing a 'degenerative condition' in his right knee in April 2011. “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,” Malinga said in his statement when he retired from Tests.
Even after that decision, Malinga opted to play in several lucrative domestic T20 leagues around the world including the Indian Premier League, which made him one of the highest earners in world cricket.
Meanwhile, Melbourne Stars have reportedly written to SLC requesting them to allow Malinga to stay in Australia and follow a training schedule from his Sri Lanka trainers. If it was not possible, they have asked the SLC to release him for just two days on February 4 and 5 for the semi finals. (Channaka de Silva)