Defiant Malinga not ready to walk away yet

Sri Lanka v India, 4th ODI, Premadasa Stadium August 30, 2017

His hauls may be lighter of late, and his pace may have diminished, but Sri Lanka's acting captain Lasith Malinga remains defiant as ever of criticism, and has no plans to quit. In fact, he wants to continue adding skills to his bowling repertoire.

Though Malinga is hardly Sri Lanka's greatest concern, his figures since returning after a 19-month ODI layoff have not been impressive. He has taken eight wickets in 11 matches, at an average of 63.25. Where once top orders sought to see him off safely and score off the remaining bowlers, he does not inspire fear anymore. In Malinga's defence, fielders have also dropped eight chances off his bowling. At least half of those were easy catches.

"As a bowler, I've not been able to get wickets in the last couple of series," Malinga said. "A lot of people have talked about that. In fact, there has been more talk in the last couple of months than in 14 previous years that I've played, but I'm used to that. But whenever someone is coming towards the end of their careers, there is failure. People talk about them not being fit enough, or not picking him."

Although his performances have not quite reflected it, Malinga himself felt he was regaining a little of his old rhythm. There have been glimpses of the old Malinga over the past two months - most recently, he dismissed Shikhar Dhawan with a short ball that jagged sharply back in.

"I was out for 19 months, but now I feel I am getting better. Everyone knows how major my leg injuries are. Now that my leg is getting better, I'm doing all the treatment and all the rehabilitation. The fitness also is improving, and now I feel really comfortable to bowl 10 overs - I bowl consistently."

What's more, he feels there are additions to be made to his game yet. At various points in the series, Malinga has been seen chatting to Zaheer Khan, who is commentating on the matches. They've spoken about their old days at Mumbai Indians together, and how Malinga's body is still holding up, but also about what Malinga could do to regain his wicket-taking ability.

"Zak [Zaheer] is more of a seam and swing bowler, and I want to learn more of that kind of thing over the next few years," Malinga said. "That's what I talked with him. Every time I have an opportunity, we speak about my bowling action, and how I have to improve. Because guys like him are in the commentary box, they look at every single one of my body movements and my bowling action, and how I swing the ball, and they have a good idea of how I'm going now."

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