He played his last IPL game in 2019, but Lasith Malinga still holds the record for taking the most wickets in the tournament. In an IPL career that began in 2009, he took 170 wickets from 122 matches for Mumbai Indians.
The former Lankan pacer is now back at the IPL in a new role. He has started his job as the fast-bowling coach of Rajasthan Royals.
“It is certainly a new thing for me to get into coaching and pass on my experience to the younger players,” said Malinga. “I have played this role before with Mumbai, and now I’m delighted to be working with Rajasthan Royals. It is a new place for me, but I’m enjoying my role so far working with such a talented group of bowlers.”
He revealed it was his former Lankan teammate Kumar Sangakkara, now head coach at Royals, that first spoke to him about the move to Jaipur. “It was actually last year that Kumar (Sangakkara) asked me if I was interested,” Malinga said. “But with COVID and all the bubble restrictions, I didn’t want to stay away from my family. But this year, having also worked with the Sri Lankan team, I felt I could use my experience and give back to the game that I love by working with this group of players.”
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Malinga, who led Sri Lanka to triumph in the 2014 World T20, is impressed by the pace attack at the Royals. “I think we have a fantastic pace attack,” he said. “You’ve got experienced overseas players like (Trent) Boult and (Nathan) Coulter-Nile, with whom I’ve worked before. Then we’ve got genuine Indian fast bowlers in Prasidh (Krishna) and (Navdeep) Saini, who have proven themselves at the highest level, and some new faces in Anunay Singh, Kuldeep Sen and Kuldip Yadav. In T20 cricket, I think little margins really matter, and I’m here to guide them to deliver their best in all situations.”
He said it was important to bowl according to your strengths rather than analysing the opposition’s weaknesses. “I think what works best is when you work on your strengths and bowl according to them,” he said. “In T20, you only have to bowl 24 balls, which works in our favour, but it’s also important to trust your instincts as to which variations can work in which situations. On the field, you only have a right-hander and a left-hander to prepare against. So when a bowler trains, it’s important to train according to that – to think there are just two batters – it doesn’t matter what the name of the batsman is.”
He said all the teams in the IPL were equally strong. “The most crucial thing is how we understand the game and the situations within a game,” he said. “So, what I want to get out of our bowlers is to improve their thinking pattern and help them understand the situations better.”