Malinga is considered to be one of the fastest and most dangerous bowlers to ever play Test cricket
Sri Lanka bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake has revealed that he believes pace bowler Lasith Malinga may return to the Test arena if he is able to become fully fit again.
Malinga, who is considered to be Sri Lanka’s biggest fast bowling threat by far, retired from Test cricket in 2011 after failing to fully recover from a long-standing knee injury, and currently is focusing solely on his limited overs career.
However, Ramanayake noted that if Malinga were to make his Test return, he would have to be closely watched by all members of the Sri Lanka cricket staff.
Ramanayake, a fast bowler in his own right, represented Sri Lanka in 18 Tests and 62 ODIs before ending his career and becoming a scout for future talents, which is how he discovered Malinga in the Galle district.
Speaking exclusively to ESPNcricinfo, Ramanayake said: “Because of his (Malinga’s) knee problem, he realised that he could be out in all forms of the game (so he had to quit one). But I have the feeling he might come back to Test cricket if he feels he is fit and strong, he is working hard on his fitness. I will be happy to play him for one Test in every series, because I am confident he can win that game for his team.”
Ramanayake also stated that he felt as if Malinga had the hunger to make his return in the longer format of the game.
“He has the hunger, I know he loves Test cricket. Recently I asked him to join us at the dressing room; he loves to pass on advice to the fast bowlers,” Ramanayake added.
Sri Lanka have recently been hit with a number of injuries in their fast bowling department, with Chanaka Welegedera having torn a shoulder muscle and Suranga Lakmal, who sustained a serious ankle injury, which could see him out of action for the next six months and young bowling prospect Shaminda Eranga was found to have a nerve problem in his back.
When asked about why the Sri Lanka pace bowling department had so many injured players, Ramanayake stated that he believed it was due to a lack of long bowling spells in the domestic cricket league.
“Bowling fitness is very important. We found that one of the reasons why bowlers keep breaking down is that they don’t bowl enough at practice or at the domestic level, especially the youngsters, you get these injuries if your body has not adapted to bowling long enough, on a flat pitch, you have to bowl 30-odd overs in an innings and your body is not used to it. We are now making sure they bowl more in domestic cricket, but they also have to be managed carefully. You may spend a lot of time at the gym, but still injuries occur,” Ramanayake said.
One example of a healthy fast bowler Ramanayake gave reporters was Nuwan Kulasekara, about whom he said: “Some (bowlers) have sound technique. Kula (Kulasekara) for instance is smooth and wristy, and doesn’t use much of his body when he bowls. He doesn’t have to exert much effort.”
Kulasekara, is known to be one of Sri Lanka’s most consistent fast bowlers, but he has only played in 13 Tests over the past seven years, and Ramanayake believes that Sri Lanka lost the chance to make Kulasekara their spearhead bowler in Test cricket.
“He always had an immaculate line and length. He used to bowl only inswingers, but now he gets it to move away and gives opportunities to the slip fielders, he’s a rhythmic bowler and a smart cricketer. He has proven everyone wrong (regarding the) need for raw pace to play Test cricket. His fitness was never an issue. I have always rated him very highly but not everyone did,”Ramanayake said.
Nuwan Pradeep, one of Sri Lanka’s newest and fastest bowlers in the country, has also had a recent string of injuries, which Ramanayake attributes to a lack of bowling fitness.
“We discovered him when he was playing softball cricket. He hadn’t bowled much with a cricket ball. He always had the natural talent, but he didn’t bowl enough when he was younger. We need to be patient with someone like him. He is actually one of the fittest guys in the team, but he needs bowling fitness. This is why domestic cricket is very important for player development,” Ramanayake said.
A couple of months ago, Sri Lanka Cricket, which is the nations official cricket board, suggested to the clubs in the domestic leagues to prepare more seaming pitches, but Ramanayake believes this is not the way to go because bowlers bowling on a more seaming pitch may not necessarily increase their bowling fitness.
“If you give them seaming tracks, they may not get to bowl much, if the batsmen are bowled out quickly,” he said. “I would say 50-50 pitches would be ideal. Most the tracks in international cricket are flat and they need to learn how to bowl on those. They will also have to learn to bowl on turning pitches, using reverse swing and the cutter,” Ramanayake added.