Colombo: Sri Lanka will start looking to replace key wicket-taker Lasith Malinga when the shaggy-haired fast bowler calls it quits after the first One-day International against Bangladesh on Friday.
Both teams go into the three-game series nursing a World Cup hangover, with Sri Lanka facing an especially tough rebuilding task with the loss of the instantly recognisable Malinga.
The blond-highlighted bowler with the distinctive sling action proved his enduring worth when he tormented England during the World Cup, taking four for 43 as Sri Lanka stunned the eventual champions in the group stage.
Malinga, 35, is Sri Lanka’s third-highest ODI wicket-taker with 335 wickets from 225 matches, behind only Chaminda Vaas (399) and Muttiah Muralitharan (523). Malinga needs three wickets to overhaul Anil Kumble’s 337 for ninth place on the international list.
Posting a video message to his fans on his wife’s Facebook page, Malinga said he felt no ill will towards officials and players who may have tried to push him out of the team.
The 35-year-old said he was sidelined by selectors two years ago but was able to prove his value to the national team at the recent World Cup.
“Friday will be the last day you will see me playing a ODI match,” Malinga said. “If you can, please come for the match.”
During practice on Tuesday ahead of the first ODI against Bangladesh, Malinga said he hoped to play T20 cricket and had his sights on the 2020 World Cup in Australia.
“I hope to be able to take Sri Lanka to the next T20 World Cup,” he said.
However, Sri Lanka’s problems don’t end there, as coach Chandika Hathurusingha and his assistants will be shown the door after the Bangladesh series because of their sixth-place finish in England.
Bangladesh, who finished eighth of the 10 teams, are also entering a new era after they sacked coach Steve Rhodes following the World Cup.
The visitors are also without key players, including skipper Mashrafe Mortaza and inspirational vice-captain Shakib Al Hasan.
Mashrafe has a hamstring injury while Shakib, who scored 606 runs and claimed 11 wickets in the World Cup, is being rested.
Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal, interim captain for the series, said Bangladesh’s younger players will get a chance to impress.
“I thought we had a pretty decent World Cup. There were a few games that we should have won. We, the cricketers also felt that we could have done more,” said Tamim.
“I think that whoever plays the first one-day match they need to cash in on the opportunity,” he added.
Bangladesh are the first foreign sports team to visit Sri Lanka since the Easter Sunday suicide attacks this year, which killed more than 250 people.
The team were given security usually reserved for visiting state dignitaries, with extra forces at their hotel and armed guards for their bus.
“I think the security has been fantastic. All the facilities they have given to us have been top notch,” said Tamim.