x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Malinga aims for the toes but is heading for the stars

The Sri Lanka seamer claims five Delhi Daredevil victims in the Mumbai Indian's eight-wicket win.

Mumbai Indians' Lasith Malinga, left, celebrates after claiming the wicket of Delhi Daredevils' Venugopal Rao.
Mumbai Indians' Lasith Malinga, left, celebrates after claiming the wicket of Delhi Daredevils' Venugopal Rao.

Do you ever wonder how Lasith Malinga keeps hitting the base of the stumps with those slinging yorkers at will? The secret is out. He places a shoe at the crease when he bowls in the nets and then aims for the toes.

Malinga is unrivalled in modern-day cricket when it comes to unleashing those toe-crushing, bat-shattering and stump-scattering bolts from a quirky action.

He gave a stirring display of his consistency in Delhi yesterday to return with the third-best bowling figures in Indian Premier League (IPL) history - five for 13 from 3.4 overs, one of them being, astonishingly, a maiden to Virender Sehwag.

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Four of his victims — David Warner, Unmukt Chand, Venugopal Rao and Morne Morkel — walked back to the dugout with a rueful smile after looking back at their shattered stumps, undone by those scorching yorkers.

Those were all compelling sights, but the picture gets even more colourful when Malinga's long, curly, bleached mane and pierced eyebrows are added to the settings. And then there is the ever-present smile.

"Terrific and I have not seen anything better," Kieron Pollard, the Mumbai Indian's hulking all-rounder from the West Indies, said in a post-match interview after the Delhi Daredevils were bowled out for 95 in 17.4 overs.

"I am always trying to bowl yorkers ... I love to bowl those in-dipping yorkers," Malinga said before letting out his secret.

"I always try to create match situations when I am bowling in the nets. So I place a shoe at the crease, imagining it to be a batsman and aim for his toes. My coach said it was a good thing to try and I have been doing that. That's why I am successful.

"I always try to do something special for the Mumbai Indians."

That is probably the reason why Mumbai retained him as one of their four players from last season, alongside Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Pollard, preferring the Sri Lankan to Zaheer Khan.

Malinga repaid their trust with a performance that was the foundation of their eight-wicket win. Tendulkar anchored the run-chase with an unbeaten 46, adding 68 for the third wicket with Rohit Sharma (27).

The Daredevils had retained just one player, Sehwag, and much of the pre-match debate in the television studios had centred on the India opener and what might be going on in his mind after his two-ball duck in the World Cup final.

First ball, from his India teammate Harbhajan, Sehwag took a step down and lofted it high into the air disdainfully. It fell short of the ropes, but the second was given identical treatment and it sailed well over the fence.

The "Nawab of Najafgarh" needs no sighters. Warner, his opening partner, was given none by Malinga. The first ball he faced from the Sri Lankan was a slinging yorker that left his stumps scattered. Two balls later, Chand's IPL debut came to a shattering end.

Sehwag, himself, gave a lot more respect to Malinga and batted out a maiden in the fourth over. All his caution, however, came to nothing as Tendulkar brought his short stint to an end with a direct hit from short fine-leg.

Sehwag was out for 19 and the Delhi Daredevils were 27 for three in the fifth over. A fourth wicket fell at 40 as Aaron Finch attempted an injudicious slog-sweep, before Naman Ojha (29) and Venugopal Rao (26) repaired some of the damage in a 42-run partnership.

Their efforts, however, were in vain as Delhi lost their last six wickets for just 13 runs with Malinga taking three of them.

* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi