‘Baby Malinga’ has been crucial to Chennai Super Kings’ fortunes in this IPL.
Make no mistake, had young Matheesha Pathirana — with his sling-arm action bearing stark resemblance to that of the former fiery Sri Lanka pacer Lasith Malinga — not struck consistently in the middle and death overs, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co.’s journey to their 10th IPL final may not have been very smooth.
In just his second IPL season, the 20-year-old quick has risen to the occasion most of the time when captain Dhoni needed him to. Set to play his first IPL final in Ahmedabad on Sunday, Pathirana, with 17 wickets from 11 appearances this edition, at an impressive strike rate (7.72), has performed the Impact Player’s role to the best of his abilities.
The youngster’s international experience so far is just about a lone T20I — Sri Lanka’s Asia Cup game last year against Afghanistan in Dubai. Besides that, he has featured in only two first-class and three List A games till date. Yet, Pathirana has been able to make an impact in a competitive league like the IPL, which reflects his capability.
Now, what’s next for Pathirana? Should he avoid red-ball cricket and play the 50-over format as less as possible, which Dhoni had suggested earlier?
He definitely needs to be careful and so should Sri Lanka Cricket, considering his unique action which is quite strenuous, feels Sri Lanka’s former pace spearhead Chaminda Vaas, who had first spotted Pathirana during an U-19 trial in Colombo back in 2018.
“I agree partly to what Dhoni said about Matheesha. Playing red-ball cricket is a different art, especially with his action. Although he’s very young with his body still adaptable, I don’t think he’s ready to bowl 15-20 overs at a stretch with such a strenuous action,” Vaas, with 355 Test and 400 ODI wickets and also a former Sri Lanka bowling coach, told The Telegraph.
However, Sri Lanka should think of utilising him on an “on-and-off” basis in overseas Tests, Vaas feels. “Though Dhoni’s taking good care of him, he still needs to learn a lot and when the right time comes, he should play on and off during an overseas tour,” the former left-arm quick pointed out.
With not too many days left for the ODI World Cup, shouldn’t Pathirana be considered for selection given his experience in Indian conditions? “He can play the ICC tournaments, but all depends on how well Sri Lanka take care of him,” Vaas stated.
“His counter-rotation (reaction of his body position after competing the action) is more than other quicks, including Malinga, so that puts more pressure on his hamstring and glutes. He has proved he’s a special player, so Sri Lanka need to manage his workload carefully,” Vaas emphasised.