MIRPUR, Bangladesh, (Reuters) – Lasith Malinga found himself thrust into the Sri Lankan captaincy midway through the World Twenty20 and emerged with the trophy in his arms yesterday after three heady weeks in Bangladesh.
Having twice gone down in the final, Sri Lanka entered the tournament under the leadership of 24-year-old Dinesh Chandimal who was slapped with a one-match suspension after the team’s second slow over-rate offence in 12 months.
While Malinga stepped in as stand-in skipper, Chandimal’s replacement Lahiru Thirimanne grabbed his chance with both hands, prompting the selectors to continue with the arrangement even after the regular Twenty20 skipper’s suspension ended.
Malinga’s leadership inexperience was more than offset by the presence of three former skippers — Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan — and the current test and 50-overs captain Angelo Mathews who were always willing to hekp him out.
It proved a fairytale debut for the paceman with blond-tinted hair and a sling-shot bowling action as Sri Lanka overcame India, unbeaten in the tournament until Sunday’s final, to be third time lucky in 20-over cricket’s biggest tournament.
“Before the tournament, I was not the captain,” Malinga told reporters after the team’s emotional victory.
“After that, Chandimal accidentally had to be dropped. He could not play the match because of (slow) overrate (suspension). After that the selectors decided to give me the captaincy.
“I’ve played in this team for 10 years and I know every single player – their ability, what they can do. I think I really enjoyed my captaincy in the last three games. I used that experience in my captaincy.” Malinga was so jittery on his captaincy debut that he fumbled recalling the changes to the playing XI at the toss for the group match against New Zealand.
Sangakkara, man-of-the-match in the final for his unbeaten 52, said he was impressed by Malinga’s leadership.
“Our job is to support anyone who captains, does not matter who is that captain,” said the former skipper who also had a word of consolation for Chandimal.
“It’s unfortunate that Chandi missed out on the last few games and had to sit out. Lasith did a fantastic job, I think he was extremely impressive.
“Chandi has an amazing future both as a leader and a player. He’s still very young, 24-25, he has another 12-13-14 years to play for Sri Lanka and he’d be one of our better players.”