Malinga steps down

COLOMBO. — Defending champions Sri Lanka said Lasith Malinga was stepping down as captain of their World Twenty20 cricket side yesterday after the team’s disastrous Asia Cup showing, with Angelo Mathews to skipper the team in India.

The announcement comes only hours after Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera sacked the panel of selectors and appointed a new line-up headed by former player Aravinda de Silva.

In a press conference in Colombo, Jayasekera confirmed that injury-plagued Malinga was also being replaced, but the president of the Sri Lankan board insisted it was the veteran fast bowler’s own decision.

“Last night we finalised the new squad and informed the ICC (International Cricket Council). We have appointed Mathews as captain and (Dinesh) Chandimal as vice-captain,” said Jayasekera.

“Malinga will be the 15th in the squad,” he told reporters ahead of the team’s departure for India later yesterday.

Malinga presided over a dismal showing by Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup where they were beaten by the hosts, little-fancied Bangladesh and only just scraped past the United Arab Emirates.

While Sri Lanka won the last World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in 2014, the team has been badly weakened by the retirements of star batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

They are eighth in the T20 rankings and few commentators have given them much hope of successfully defending their title in the sixth edition of the format’s world championship, which began yesterday in India.

Malinga, who has been struggling with a knee injury, only played one match in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh where he hinted that he was considering retirement.

The 32-year-old has a long history of injury problems and gave up Test cricket in 2010 as he was unable to withstand the rigours of five-day matches.

Thilanga Sumathipala, president of Sri Lanka Cricket, told reporters that he hoped Malinga would be able to bowl in India, but he was cool about his chances of playing a full part.

“He opted to offer to step down as captain. We have kept him in the squad so that he can play at least one match in the tournament,” said Sumathipala, who insisted Sri Lanka could cause an upset in India.

“We still believe we have a very good chance of winning the World Cup with this combination,” he said. — AFP.

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