Lasith Malinga and the IPL: A retrospective (Part 1)

Associated Press

“The end of an era”. An oft repeated and sometimes overused phrase. But there are certain occasions when the phrase rings undeniably true, and the night of the 12th of May 2019 was one of them, even though we didn’t know it yet and would only know it nearly 2 years later. 

Free hit contributor – Rahul Jeyanthan

In front of an audience of 55,000 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad, Lasith Malinga stood at the top of his mark for one last time at the IPL.  Between him and a Mumbai Indians victory was Shardul Thakur, needing two runs off one ball. In any normal circumstance you would back the batsman to at least take the game to a super over and this was compounded by the fact that this was not a Malinga in his heyday who could beat any batsman with sheer pace and indeed he had gone for 49 runs off his previous 3.5 overs. However, Malinga is no ordinary bowler, especially at the death of an innings and a dipping slower ball yorker would trap the helpless batsman LBW and seal Mumbai Indians’ fourth IPL title. As Keiron Pollard, another Mumbai Indians stalwart, took Malinga on his shoulders I could not help but think that here was the perfect goodbye. Of course, I could not have known at the time but as we now know, this turned out to be the very last time Malinga put on the blue jersey of Mumbai Indians and it was truly the end of an era.

Enough with the sentiment. On the eve of the IPL auction and for the first time in 12 years when Lasith Malinga is not on the Mumbai Indians playing roster, let’s take a look at the cold, hard facts and see what made Lasith Malinga tick. He departs the IPL as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament’s history, with 170 wickets in 122 matches. I decided to dive a little deeper into Malinga’s IPL statistics and I hope to make this a multi-part series where hopefully I can explore several facets of Malinga in the IPL.

First, let’s take a look at his overall numbers

Matches- 122

Overs- 471.1

Runs Conceded- 3366

Wickets- 170

Dot Balls- 1143

Average- 19.80

Economy- 7.14

Dot Ball Percentage- 40.43%

Outstanding figures for any bowler, especially given that Malinga tended to bowl in both the Powerplay and the death overs, two of the worst times to be a bowler. 

Malinga over the years

Lasith Malinga played in 9 seasons of the Indian Premier League, debuting in 2009 for the Mumbai Indians and playing all but two seasons until 2019. He missed the 2016 and 2018 seasons due to injury. Here is a look at how he performed across each season that he was a part of.

Note: Here on I will be using the format (Overs-Dot Balls-Runs Conceded-Wickets) to show all relevant statistics

2009           49.3-140-312-18    Average- 17.33      Economy- 6.30        Dot Ball Percentage- 47.14%

2010              49-116-344-15    Average- 22.93      Economy- 7.02         Dot Ball Percentage- 39.46%

2011              63-183-375-28    Average- 13.39      Economy- 5.98         Dot Ball Percentage- 48.41%

2012           55.3-145-350-22    Average- 15.91      Economy- 6.31         Dot Ball Percentage- 43.54%

2013           65.2-146-468-20    Average- 23.40      Economy- 7.16         Dot Ball Percentage- 37.24%

2014           39.1-99-253-16      Average- 15.81       Economy- 6.46        Dot Ball Percentage- 42.13%

2015              60-140-444-24    Average- 18.50       Economy- 7.40        Dot Ball Percentage- 38.89%

2017           44.5-90-382-11      Average- 34.73       Economy- 8.52        Dot Ball Percentage- 33.46%

2019           44.5-84-438-16      Average- 27.38       Economy- 9.77        Dot Ball Percentage- 31.23%

Here we can see, that despite an average final two seasons, Malinga was effective throughout every season he took part in the IPL. Indeed, if we consider his first 7 seasons only, Malinga took 143 wickets at an average of 17.80 and an Economy of 6.67, truly astounding figures. He was virtually unplayable in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, picking up 50 wickets at an average of 14.50 and economy of 6.12. The other interesting statistic to see is how his dot ball percentage slowly changed as Malinga lost his pace and had to rely more on his variations, still remaining an extremely effective bowler.

Where did he take his wickets?

For this I have divided the average T20 game into 3 segments, namely the powerplay (1-6), the middle overs (7-15) and the death (16-20) and analyzed how well Malinga did in each period of the game.

Powerplay          185-582-1161-37       Average- 31.38       Economy- 6.28       Dot Ball Percentage- 52.43%

Middle Overs     100-212-741-25         Average- 29.64       Economy- 7.41       Dot Ball Percentage- 35.33%

Death               186.1-349-1464-108     Average- 13.56       Economy- 7.86      Dot Ball Percentage- 31.24%

Even though Malinga was a decent enough Powerplay and Middle overs bowler, and arguably somewhat underrated in the powerplay due to his ability to keep the runs down even with the fielding restrictions, it is no big surprise that it is at the death that Malinga really shines, delivering a cocktail of Yorkers, slower balls and bouncers. He took a quite frankly amazing, 108 wickets at the death (63.53% of his total) while keeping the runs per over below 8, during a time where most bowlers concede around 10 runs per over.

Now, let me combine the previous two statistics and see how Lasith Malinga performed in each period of the game in each season.

                Total                               Powerplay              Middle               Death
Wins   288.4-697-2022-124    107-331-653-29        61-31-444-18    120.4-235-928-77
Losses  182-3-446-1344-46    78-251-508-8             39-81-300-7    65.3-114-536-31
Powerplay ( avg- 22.52 and ER- 6.10 in wins  vs  avg- 63.50 and ER- 6.51 in losses)
Middle ( avg- 24.50 and ER- 7.23 in wins   vs   avg- 42.86 and ER- 7.69 in losses)
Death ( avg- 12.05 and ER- 7.69 in wins   vs    avg- 17.29 and ER- 8.18 in losses)

Nothing much to note here other than a few interesting observations. Malinga was virtually a guaranteed wicket-taker at the death all throughout his IPL career, especially in the first 6 seasons, where he had an economy of less than 8 at the death in every single season. However, what differentiates his most successful season in 2011 was his performance in the middle overs, picking up 7 wickets. His best performance in the death actually came in his debut season where he picked up 13 wickets while giving away less than 6 runs per over.

Malinga the match-winner

It is perhaps no co-incidence that Mumbai Indians reached the playoff stages in every season that Malinga was a part of bar one (2009) as well as the fact that in 2016 and 2018, when Malinga missed the tournament, Mumbai Indians failed to progress past the league stage in either tournament. All in all, of the 122 matches Malinga played in the IPL, Mumbai Indians won 75 matches while losing 47. Malinga took 124 wickets in those 75 victories with an average of 16.31 and an economy of 7.00 while in the losses he struggled, picking up just 46 wickets in 47 matches, with an average of 29.22 and an economy of 7.36. This shows his undoubted influence on Mumbai Indians’ success as well as why they struggled in the two seasons he wasn’t a part of. If we take a deeper look into the numbers we can see how surprisingly (or not), influential Malinga was in the powerplay as well as the middle overs in matches Mumbai won.

Season             Total                     Powerplay             Middle                Death        
 2009       49.3-140-312-18         23-82-141-3         6-15-52-2        20.3-43-119-13
 2010       49-116-344-15            20-61-133-6        11-18-80-1        18-37-131-8
 2011      63-183-375-28             24-89-129-6        16-43-101-7       23-51-145-15
 2012     55.3-145-350-22           22-71-113-1         9-28-52-4          24.3-46-185-17
 2013     65.2-146-468-20           20-57-137-5        19-40-133-4       26.2-49-198-11
 2014     39.1-99-253-16             14-46-69-3           8-18-53-0         17.1-35-131-13
 2015      60-140-444-24             24-75-144-6         11-21-89-3        25-44-211-15
 2017    44.5-90-382-11             19-53-142-5          14-23-113-2      11.5-14-127-4
 2019    44.5-84-438-16             19-48-153-2           6-6-68-2           19.5-30-217-12

While Malinga obviously performed better in wins in all 3 periods of the game, the pronounced difference was seen in his powerplay performances, picking up 29 wickets in wins, while only picking up 8 in losses as well as in the middle over performances. In the death Malinga remained as effective as ever no matter the result. So, if Lasith Malinga picked up an early wicket Mumbai Indians were more likely than ever to pull off a victory. While this fact itself was unsurprising the vast difference in powerplay performances depending on the result was a bit unexpected.

Malinga also won 6 man of the match awards in the IPL, which might seem a bit on the low side but is a testament to his consistency. Here is a brief rundown of all his award-winning performances

  • 4-10-22-4 vs Kings XI Punjab at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai on March 30th 2010

A vintage Malinga death bowling performance. Batting first, Kings XI Punjab had reached 118-4 after 15 overs and with a well-set Shaun Marsh at the crease would have surely been aiming for a total of 170 at least. Having already taken the wicket of Manvinder Bisla in the powerplay, Malinga returned to the attack for the 16th over and proceeded to take out both batsmen at the crease, Irfan Pathan and Marsh (with an unplayable yorker). He would also take the wicket of Karan Goel in the next over. KXIP ended up with 163 runs on the board, which was chased down with 3 balls to spare

  • 3.4-16-13-5 vs Delhi Daredevils at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi on April 10th 2011

Just 8 days after Sri Lanka’s heartbreaking World Cup final loss, Malinga delivered his best ever performance on the IPL stage. In his very first over he removed both David Warner and Unmukt Chand, with Warner getting another signature swinging yorker, while Chand was also clean bowled. Malinga would return to the wickets once again in the 16th over, first cleaning up Venugopal Rao with a fast full toss, then Morne Morkel with another trademark yorker. In the 18th over he took the final wicket of the innings and his fifth of the match, foxing Ashok Dinda with a slower ball. Delhi folded for 95, which Mumbai chased without any hiccups. This would remain Malinga’s only IPL 5-wicket haul

  • 4-13-9-3 vs Deccan Chargers at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Hyderabad on 24th April 2011

Another performance from the 2011 season, and Malinga’s most economical IPL performance. Defending a total of 173, Shikhar Dhawan took Deccan off to a solid start before he was cleaned up by a yorker in the 6th over of the innings. Kumar Sangakkara took Deccan to a platform from which they could dream of winning the match before Malinga returned to clean up his captain with a fast full toss before also picking up the wicket of Dwaraka Ravi Teja with a slower ball. Mumbai won the match comfortably by 37 runs.


  • 14(14) and 4-13-25-2 vs Pune Warriors India at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Pune on 3rd May 2012

A crucial performance in a low scoring match. Mumbai Indians were only able to put 120 runs on the board thanks to no small part for a crucial cameo by Malinga himself who put on a 26-run partnership with Harbhajan Singh. This was more of a constriction by Mumbai, never letting Pune get into top gear. Pune subsided to 47-4 before a partnership between Sourav Ganguly and Mithun Manhas took them to a position from where they needed 27 runs off 19 deliveries. Malinga who had delivered 2 wicketless overs for 12 runs in the powerplay then took out Ganguly but still Pune needed just 16 off the last 2 overs with a well set Manhas. Malinga bowled the perfect penultimate over conceding just 4 runs while also dismissing Wayne Parnell and Munaf Patel, completing the job for Mumbai in a one run victory.

  • 4-13-23-5 vs Sunrisers Hyderabad at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on 25th April 2015

Defending a target of 157 Sunrisers got off to a flyer with Shikhar Dhawan and David Warner hitting 45 runs off the first 4.5 overs before Malinga tempted Warner into uppercutting the ball to 3rd man off the last ball of the 5th over. From then on Mumbai were always ahead of the game but Sunrisers still had an outside chance, needing 31 off the last 2 overs. However, Malinga snuffed out all hopes of a win with a triple-wicket maiden in the 19th over picking up Hanuma Vihari, Praveen Kumar and Dale Steyn, all 3 with slower deliveries. Mumbai ended up winning by 20 runs.

  • 4-7-31-4 vs Royal Challengers Bangalore at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on 15th April 2019

A match from Malinga’s final IPL season, Royal Challengers Bangalore were put in first on a friendly Wankhede pitch. Malinga bowled two wicketless overs, one each in the powerplay and middle overs and RCB had reached an imposing 144-2 after 17 overs with De Villiers, still at the crease as well as Moeen Ali on 50 off just 31 deliveries. Malinga returned to the attack in the 18th over, dismissing Ali with a slower ball off his very first delivery, before also dismissing Marcus Stoinis with another slower ball in the same over. Going into the final over, Malinga got hit for a 6 off the first ball off De Villiers, before ABD was run out off the second delivery. Malinga ensured that the last 4 deliveries went for only 2 runs (2 byes), dismissing both Akhshdeep Nath and Pawan Negi. RCB ended up with 172 runs, which Mumbai chased down in 19 overs.

*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

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