COLOMBO: Stand-in Bangladesh captain Tamim Iqbal on Thursday paid tribute to retiring Sri Lankan star Lasith Malinga but said the fast bowler’s farewell match would not distract his team from winning.
Malinga will play his final One-day International in Colombo on Friday in the first of three matches against Bangladesh, although he hopes to continue playing in the shorter T20 format.
“I think he is a great ambassador of this game,” Tamim told reporters Thursday, adding that Malinga’s achievements were ‘extraordinary’.
“Tomorrow [Friday] is a special game for him. But one thing is for sure — when we play against him we will not keep it in our head that it will be his last match and will try to play as hard as possible. We will try to win the game for Bangladesh.”
Malinga said on Thursday he was ‘very happy’ to make way for younger players after calling time on his illustrious 15-year career in the 50-over format.
“I am very happy to leave at this time. This is an opportunity for new players to prove themselves and prepare for the next World Cup,” Malinga, 35, told reporters at the team’s final training session.
“We may have had some setbacks, but we have the capability to win another World Cup,” he added, pointing to Sri Lanka’s success at the 1996 World Cup and 2014 T20 World Cup.
Malinga — known for his trademark blond-highlighted mop and piercings — called on cricket administrators to be patient with upcoming stars and let them develop ahead of the next ODI World Cup.
“The young players need to believe that they can deliver. They need to be dedicated and develop to a level that they can decide for themselves when they go to the middle,” Malinga said.
Malinga — who is leaving as Sri Lanka’s third-highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket — has said he was sidelined by selectors two years ago but was able to prove his value at the recent World Cup, where he took 4-43 in Sri Lanka’s league-stage win over eventual champions England.
The match also holds special meaning for Tamim, who will make his debut as 14th ODI captain for Bangladesh with Mashrafe Mortaza out injured.
He will lead a new-look team that will also miss the services of star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, wicket-keeper/batsman Liton Das and all-rounder Mohammad Saifuddin.
Shakib, who made 606 runs and grabbed 11 wickets, has been rested alongside Liton while Saifuddin was ruled out with a back injury.
“My captaincy was a last-minute call because our regular captain got injured the night before we travelled. But whatever the opportunity I get, I always try to make the best use of it,” Tamim said. “I already spoke to the players and explained them their role in the team and what we were expecting from them… when we go to play we will try to execute the plan.”
The remaining two fixtures will be held at the same venue on July 28 and 31.