Angelo Mathews threw his weight behind Lasith Malinga's ability despite the paceman's worrying form. © BCCI

Angelo Mathews threw his weight behind Lasith Malinga’s ability despite the paceman’s worrying form. © BCCI

Lasith Malinga has played more than 200 Twenty20 matches, but until a week ago, he had never conceded more than 50 runs in a T20 game. But in the two most recent matches that Mumbai Indians have played in the Indian Premier League 2017, Malinga has had figures of 1 for 51 and none for 58.

Mumbai though have been on a roll, winning five out of six matches so far to sit on top of the points table, and their next match is against Delhi Daredevils on home ground, at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday (April 22).

Angelo Mathews, who is part of the Delhi set-up, however mounted a strong defence of his Sri Lanka team-mate, saying that that he was confident better days lay ahead for the bowler.

“Not really,” said Mathews when asked if he was concerned about Malinga’s form on Friday. “Anyone can have a bad day, especially in T20 cricket. It’s very difficult to be consistent throughout the season. It’s a long season, we play 14 games and you’re bound to have a couple of off games. But Lasith has proved himself. We all know he is one of the best bowlers, especially in the short formats and he’ll definitely come back.”

Mathews also acknowledged that Delhi would have their task cut out for them against the firing-on-all-cylinders Mumbai, whose last win was particularly impressive, with the team chasing down a 199-run target inside 16 overs against Kings XI Punjab.

“Yes they have been on a roll and have been playing extremely good cricket,” agreed Mathews. “Even the last game, they played extremely good cricket. But we certainly can beat them. On any day, any team can beat any team. We have the skill and firepower to do it.

“We haven’t got so many superstars in our team but we have a good set of players who can win games for us,” he added. “That’s all that matters. We are playing as a team and we played as a team right throughout. Even though we lost a few games, that can happen. We are on the verge of winning games, and I’m sure that we can pull it off tomorrow.”

Delhi’s two wins from five games have both come batting first and defending targets, and though they have lost three games, they were all of varying degrees of closeness. Mathews hoped the team would come out on the right side of the result in close matches.

“Yes the two games that we won we defended well, but it is a decision made depending on the wicket obviously,” said Mathews. “And also you can’t really pick and choose what you want to do. You have to win the toss also, to decide on that. But we can still do it if we bat second too. If you look at all the games, we were very close but we just couldn’t pull it off. Hopefully when it gets close next time we’ll be able to pull it off.”

Apart from Mathews and Malinga, the only other Sri Lankan playing this year’s IPL is Asela Gunaratne, who is also in the Mumbai Indians squad. Mathews hoped that more Sri Lankans would be part of the IPL in the future.

“No doubt the IPL is very competitive cricket. The cream of international players play and even in the cream, some of them are sitting out,” he pointed out. “Obviously, playing competitive cricket is very good, but unfortunately there are not many of us this time in the IPL. Hopefully in the coming years.”