Lasith Malinga, Mumbai Indians' premier fast-bowler, might miss the entire Indian Premier League 2016 tournament due to a knee injury, according to coach and Australian cricket legend Ricky Ponting. Despite the injury to Malinga, the team management will wait for five matches before deciding on whether a replacement is needed.
The 32-year-old has been a revelation in the Indian Premier League since its inception in 2008 and is also the highest wicket-taker in IPL history with 143 wickets from 98 matches. The Sri Lankan is the only player missing from the squad, assembled in Mumbai for a preparatory camp.
Speaking on Malinga's absence, head coach Ricky Ponting said, "I believe he will be joining us after the first couple of games to have his fitness assessed. Right now it's unlikely he will take part in the first half of the tournament anyway", as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
"If we need a replacement, it will have to be named ahead of the fifth game. At this stage you have to say it is unlikely (Malinga playing). Malinga at his best has been one of the great performers in world cricket, both with new and old ball. He will be missed, but we have to think who the best replacement will be. Will it be Marchant de Lange, will it be Tim Southee? Will we go in with three overseas batsman? So there are headaches we have, which is a nice thing. If Malinga is ruled out, we have more than adequate replacement to fill his boots."
The defending champions have a number of options in hand in case Malinga is ruled out due to injury, with South African Marchant de Lange, Kiwis Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee battling for the overseas seamers' spot. Mumbai start their 2016 Indian Premier League campaign on 9 April when they face new franchisee Rising Pune Supergiants on 9 April at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.