The Asia Cup final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Mirpur (Dhaka) on Saturday will see a 'personal' clash between two mavericks of the game - Lasith Malinga and Shahid Afridi. Game changers on their day, Malinga, however, is not letting the big-hitting Afridi psyche him out. Instead, the Lankan pacer is breaking extra sweat at the nets honing his dreaded yorkers. (Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara set to light up Asia Cup final)
Malinga made a stunning start to this year's Asia Cup competition. His five for 52 knocked off the Pakistan middle and lower order as Sri Lanka won the opening match by 12 runs. Malinga has always been skipper Angelo Mathews' go-to man but the Lankan quickie, who has quit Test cricket, failed to fire his deadly accurate toe-crushing deliveries in the last two games. (I will never be a burden on Pakistan: Shahid Afridi)
But Malinga is not losing focus. He is honing his reverse swing and the yorkers ahead of Saturday's grand finale. "I still manage to reverse the ball because I train a lot in the nets. I take a ball which is about 15 overs old and practice reverse swing and try to hit the block-hole. So, when I go to a match, I carry the belief with me. My yorkers in the last two matches were not accurate. So, I am training harder," Malinga told the Indian Express newspaper. (Rampaging Afridi justifies expectation with 18-ball fifty)
Is he targetting Afridi's wicket on Saturday? Malinga pooh-poohs the Pathan factor. Afridi has been in deadly form. The former Pakistan skipper smashed a 25-ball 59 to script a thrilling one-wicket penultimate-ball win against Bangladesh on Tuesday. Against India, Afridi clubbed an unbeaten 34 off 18 balls to fashion a last-over win. Will it be Lanka next? (I had the license to fire vs Bangladesh: Shahid Afridi)
"I am not concerned about him (Afridi). I never think about other players. I don't think they are thinking about me, either," Malinga told the newspaper, trying to underplay the focus on their battle on a big day.
No matter what Malinga says, a lot will hinge on how Malinga bowls upfront and Afridi bats at No. 7. Cricket has not always been about copy-book drives and perfect side-on action. It's also about boom-boom batting and slinging action. After all, it's the end result that matters in overs-limited cricket.