Whilst Woodhall Spa CC commenced pre-season training at the weekend, overseas player Malinga Bandara will be able to loosen up for the new campaign in warmer climes when he takes part in the inaugural Masters Champions League in the United Arab Emirates.
The league begins this week and will be played over two weeks at Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
In its first year, the Twenty20 format tournament will be made up of six teams with a total of around 90 players taking part, 15 per squad. A round robin competition will decide the semi-finalists and thence the finalists.
Players must all have been former international cricketers who are now retired from all forms of the professional sport.
Malinga was signed by the Virgo Super Kings for $35,000 along his new international team-mates Graeme Smith, Azhar Mahmood, Brett Lee, Jonty Rhodes, Neil McKenzie, John Mooney, Dirk Nannes, Owais Shah, James Foster, Murali Kartik, Gareth Batty, Hasan Raza, Jacob Oram, Humayun Farhat and Mohammad Yousuf.
Sri Lankan Malinga was a Test and one-day international cricket, batting right-handed and bowling right-arm leg breaks. He made his Test debut against New Zealand in 1998 and his last was in 2006.
On his return from the UAE, 36-six-year-old Malinga will be heading into his third season with Lincs ECB Premier League side Woodhall Spa CC this year, with whom he bats at number three.
Spa club captain Jack Luffman praised Malinga and said he was determined and played the game situation perfectly.
Jack said: “We had Prasanna Jayawardene in 2013 and when he couldn’t return in 2014 due to Test cricket commitment, he recommended Malinga to us, and us to Malinga, thanks to the treatment he received in his season with us.
“He is a leg spinner of the highest order, the first one to get Sachin Tendulkar out stumped in One Day Internationals.”
In his previous two seasons at Jubilee Park, Malinga has scored more than 1,500 runs at an average of 45, including nine half-centuries and four centuries.
He has taken 114 wickets at average of 13.5, including nine five-wicket hauls and a best of 6-27.
He won the club’s first XI bowling award both seasons, the batting award last year and the club’s Player of the Year award in his debut campaign. He also received the Lincs ECB Premier League Most Man of the Match Awards accolade in 2015 when he acted as Spa’s vice-captain, as he will do this season.
Woodhall captain Jack said: “He’s a great inspiration and knowledge to the team. He coaches the club’s juniors who find him a real inspiration.”
Malinga and his Virgo Super Kings make their first foray into the MCL competition on Friday when they take on the Sagittarius Strikers in Dubai.