Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga on Wednesday announced retirement from franchise cricket after Mumbai Indians released him ahead of the upcoming Indian Premier League season.

Malinga, the highest wicket-taker in the IPL history, informed his decision to the Mumbai Indians management earlier this month, making himself unavailable for the champion side, MI said in a statement.

Malinga has already retired from Test and ODI cricket but he is yet to call it quits from T20 internationals. Last year, he had expressed his desire to lead Sri Lanka in the T20 World Cup earlier scheduled to be held in Australia in October-November 2020.

“After discussing with family, I think now is the right time to retire from all franchise cricket,” Malinga said in the release.

“The pandemic situation and the restrictions on travel will make it difficult for me ... to participate fully in franchise cricket for the next year and therefore it is best to make this decision now.

“I have discussed with Mumbai Indians management in recent days as they prepare for the upcoming auction and they have been very supportive and understanding.”

Earlier in the day, MI released Malinga, along with six other players, ahead of the auction for the 14th season of the IPL.

“MI have released seven names which include Sri Lankan great Lasith Malinga ...,” the franchise said in a statement.

Malinga, who has played a staggering 122 IPL matches, has 170 wickets to his credit, the highest in the cash-rich league, with the best bowling figures of 5/13.

The 37-year-old pacer, known for his toe-crushing yorkers, thanked the MI owners, the team management and the fans for supporting him in the 12 years that he was with the side.

“Mumbai Indians has treated me like family, supporting me 100 % in every situation both on and off the field, and always giving me the confidence and the freedom to play my natural game whenever I walked onto the field,” he said.

“I have collected so many happy memories that I cherish and I am very grateful to have played for so long for the best franchise in world cricket. I would like to wish Mrs Nita Ambani, coach Mahela (Jayawardene), Akash (Ambani) and the MI family all the best for the upcoming season.”

MI said it respects Malinga’’s decision and hence he is not part of the club’’s 18-member retention squad.

The franchise said it “can continue to lean on his experience in a non-playing capacity in the future.”

“Lasith Malinga has been at the core of Mumbai Indians for 12 years. We respect his decision, even though I would have liked to him to be part of our bowling attack for another 5 years,” MI owner Akash Ambani said.

“Malinga is an MI legend. His contributions to Mumbai Indians’’ journey are invaluable. We will miss the Wankhede chant for him, but he will always be in the heart of all MI fans.”

(With PTI inputs)