Lasith Malinga the Hero

10 April 2014 04:42 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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As the entire country celebrated Sri Lanka winning the T20 cricket world championship in Bangladesh by beating the more fancied Indian team convincingly, there emerged an unlikely hero: stand-in captain Lasith Malinga.

Lasith Malinga was for long the ‘bad boy’ of Sri Lankan cricket. He had irked cricket selectors, administrators and the public by his irreverent attitude. His commitment to his country was in doubt.  On Sunday night in Dhaka though Malinga, being the winning captain, was the man of the moment.


Sri Lanka Cricket held an inquiry into the incident which portrayed Malinga as an arrogant and inconsiderate person. Following this, he was booed several times by local crowds


It all happened more by accident than by design. Regular captain Dinesh Chandimal was at first suspended from one match. Malinga, being the vice-captain of the team was asked to stand in as skipper. This he did, but it was obvious that this was only for appearances sake.

At the toss, Malinga was embarrassed when he was asked for the composition of the team for that day as he couldn’t remember the names of some players. On the field, it was evident that Mahela Jayawardena was giving all the instructions and taking decisions.

As Chandimal opted out of the team due to poor form, Malinga captained again at the finals. This time however, he was more proactive. He won a crucial toss but was soon in the dock for dropping a catch from India’s most dangerous batsman, Virat Kohli. To Malinga’s credit, that didn’t deter him.

Malinga’s bowling at the ‘death’- towards the end of the innings- was spectacular and was commented upon by experts all over the world as being perfect. It cramped the Indians who hoped for a late blitz and decisively took the momentum away from them. The rest, as they say, is now history.

Unusual and riveting performances have always been a feature of Separamadu Lasith Malinga Swarnajith’s cricket career. The thirty-year-old hails from the southern town of Rathgama and is said to have evolved his unique ‘slinging’ action by playing tennis ball cricket at a young age.

Malinga schooled at Mahinda College, Galle, Vidyaloka Vidyalaya, Galle and Devapathiraja Vidyalaya, Rathgama. Malinga started his cricket career at Vidyaloka Vidyalaya where he was ‘discovered’ by former Sri Lankan paceman Champaka Ramanayake.


Malinga’s bowling at the ‘death’- towards the end of the innings- was spectacular and was commented upon by experts all over the world as being perfect. It cramped the Indians who hoped for a late blitz and decisively took the momentum away from them


Ramanayake, so impressed by Malinga's raw ability, invited him to join the Galle Cricket Club and thus began a career that would have the world spellbound. That was mostly because of his slinging action but his dyed blonde curls hairdo-unusual among conservative Sri Lankans- also stood out.

Malinga’s test career began in Darwin, Australia ten years ago. It was a match that Sri Lanka lost. Malinga partnered veteran paceman Chaminda Vaas and picked up six wickets in the game. In a career that would span six years, he would go on to take 101 test wickets.

He developed into Sri Lanka's fastest bowler and became a regular member of both the Test and One Day International sides. He earned a reputation for troubling batsmen with his lively pace and well-directed bouncer, regularly bowling at speeds between 140 and 150 kilometers an hour.

However, Malinga shot into prominence on the world stage when, during the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies he became the first ever player to take four wickets in four consecutive balls in international cricket. This was against South Africa but they still managed to win that game.

Malinga’s uncanny ability to bowl yorkers has become a topic of interest worldwide. This has yielded him rich dividends. For instance,  he is the first and to date the only bowler in cricketing history to take three hat-tricks in One Day International cricket, taking his third in August 2011.

Just as fame and fortune came to Malinga, so did controversy. He retired from test cricket in 2010, at the age of twenty seven citing injuries, saying that bowling long spells in test cricket could lead to a premature end to his career. He continued to play one day internationals and T20 games.

Despite complaining about the ‘workload’ in test matches Malinga continued to play in the cash rich T20 format, most notably in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and in the Australian Big Bash League. This attracted criticism and he was accused of playing for money rather than for his country.

Among his critics is former World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga. When he headed Sri Lanka Cricket, Ranatunga famously asked Malinga to alter his trademark hairdo. Ironically, Malinga is now in Ranatunga’s company as the only other Sri Lankan to lead the country to a World Cup!

Malinga’s reputation took a further beating when he snapped at a reporter while leaving Sri Lanka Cricket headquarters in March last year. Malinga was recorded asking the reporter to “mind his own business” in less than polite language. The incident was broadcast on national television later.

Sri Lanka Cricket held an inquiry into the incident which portrayed Malinga as an arrogant and inconsiderate person. Following this, he was booed several times by local crowds. Therefore, last Sunday’s victory affords Malinga the perfect opportunity to redeem himself.

However, some of Malinga’s comments in the aftermath of the victory have already generated controversy. While Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena have tried to downplay their roles and point towards a team effort, Malinga has expressed different sentiments.

He attributed his success totally to the experiences gained by playing in the IPL. Malinga would know that while the IPL is a source of quick cash for the players, it is generally disliked by Sri Lankan administrators and the public alike as it lures players away from their national commitments.

Controversy is second nature to Malinga. Therefore he may be unwittingly disregarding the rewards that await him: with the T20 captaincy now in doubt, he would be an obvious contender for the job in the longer term, considering Chandimal’s poor form.

Such concerns must be furthest away from Lasith Malinga’s mind. In his short career, he has served his country well and given Sri Lanka some memorable moments to savour. Whether he can now transform himself to become the golden boy of Sri Lanka Cricket-curls and all-remains to be seen.  

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