The all familiar strands of standout gold hair in tinted mixture of black wavy curls blending to the flaying fiery sidearm rocket like wicket taking toe crushing Yorkers that made Lasith Malinga a world phenomenon will take centre stage in a final bow come Friday. Popularly known as the Slinger, Malinga will make his farewell appearance for Sri Lanka against Bangladesh in the day-night ODI curtain raiser at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium.
That already a nation has come alive in a scramble for tickets with cricket crazy fans queuing up by the numbers in a dash to catch a last glimpse of their great hero in action one last time is a manifestation of the lasting magical Lasith Malinga impact. An impact that has endeared the man roundly hailed by the world as the greatest of speed merchants in the art of toe crushing stuff! What has heightened the run up to the unorthodox slinger’s final appearance is the tremendous response by cricket fans all around to Malinga’s fervent message on U-Tube and aired on television to turn up on Friday to see him in action in a final salute. In the great man’s own words in Sinhala ‘me mage avasan tharagayata oba kreeda loleen siyallantama narabanna Sikurada 26 paminennakila mama karunikawa aradana karanawa’ (‘I request all cricket fans to come over on Friday the 26th when I make my farewell appearance in ODI cricket.’).
Indeed, it is apt to say that the cricket world will lose arguably the only player to have endeared him in a blend of nerve wrenching performance with beauty of charismatic appeal of gold tinted hair that lit up the cricket field. By and large his popularity soared not only in his native land but wherever he played across the globe, and his cult trait proved to be an instant hit to multitudes of raving fans in the Indian Premier League.
If his unorthodox sidearm action bemused batsmen to whom his bowling arm seemed to come out of the head umpires hip pocket, his wicket taking acts best exemplified by his record hat-trick feats in three world cups including four wickets in four balls has set the Sri Lankan as an all-time great. It is a magnifying testament to a tremendous career that took off of a starry eyed softball cricketer who played fun cricket in his native down South Galle sea beaches, who had the good fortune to take it to the next level.
A thorny journey of translating raw talent in domestic cricket with the leather ball to catching the eyes of the national selectors as worthy material!
Born on August 28, 1983, the 35-year old Separamadu Lasith Malinga flaunted his domestic career from the Galle Cricket Club to making it to the city metropolis where the Nondescripts Cricket Club became the home of cricket to the down South product. What has set him apart as a performer bordering on the dramatic has been Malinga’s uncanny flair of rising to the occasion against the odds. When many thought he was a spent up force about three years ago and Malinga languished in the wilderness, he emerged like the rocket science that has typified his career as a phenomena. From virtual scratch of a long hibernation, he blazed a trail culminating in the 2019 IPL to a champion wicket taker once again. There he was spearheading the Mumbai Indians to the championship title dispelling doubt in those who doubted his wicket taking ability that he was champion stuff. That he surmounted the same form at the world cup in a conspicuous one man show for his country at the world cup with little back up support underlined the tale of a lost cause as Sri Lanka fell short of making it to the semi-finals.
Malinga’s legacy of 335 wickets from 225 ODI appearances speaks of a career of sweat, blood and tears in a battle between thick and thin not only on the big stage but as he laments against detractors; a fact he pointedly harped on in his YouTube message to the nation.
By Srain Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-