Sri Lanka’s fast bowling legend, Lasith Malinga’s 50-over career in World Cups came to a bitter end on Saturday with an expensive spell of 1 for 82 from his 10 overs against India. However, he leaves his mark as one of the greatest fast-bowlers ever to play four World Cups this millennium.
Playing his final 50-over World Cup, Malinga, the Slinga with a trend-setting hair-style, ended the tournament as Sri Lanka’s highest wicket-taker with 13 wickets in 7 games. He carried Sri Lanka’s toothless bowling attack on his weary shoulders. His brilliant, astonishing 4 for 43 rattled England and opened up the tournament somewhat in the final two weeks.
When Malinga arrived in England minus the captaincy, he knew that he wasn’t a super-fit athlete with extreme pace at his disposal. He realized his limitations but somehow delivered for Sri Lanka thanks to his street-smarts. He had a hectic World Cup, having flown back to Sri Lanka twice in as many weeks to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral and almsgiving. But, he was probably the only bowler who looked like taking a wicket whenever given the ball. A few catches were dropped off his bowling too, but he kept on fighting.
“The ways he’s adjusted and adapted over his career, losing pace, not being as fit as he was or young as he was and still being able to get batsmen out and win matches for Sri Lanka. That’s the mindset, the approach and attitude that he will leave behind.” Former Sri Lanka Captain Kumar Sangakkara stated on Malinga.
The 35-year-old seamer will end his World Cup career as the third-highest wicket taker, behind only to Glenn McGrath (71) and Muttiah Muralitharan (68) in World Cups with 56 wickets over 4 editions at an average of 22.8. He is also the only bowler to take 10+ wickets in four World Cup editions.
His strike-rate has been phenomenal as he has picked a wicket every 25.6 balls – only 4 bowlers have a better strike rate than Malinga in World Cups – Mitchell Starc, Mohammed Shami, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait (minimum 20 wickets).
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In his first World Cup in 2007 in the Caribbean, Malinga took the world by storm and ended up with 18 wickets, finishing as one of the key players in Sri Lanka’s journey to become the runners-up.
His special feat of becoming the first bowler ever to pick four wickets in four balls in ODIs against South Africa at Providence, Guyana, was the main highlight in that edition and his entire career.
With South Africa needing just 5 runs with 5 wickets in hand and with more than 5 overs to spare, Malinga saw the back of Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall off the final two deliveries of the 45th over and then returned to pick up the wickets of Jacques Kallis and Makhaya Ntini off the first two deliveries of the 47th over.
In the 2011 World Cup, Malinga captured 13 wickets in 7 games, including a hat-trick against Kenya in the group stage, thereby becoming the first bowler to take two World Cup hat-tricks. Malinga continued the trend of claiming 10-plus wickets at cricket’s grandest stage in the 2015 Trans-Tasman World Cup. He went onto scalp 12 wickets in 7 matches in his third World Cup and was Sri Lanka’s leading wicket-taker there too.
“When he came to the scene, I still remember some of our physios & doctors saying that he probably wouldn’t last more than a few years with that action, but after 4 World Cups, he’s still going strong. “ Malinga’s former captain Mahela Jayawardene said.
Malinga understands how to bowl in crunch situations. He’s a master-planner with the white ball in hand and has an artist within him while bowling. His ability to bowl yorkers at will, and his variations with pace coupled with his slinging round-arm action made him a nightmare for the opposition batsmen throughout his career.
No bowler can make a batsman look as wretchedly confused as Malinga can. KL Rahul, even after scoring a century fell to Malinga’s guile at Leeds.
Malinga has also always been keen to share his knowledge and teach whatever he knows to the youngsters.
He also has his own way of pioneering his art. He never concludes a training session without bowling at a shoe lined up near the crease for a couple of overs, to master his skills.
However, Malinga’s status as an icon has often been a little muddled. He has always been a popular hero in Sri Lanka, but never the establishment’s darling, never entirely untroubled about his public portrayal. If there’s anything to be said, he will say it without hesitation, which is the very reason he hasn’t been a popular character within the dressing room in the past couple of years.
Not too long ago, an image of a shirtless Lasith Malinga in Sri Lanka’s dressing room, was circulating on social media….
Malinga said exclusively to ThePapare.com that he will retire after playing two ODIs against Bangladesh at home later this month. However, in the shortest format of the game, he will want to continue playing and lead the Sri Lanka T20I team at next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia before hanging up his boots completely.Former England Captain Nasser Hussain summed up Lasith Malinga in one sentence,
“I don’t think there’s ever been a bowler like Malinga before and I don’t think there ever will. “
Malinga will always remain the irreplaceable Sui Generis of Sri Lanka Cricket, the man from Rathgama, who started bowling on the beaches before conquering the world. Malinga will never be seen in a 50-over World Cup again. He will be missed.