With brown white tipped hair, eyes pierced, lips and face covered with white sunscreen, he kisses the ball and starts running with the ball tightly pressed against the chest and with hairs denying the frictions of wind. As he passes the umpire, he throws the ball with a round-arm slinging action from chest height and becomes the talk of the town in the cricket world.
This description is enough for any cricket lover to picture whom this writer is talking about, especially those who watched him play in 2004 when he debuted in cricket. Corroborating with his name, Lasith Malinga’s bowling action was called the ‘Slinga.’ For the batsmen at the opposite end, this was the most destructive and dangerous scene for a decade and a half or so because Slinga ended up rattling the stumps regularly.
This era of terror for the batsmen has ended as Lasith Malinga announced retirement from cricket on 14 September, 2021. He said goodbye to franchise cricket this January. Many assumed he had hopes to have one last dance in the coming T20 World Cup. However, after not being picked up in the squad, he decided to call it a night.
Being one of the best white ball bowlers of all time with 338 wickets in 223 ODIs and 107 wickets in only 83 T20Is, he enjoyed a career worth envying. And most importantly, he always shined in the big stages for Sri Lanka. He had been instrumental in every successful Lankan campaign on world stages.
In 2007, Malinga took 18 wickets to take Sri Lanka to the finals. The super eight clash against South Africa, probably for what he has been known as the Malinga we know today, was the biggest testimony of his greatness. In the last over where the Proteas needed only 5 with 5 wickets in hand, Malinga brought out his absolute best and took four wickets in four deliveries to seal the victory. He missed the first half of 2011 World Cup, and he still became the second highest wicket taker with 13 in his bag.
Before 2014, Sri Lanka played two ODIs and two T20 World Cup finals and they were defeated in all of them. Then the team faced a leader crisis with no one willing to take the responsibility. Malinga came forward and led Sri Lanka to their first ever T20 World Cup glory.
Malinga’s career has been showered with unique records all over. He is the only bowler to take four wickets in four balls in ODI, only the 2nd bowler to do so in T20I, the second bowler to have 4 ODI hat-tricks, the first bowler to have two T20I hat-tricks, the first bowler to take 100 wickets in T20I, the second highest wicket-taker in T20 and the highest in IPL.
He is also the quickest to take 50 wickets in ICC World Cups. It’s no wonder Sir Viv Richards termed him to be the ‘best thing that has happened to Sri Lankan cricket since Arjuna Ranatunga' even though the likes of Sangakkara, Jayawerdene, Muralidharan, Vaas, Dilshan, played in the same period.
His swinging yorkers being hell for batsmen will be missed. The trembling fear that would begin when he started off will be missed. A career of spontaneous injuries and fights to come back which made him the fighter he has been all his career will be missed. Above all, ‘Slinga Malinga’ will be missed.
The writer is currently an HSC graduate from Dhaka Residential Model College He can be reached at [email protected]