Separamadu Lasith Malinga
August 28, 1983, Galle
Also Known As
Separamadu Lasith Malinga Swarnajith
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
One of the great limited-overs bowlers in his pomp, Lasith Malinga gained a reputation for delivering searing inswinging yorkers from a round-arm action as destructive as it was distinctive. That yorker, a deceptive slower ball, and an excellent bouncer formed the body of Malinga's menace, while the action made his deliveries hard to pick up. All that ability was also set off by street smarts; Malinga was rarely shy to switch up plans, and reshuffle fields. Even when batsmen thought they knew what was about to come, Malinga retained the capacity to surprise.
Found in his teens playing soft-ball cricket on the beaches of Rathgama, just north of Galle, Malinga became one of the poster boys for the informal Sri Lankan coaching system and its philosophy of equipping unconventional bowlers, rather than remaking them. Malinga has repeatedly credited Champaka Ramanayake for his success. It was Ramanayake who initially took interest in him, and with whom he developed the yorker that became the foundation of his career. The coach would glue a pair of shoes near the popping crease. Malinga would spend hours bowling at them.
Initially picked for his pace, Malinga toured Australia with the Sri Lanka team in 2004, where he claimed 6 for 90 in a tour match and went on to make his Test debut - he dismissed Darren Lehmann and Adam Gilchrist in the same over, in Darwin. During an impressive tour of New Zealand the following year, his low-slung action resulted in the New Zealand batsmen asking the umpire to change the colour of their trousers as the ball was getting lost.
But it was in the shorter formats that destiny beckoned Malinga. He became the first - and, so far, only - bowler to claim four wickets in four balls, when he took Sri Lanka to the brink of victory against South Africa, in the 2007 World Cup. He has two more ODI hat-tricks - against Australia and Kenya - and he quickly established himself as Sri Lanka's limited-overs spearhead. Though Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan also played important roles, Malinga was arguably the single-most important player in Sri Lanka's excellent run in global tournaments from 2007-2014.
It is felt Malinga never realised his full potential in Tests, though perhaps through no fault of his own. He was only the third player to reach 100 Test wickets for Sri Lanka but a knee injury in 2008 laid him low for two years. He was picked again for Muttiah Muralitharan's farewell series, but again found himself injured for a period of some months. In April 2011, at the age of 27, Malinga announced his Test retirement, citing the desire to manage his "chronic knee injury" and extend his limited-overs career. It is thought his unique bowling action places a substantial load on the joints in his hips and legs. However, the fact that he announced his retirement while playing for Mumbai Indians in the IPL rankled at home. Through the forthcoming years, Malinga would go on to have a complicated relationship with Sri Lankan fans and media. In that time, he also became one of the IPL's iconic figures, representing Mumbai throughout.
Malinga's finest moment came during the 2014 World T20, in which he nominally captained the side through the knockouts but, more importantly, delivered a clinical final spell to muzzle the India middle order. Sri Lanka would go on to win that title but, before long, Malinga's career became threatened by fitness issues - both involuntary and self-inflicted. In late 2014, a long-standing ankle complaint deteriorated to the extent that it required surgery. Malinga was a diminished force through the 2015 World Cup and became significantly slower in his later years, in which he also put on weight.
He stepped down as T20 captain ahead of Sri Lanka's 2016 World T20 campaign, again owing to a chronic knee injury, this time in his left leg. He has at times suggested that his career hangs in the balance as a result of these injuries. At others he has said he wishes to play on for another few years.
Andrew Fidel Fernando
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