Quintus de Zylva
LASITH MALINGA was born in Ratgama Galle in 1983 and started his education at Devapathiraja College Rathgama and subsequently at Vidyaloka College. His talent as a specialist fast bowler earned him a place at Mahinda College Galle and early attempts to “correct” his slinging action were futile – he had learnt to bowl fast and accurately with a tennis ball on sandy soil without ever having heard or watched Jeff Thompson. His action was never queried and unlike other pacemen he was never sent to a remedial school. The yellow tips on his immaculately set hair quickly became a favourite with hair-stylists the world over and many were the wigs made in imitation of this. Cathy and David Cruse and I were horrified to hear that an attempt was made by the powers that be to force him to conform – we encouraged him to continue with whatever hairstyle he was comfortable with. International cricket would have been the loser if he was forced to change his bowling action and his hairstyle.
LASITH MALINGA was so impressive on his test debut in 2004 that Adam Gilchrist presented him with a stump at the end of the match in which he took six wickets. The New Zealand cricketers asked the umpires to change their clothing so that his lowset bowling arm could be seen clearly!
The umpires of course refused to do so!
He has come a long way since then and Peter Roebuck listed his hat-trick in the World Cup 2011 as one of the five best memorable events. He went on to say that “all three deliveries were deadly, inswinging yorkers delivered at high pace”. He is the only bowler in the world to have taken two World Cup hat-tricks – the previous one was in 2007 against South Africa. He is the only bowler to have ever taken four wickets in four balls. He was clocked at 155.7km/h in a group stage match – the fastest ball delivered in this World Cup. And to think that this lad from Rathgama was faster than Shoaib Akthar and Brett Lee!
His performance in the World Cup final at Mumbai on the 2nd of April gave Sri Lanka some hope when he dismissed Sehwag and Tendulkar in his opening spell. Jeff Thompson had Dennis Lillee to keep the pressure on the batsmen at both ends – it is often said in cricketing circles that “pacemen like to hunt in pairs”.
Sri Lanka has much to learn from Lasith Malinga. He has shown the world and Sri Lanka that starting cricket at an early age in humble beginnings is no barrier to reaching the pinnacle of cricketing excellence. One does not need to conform in bowling action or hair-style to achieve greatness. And stress lesions in your bones can be overcome – Lasith is shown here when he visited Melbourne with pain in his shins. His humility and confidence have taken him to great heights and he stands as a beacon to those young cricketers who wish to one day represent their mother country.