He mesmerized the world with his slingy action and his toe-crushing yorkers. For more than a decade and a half, batsmen simply couldn’t work him out. But every good thing must come to an end. And Lasith Malinga’s incredible ODI career is now ending as the bowler bids adieu to the format where he made his name all those years ago.
Malinga would be playing his last ODI match against Bangladesh in the first game of the three-match series in Colombo on July 26. This was confirmed by Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne at a press conference ahead of the series.
As sad as this news must be for the fans of the bowler they will take heart from the fact that they will still get to see Malinga in action in the shortest format of the game, at least for a year. Malinga, who has already retired from Test cricket, wishes to continue playing T20Is for his country and is especially keen on featuring in the ICC World T20 in Australia next year. Malinga expressed this desire in a heartfelt video message to his fans.
In the video, Malinga requested his fans to cheer him one final time at the R. Premadasa Stadium. “Friday will be the last day you will see me playing a (sic) ODI match,” Malinga said. “If you can, please come for the match.”
The 35-year-old has battled several injuries over the past few years and has lost much of his zing. He was even sidelined by the selectors a few years back. But Malinga remained persistent and clawed his way back into the national side. His performance in the recently concluded World Cup 2019 in England was fantastic. Malinga picked up 13 wickets at an average of 28.69 but his spell of 4-43 that helped stun the eventual champions England was one of the very best in the tournament.
While his pace has dropped, Malinga is still effective. And that is why, perhaps, he is now focusing his last bit on T20I cricket as that would require much lesser exertion for him.
Regardless, Malinga would be missed from the world of ODI cricket. He has had a glorious ODI career – 335 wickets in 225 matches at 29.02 with 8 five-wicket hauls and 11 four-wicket hauls. His pin-point yorkers made him one of the most feared bowlers at the death and he won many a memorable game for Sri Lanka with his accurate yorkers alone.
It was in the famous match against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies where Malinga made his first great impression. This was the game where Malinga took four wickets in four balls towards the fag end of South Africa’s chase and almost took Sri Lanka took a stunning victory. Ever since, he was been a demon in limited overs cricket that only a few batsmen from the world over have been able to conquer.
With the fast bowler now calling curtains on his ODI career, fans would hope that he produces some magic for Sri Lanka in his final game. However, irrespective of how this game goes, Lasith Malinga has left his imprint in ODI cricket like very few fast bowlers have. His legacy will inspire generations of youngsters. Here is hoping that the final leg of his career remains a memorable one.