Sri Lanka’s coaches are constantly on the lookout for unorthodox talents as they feel that’s one way to have an edge over their opponents. Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Ajantha Mendis are all a result of that policy and so is Lasith Malinga.
Malinga’s talent was spotted by bowling coach Champaka Ramanayake. During a softball tournament, the 18-year-old was troubling batsmen with his square arm action. Ramanayake took Malinga under his wings and the bowler went onto make rapid strides making his first-class debut two years later. The first batsman he hit on the head was Bradman – Bradman Ediriweera, a first-class cricketer who represented Bloomfield.
His Test debut was equally impressive taking six wickets against Australia in Darwin in 2004. Darren Lehmann was his first Test wicket and in the same over he dismissed Adam Gilchrist for a duck.
Sri Lanka seem to have little chance of making it to the semi-finals of the World Cup, but their opponents are aware that with Malinga still in the side, they cannot take the former champions lightly. Malinga is the highest wicket-taker in the world among the active cricketers and his 43 wickets in the World Cups are most by any bowler taking part in this tournament.
Malinga has taken three hat-tricks in ODIs and two of them came in World Cups. At 35, after multiple knee surgeries, his pace has been down considerably but he hasn’t lost any of the guile. He was a key figure for the Sri Lankans in 2007 and 2011 World Cups where they finished runners-up.
Appointed captain of the side in December last year, Malinga was expected to lead the team to the World Cup. But under his captaincy, Sri Lanka failed to win any of the 12 games in South Africa and New Zealand and he was axed as skipper.
Malinga will be Sri Lanka's key weapon during the World Cup.