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20 Jan 2021: As the list of players retained and released got announced by all the IPL franchises, one surprise omission took the entire cricketing committee by surprise. Lasith Malinga had been released from the Mumbai Indians squad for the 2021 campaign of the Indian Premier League. This lead to a brief debate where countless cricketing experts argued that Lasith still had what it takes to win matches for his side. His 2019 exploits being unequivocal testimony to that fact. But a few moments later, to everybody’s dismay, Malinga officially announced his retirement from the franchise cricket and told that his omission from the squad was voluntary.

Now I can throw all the stats if you ask me to, but the fact that he happens to be the biggest match-winner there ever was in IPL would still stand. Quite possibly, Malinga’s contribution to Mumbai Indians well and truly exceeds even the likes of legends such as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Anil Kumble, and many others. Be it as a player, a coach, and most importantly as a mentor to young budding Indian talents. The best example being the rise of Jaspreet Bumrah to the international circuit. From a young rookie who showed glimpses of talent to an absolute LEGEND of the modern era, Malinga’s role has been downright instrumental in grooming him as a fast bowler both mentally and skill-wise.

Lasith Malinga is a once in a generation cricketer who changed the dynamics of fast bowling in general and opened countless arrays of possibilities into the modern game. At first, his slingy 45° bend from the vertical didn’t go well with the cricketing Gurus. Many questioned the sanctity and legality of his bowling action. Some even argued to account for a change in rules seeing his rapid rocket rise to the international scenes. But defying all odds and criticism, he shut his critics through the medium of his breathtaking spells and stellar records as a bowler. As it stands, he is now a legend of the game who will go down as one of the greatest fast bowlers to have ever graced the game of cricket.

The ability to bowl yorkers at will made him a force to reckon with, especially in the shorter version of the game. His feats in ODIs easily camouflage the fact that he had an admirable record in Tests too. (Picking 101 wickets in just 30 matches) By the time, T20 cricket became the rage, he proved to be even more lethal in the shortest format of the game. Particularly popular in India, playing for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, he is a prominent figure in their several victories and title triumphs.

No matter how adverse the match situation, whenever the chips were down, be it Sachin or Rohit, they would inevitably throw the ball to Malinga, and more often than not, he won them the matches. Even during the later stages of his career, when his pace dropped rather significantly, “MALINGA” the name was enough to cause mayhem and strike fear in the opposition camp. His famous curly hair wig is a fashion statement that every MI fan endorses in Wankhede with utmost pride and jubilation.

More than a cricketer, he is an icon of the sport. The smile on his face never frayed, even in the most adverse situations, making him a perfect role model for the younger generations. His attitude towards the game set him apart from the rest. Malinga is not just a mere name to MI fandom. He is an emotion, a part of their family.

Happy retirement Mali.

Thank you for those countless moments of happiness. IPL would never be the same without you.


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