Since being dropped for seven months last year, he has unapologetically become a living, breathing, slinging f*** you to haters. You think you can’t have a paunch and bowl fast? Check yourself. He is a force in the biggest T20 franchise tournament on the planet – his over to win the IPL containing five deliveries at 140kph or higher, before he slipped that killer slower ball in. But then he must be prioritising IPL over commitments to his home board, right? Wrong. He’s flying back-and-forth between Mumbai and Sri Lanka, winning matches at the Wankhede and breaking List A records at Pallekele in the space of 20 hours. His injuries, then – surely those brittle knees and screwy ankles won’t withstand an ODI workload? Thing is, fellow hasn’t sat out a single Sri Lanka match on account of injury since his recall last October.
Unfriendly selection panels? He’s outlasted them. Doubting coaches? He’s still here – they’re not. Critics? Well, haven’t they been been mighty quiet in the last few weeks?
At this World Cup so far, he’s been driven so completely, so unadulteratedly by nothing but grievance, his ire is impossible to miss. There once was a glorious joy to his bowling. His four-in-four in Guyana in 2007, was a jubilant eruption. His dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar at the 2011 World Cup prompted a crazy, arms-spread, exuberant run from the bowling crease to square leg, in a Wankhede stadium that was silenced, rather than enlivened, by a Malinga wicket. In the past 30 days, though, Malinga has been the World Cup’s grumpiest uncle: unsmiling, aggressive, distant, aggressive again.
In the one official media appearance he made, he slammed his team-mates, suggesting they use the shame of their incompetence as motivation. In one-on-one interviews, his mouth has basically been a bazooka taking aim at former selectors who deigned to leave him out, complaining about his sacking as captain last month, producing dark beads of displeasure to the Sunday Times (and others) like this: “There are some players and coaches who didn’t want me as captain and I know they worked really hard to get me out. But I am not the loser. I am still at the top in my game whereas those who worked behind my back are struggling. They are either not in the team or struggling to get runs or wickets.”