Malli Baba

I don’t enjoy IPL cricket, because I see all the players as ‘ours’.  Where’s the joy in one winning at the cost of others? So, I relish the international matches more – India vs. another country, especially Pakistan – because the divisions are clearer, the rivalry sharper.

On 12th May, I sat down to watch the IPL Finals only because wife ordered me to. That’s one of the very few of her choices that I can watch without bursting into tears, not because of their content, but because of utter lack of any!

Chennai Super Kings had Dhoni and Mumbai Indians had Rohit, plus Sachin as their Mentor, so my loyalties were equally divided between both sides. Like an accomplished Yogi, as recommended in the Holy Gita, I felt completely detached and unconcerned about the result.

But something changed my outlook during the match.

Lasith Malinga, nicknamed, ‘Slinga’ for his unusual bowling action, had given away 22 runs in two overs, which is rather high for a T20.  Then, in his 3rd over, he got hammered for another 20 runs, making it 42 runs in three overs.

To make matters worse, he also dropped a catch. During the replays, the commentator – a former cricketing giant – stated that Malinga’s heart was not in it and his body language showed that he didn’t want to catch the ball. His teammates too reacted to the dropped catch with thinly veiled exasperation. Thanks to the glare and the ubiquitous cameras, Malinga couldn’t even sulk privately or shed a tear.

I was feeling really sad for him. I am not – was not – a fan of his and have not followed his feats, but I know that he is fairly senior and has been with Mumbai Indians for many years. So my heart went out to him, for I feared that he might be on his way out, especially after such a lacklustre show.

As they say about Mutual Funds in very fine print and at double the speed in TV ads, “Past performance is no guarantee for the future!”

Or even the present.

In 1986, Javed Miandad hit a six on the last ball of the final against India to win the Austral-Asia Cup, becoming a national hero in Pakistan and inevitably, the dreaded nemesis in India.

He also holds the world record for six appearances in ICC World Cup along with Sachin Tendulkar.

But, while Sachin scored 482 runs with 2 centuries and 2 half centuries in his last appearance; Miandad, in his sixth World Cup, scored a grand total of 54 runs in 3 matches in 104 balls and slinked away into the pavilion of oblivion.

How the mighty have fallen! 

I was worried that the same thing might happen to Lasith Malinga.

So for Malinga’s sake, I was hoping that Mumbai Indians win, so that he is spared the public humiliation of being remembered as the man who caused their downfall.

After the penultimate over, CSK needed 9 runs from 6 balls, which was easily achievable.

And Rohit Sharma gave the ball to Malinga.

My heart sank.

The best I could hope for was that he doesn’t give away a six and a four in the first two balls of the last over, which could very well be his last in IPL forever.

Imagine Malinga’s state of mind.

Performing in front of some 50,000 overzealous fans in the stadium and millions watching on television, after three disastrous overs and a dropped catch.

The Dragon of Doubt dancing around in his head, undermining his already battered confidence.

The pounding heart, the dry throat, the cold sweat.

Entire career and reputation hinging on the action in the next few minutes.

The owner of Mumbai Indians, Ms. Nita Ambani, famously sat with her eyes closed and lips moving in prayer. On the other side, Ms. Sakshi Dhoni, the wife of the CSK Captain, seemed to be praying too, hopefully to different gods!

The spectators, supporters of both sides, were very very tense.

Even the beautiful cheerleaders, who I thought were ignorant about the game – or at least not as knowledgeable as the average Indian who never hesitated before giving batting tips to Sachin – were nervous.

Minus any melodrama and without any visible gestures, Malinga set out to bowl the last over.

He kissed the ball before the first delivery and slowly but surely strangled the CSK batting as the over progressed.

Finally, CSK wanted two runs to win in one ball.

Malinga bowled the last ball, his trademark Yorker, trapping the batsman LBW, winning the match by one run and turned to face the MI dugout, both hands raised in victory.

It was not only a victory for the Mumbai Indians, not even Malinga’s personal vindication, but a victory for all of us. All of us who are distressed and bitter about the hand dealt by destiny.

He showed us not only what he can do, he showed us what we can do.

Therein lies the real victory.

He has given us hope – to me and to my many friends.

Friends who recently lost their jobs when their airline shut down, friends who are fighting debilitating diseases and friends who have retirement and old-age staring at them, life’s dreams still unattained.

Without a word, simply through his actions, he has taught us all a great spiritual lesson.

We can’t all be heroes. We can’t do great acts all the time. But just a little bit, like the last ball and the last over, a mere five minutes of the entire match, or the entire life if you please, are enough to turn the tide.

Malinga in Sinhala, his mother-tongue, means ‘a person worthy of putting a garland on.’

I am tempted to do that and call him ‘Malli Baba’.

He already has the appropriate hair style!


©Avinash Chikte

52 thoughts on “Malli Baba”

  1. Swati Marathe

    Wonderful breathtaking description of the IPL match with a touch of humour and a slow transition to philosophical and spiritual message, with a humorous ending!

  2. Henry Fernandes

    Lovely article, very well articulated . I saw the whole match and felt the same before the last over, that Malinga’s career was over. However one ball changed it all.
    The moral: Never, never lose hope and never give up. Your next move might change it all .. !!

  3. Lovely Avinash
    Liked the switch from humour to a serious note, as most हास्य रस poets do at the end of their recital to convey a serious, topical, meaningful message

  4. Beautiful article, I loved for two reasons
    I could co-relate with the pain of few of my friends who ( similar to your friend in Jet) have lost jobs and struggling at the fag end of their career even though they are immensely talented and wonderful humans.
    Secondly, you started with typical humor and then seamlessly went on describing agony and pain of this stage of life and brought out a tear and further ended up so positively providing the hope for everybody including you and me. It requires extraordinary skills to describe human agony after beginning with such humor. and certainly, you are blessed with.
    Instantly I could remember some of Charlie Chaplin movies like Citylight as well as few distinguished writers like Woodhouse and off course some of the writings like our own Pu. La.
    Not trying to compare you with them, but this article indeed scales up a certain height.

    Please keep on writing such nice articles. I look forward to the publication of your book in the near future ( off-course with the first copy of the book signed by the author reserved for me)

  5. Nitin Shringarpure

    Hiii Avi , hearty congratulations for another beautiful article on your blog , sharing in different what’s app groups and ofcourse on FB with your kind permission.
    Waiting for your new posts as always. Thanks.

  6. Avi,
    Your narrative always creats vivid picture of whatever issue you r discussing,In fact in this case reader knows what is the result of the match but the way you narrate makes one curious as to there is something else to it. That something else is take away of this ,it has reality associated with it. Excellent one.As usual you are extraordinarily ordinary person…..

  7. Ninad Khanapurkar

    Good article indeed..!
    With the humour intact this time you showcase a life lesson in such a small write-up 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  8. Suaysh Godbole

    Hello sir frankly iam not a big fan of cricket, but sir u have describe it so well that i just thought that iam watching live ipl & most important is the end part so touched really great sir.

  9. Vinayak Deodhar

    Yes, it indeed was a great spiritual moment. Also opportunity well utilised by Malli Baba, to wash away his sins of previous three overs!!

  10. Amar Jadhavrao

    Your line says it all…
    He has given us hope – to me and to my many friends.

  11. Prakash Shanbhag

    Inspiring Blog Sir…. only a single second moment is required to change the table.

  12. Chikte, I must admit that although I was not a witness of the IPL final, you have brought out the real challenges one faces in life all the time very nicely. Highly appreciate your literary technique. Well done my friend.

  13. Wonderful Chikte…domestic felicity…the teachings of the Gita…the awesome records of Sachin and Miandad…the cruelty of stochastic randomness…the victory of hope against the odds…your blog is more than just extraordinarily ordinary…it is an experience!

  14. Krishna Nambiar

    Awesome write-up…keep it going…you have it in you to entrall others with your tales and your outlook to life….

  15. Excellent description, Bhau!
    There are four scenarios here:
    1. Rohit takes another bowler and wins. Malinga remains a suspect resource in future.
    2. Takes another bowler and loses. Entire blame goes to Malinga.
    3. Takes Malinga and loses. Two careers finished. Malinga and Rohit.
    4. Take Malinga and win. Ensured Malinga goes out with lot of respect.
    Therefore, Rohit was putting his own reputation on line with his decision!

  16. Extremely knowledgeable inputs, put across with emotional, philosophical and Divine grace. The men in yellow, surely must have felt as though they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory
    The way to go Avinash – a good read !

  17. Very nicely penned, Avi! However, I don’t follow the IPL and thankfully for me, my wife doesn’t either! I’m probably one of the pessimists that Ranbir Singh has referred to in his comment above. My distaste for this form of cricket grew manifold one evening as I sipped a smoky flavoured single malt with a few course mates. One of them was a high flyer, in every sense. He narrated a conversation he had with one of the ‘VIPs’ he flew often. He was the well-known czar of the money-churning form of cricket and one who had once presided over the international body that governs this jamboree. My friend narrated, bit by the painful bit, how a World Cup Final had been rigged. I don’t vouch for the veracity of that story, but it surely drew me farther away from the circus that goes on under the title of cricket. For me, nothing to beat the good old 5-day test match with a day’s break in between!

  18. Very well written Avinash sir!
    Whatever the game-plan that’s played out, it’s up to the wise to put things in perspective that benefits the mankind. Good job done sir!
    This match will soon be forgotten, like many played earlier or yet to be played, but many would draw enduring strength from your concluding words!

  19. So very well analysed and dovetailed into the aviation crisis. The description so minute and specific, gives the insight into your analytical mind. Keep writing more frequently and across the spectrum for reaching wider audiences. Thrilled to read and expecting many more such decisive articles.

  20. I never intersted to watch cricket from childhood…why I never liked it ..? obviously the long waiting to get the results.. .but after reading your blog I was wondering ..oh ..god this is something I missed.. but I am sure it is not only about the game .. they way you presented …you just took me to that place where you was standing ..and you described what is happening all around .. in a small place you just made a never ending illustration with words …and ultimately your message too.. ..

    waiting for more from you sir ..

  21. Mahesh kulkarni

    Excellent Avinash , philosophical angle for IPL matches can only be experienced through ur lenses. Thanks . Mahesh kulkarni

  22. Mukesh Ramani

    Awesome truesome Captain

    Keep it coming . This is great stuff which we relate to

    God bless !!

  23. Beautiful switch from humorous to spiritual.

    Excellent work Chiket. Keep Going.

    The pessimists might still say it was all stage managed. 😂😂

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