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.
All the good stats so far, all the hard work, all the successes – about to be wiped out in one stroke of the opponent’s bat.
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.
All they needed was a simple swing of the bat.
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!