06 April 2014

Lasith Malinga and the politics of ‘lionhood’

No cricketer on this planet looks like a lion and pounces on prey like one too the way Lasith Malinga does.  No one knows if there’s any lion-thinking behind his preferred hairstyles.  But there’s certainly ‘mane’ in it.  He could be all smiles once delivery is done but he is nothing less than ferocious in stride, sling and expression of triumph.

For all this, he is also one of the most frequently lampooned among present day cricketing stars. In Sri Lanka, at least.  His run-ins with the media and curt responses made for a plethora of memes.  He is accused of reserving his best for the Indian Premier League (IPL) with insinuations of being greedy for big bucks.  To be fair, however, he doesn’t turn around and ask those who accuse him of being less patriotic what they have done and refused to do for the country. 

He does not point fingers. He doesn’t demand that finger-pointers point fingers in all directions.  During his career he erupted once.  Off-field.  That’s it.  But out there where he does battle, he erupts often enough and enough to help Sri Lanka chalk up victory after victory.  He is a lion who doesn’t think too much about symbols, which, as George Carlin once said brilliantly, are for the symbol-minded. 

Lasitha Malinga knows how to smile, even when intended victim scores an unintended four off an unintended edge that almost brushes stump before beating keeper and speeding towards the boundary.  

His wry smile on such occasions is indistinguishable from his wry smile at being hit for six, but both are clearly different from the smile of delight that quickly changes to roar of triumph emphasized by fist-pumping.  Through it all, he doesn’t speak lion-language.  He is athlete, cricketer, competitor, sportsman and gentleman.  That’s it. 
He will, in a few hours ‘lead’ Sri Lanka against India in the T-20 World Cup Final in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  That comes in quotes because no one can tell for sure how much leading Lasith Malinga did in the match against New Zealand and in the Semi-Final against West Indies.  Perhaps it is an uniquely Sri Lankan thing that makes it ok to drop the skipper, appoint another, and have yet another or even a ‘leadership council’ running things on the field without any Sri Lankan finding any of it strange, least of all the appointed captain whose ego didn’t appear to have been bruised one bit.   

Perhaps it is just Lasith Malinga, doing what he knows to do best, doing what has to be done, not doing what’s not required, with just one objective: victory. 

He put everything in perspective recently when asked what the saddest moment of his cricketing career was.  Here’s a rough translation:

‘I am sad that I didn’t kiss the lion after taking wickets.  Had I kissed the lion everyone would be convinced that I play for my country, especially considering how I took those wickets.  Some in the media have slung a lot of mud at me, claiming that I never played for my country.  Maybe I haven’t.  And yet I was the fastest to collect 250 wickets.’

He is saying a lot right there.  Is patriotism about ‘kissing the lion’ or waving the flag or singing the national anthem louder than anyone else?  Or is it about going out there and giving it your best shot?  It is ironical that Lasith Malinga has to speak of nation, national interest and commitment to the same, not by stating the fact but questioning those who question him on these matters. 

In a few hours Lasith Malinga will sling his slingers. He may or may not lead his team to victory. He may or may not play a part in a victory if that’s the outcome. He may or may not contribute to defeat if that’s the outcome, i.e. by not meeting expectation.  One thing is certain. He won’t be kissing any lions. It’s not easy to do that when you are a lion yourself, not by hairstyle or roar, but by conduct on the field.  One more thing is clear.  He will not be a lesser lion than anyone else, especially not his detractors. 

All power to you Lasith Malinga.  You’ve already done enough.  We are privileged.  Anything more, and we can consider ourselves blessed.



Ajith Gunasekara said...

nice | !

Rumal Jayamuni said...

Awesome analysis of the Lion we know best as well as less. This should reach the lion for sure before he meet the prey.

ramli said...

Love the article