Sling King ready to fly high
London - The untamed bleached blond locks have been dyed black as Sri Lanka's sling sensation Lasith Malinga tempers his looks and polishes his armoury for the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.
Short and squat, his unorthodox action, with a low point of release against the backdrop of the umpire’s chest or head, makes it hard for even the world's finest batsmen to duck his yorkers or sight the ball.
"He was off for a while nursing injuries. But he's on the mend now, working hard on his game, raring to make his mark in the World Twenty20," Sri Lanka team manager, Anura Tennakoon told AFP.
A career-threatening right knee injury left him out of action in 2008 and early 2009, until he spend five days with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's spiritual healer Eliyantha White.
"He (White) works with supernatural powers and herbs," said Malinga, whose tattooed biceps, distinctive, unruly, streaked-blond hair and eyebrow-ring earned him the title of cricket's sexiest man during the 2007 World Cup.
After a late start in 2009, Malinga marked his return to active cricket in the Indian Premier League where he was among the top bowlers, having grabbed 13 wickets in his first 11 matches conceding 287 runs.
Malinga changed his hairstyle to marry Tania in a fairytale wedding in January.
"Tania's certainly calmed him down," laughs Tennakoon, referring to the much-photographed wild hairdo.
Statistically, Malinga has been average in Twenty20 games, picking up 65 wickets in 56 matches for 1,318 runs.
But he is one of those bowlers who can never be dismissed lightly.
"Once he gets going, Lasith's a crowd-puller, one of the key bowlers to watch for," said New Zealand's wicket-keeper/batsman Brendon McCullum ahead of the World Twenty20 that runs in the Caribbean from April 30 to May 16.
Sri Lanka take on New Zealand in the opening match on April 30 at the Guyana International Stadium, where Malinga made history in 2007, taking four wickets in four balls against South Africa in the World Cup.