Young Slinga, like Malinga
For Matheesha Pathirana, ‘action’ speaks louder than words, and that is not because the young Sri Lankan is soft-spoken.
Who is Matheesha Pathirana? He is a cricketer, precisely a right-arm medium fast bowler and a right-handed batsman. But that isn’t the right introduction for this 17-year-old.
Matheesha has become quite famous in his homeland and beyond because of a video that has gone viral on social media. If you haven’t watched it yet, you will not know why he is being touted as the next Lasith Malinga.
Matheesha, who stands 6 feet tall, has a bowling action that is strikingly similar to the Sri Lankan legend — a slinging action which culminates into deadly deliveries, most of them yorkers.
The video doing the rounds of the Internet shows glimpses of Matheesha’s bowling performance while playing for Trinity College, Kandy against St Servatius’ College in a Singer U-19 Division 1 Cricket Tournament match. He bowled a devastating spell, clinching seven wickets giving away just 6 runs.
Ask him who is his favourite cricketer and you will not at all be surprised with the answer. “Lasith Malinga is my favourite cricketer and I look up to him for inspiration,” the young pacer told The Telegraph.
But has he ever met his idol? “Yes, I met him once… It was during a practice session for Sri Lanka U-19 fast bowlers at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. He told me to work on my accuracy with the deliveries and also advised me not to panic at the point of delivery,” Matheesha said.
Matheesha, whose father is a businessman and mother a housewife, claimed that he has been bowling with a Malinga-like action from an early age. “Can’t really say if it is advantageous to bowl like that, I think it depends on the person who is bowling. Different individuals can have different advantages and disadvantages.”
Asked what kind of cricketer he aspires to be, Matheesha said: “I would like to call myself a specialist pacer who wants to be an average batsman.”
It was his debut match for Trinity College, on Monday, where he tormented the rival team batsmen. Ever since, Matheesha has caught the attention of cricket enthusiasts in the island nation and he has no complaints.
“Getting six wickets for 7 runs in my debut game for Trinity College has been the most memorable moment for me so far. You see, many reporters called me after that performance,” he said chuckling, before adding: “I have no problem with all the attention, it feels good to be famous.”
Matheesha, however, knows that he has a long road to travel if he wants to emulate Malinga.
Malinga, one of the all-time greats of limited-overs cricket, retired from ODIs in July 2019, after the World Cup. But the 36-year-old is still capable of creating magic as he picked four wickets in four balls in a T20I against New Zealand earlier this month.
Malinga, nicknamed ‘Slinga Malinga’, finished as the third highest wicket-taker in ODI cricket for Sri Lanka with 338 wickets in 220 matches with only Muttiah Muralitharan (523) and Chaminda Vaas (399) ahead of him, and is also the only bowler to have taken two World Cup hat-tricks. He retired from Test cricket in 2011.
Matheesha, while recounting his experience of bowling to senior Sri Lanka team batsmen, said: “Once I got to bowl at Dasun Shanaka (who is now the Sri Lanka T20I captain) and managed to impress him. He gave me his pair of boots for my good bowling.”
That might help, Matheesha after all has big boots to fill if he wants to be a Malinga.