In our first tour game against the Sri Lankan Board President’s XI at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo in the summer of 2003, a quick bowler with a strange round-arm action rapped all the India A batsmen on the knuckles. He didn’t make it to the Sri Lanka A team for the remainder of the tour and was soon forgotten.
Five years on, he created a new world record, four wickets off four consecutive deliveries in an international game. Yes, I’m talking about Lasith ‘Slinger’ Malinga.
What makes Malinga special?
Well, every bowler who offers something different is special. Be it the wrist position, the height (in case of the taller bowlers) or a
unique slingy action like a Malinga or a Tait. The mind, body and the eyes of a batsman are accustomed to play the balls delivered from a
certain angle (mostly high-arm) and hence, it is relatively easier to pick the line and length quickly.
What is the problem?
Basically, the pace of Malinga pushes the batsman to the back-foot but the lack of bounce forces the batsman to play him off the front-foot.
With Malinga, straight off, you have to adjust very quickly to a different point of release which is almost parallel to the ground and comes from right in front of the umpire (a few opposition batsmen were even seen asking the umpires to take their white hat off as it was difficult to spot the white ball against a white background). Since the ball is delivered at such a low height from an unusual angle, it’s difficult to judge the length.
The other problem
Then comes the bounce. By bowling round-arm, he lowers the height of the point of release and gets less bounce off the track. He’s quick in the air and off the surface but his lack of bounce makes it more difficult to go back on the balls pitched slightly short of a length. Even the short-pitched deliveries are hard to pull, as the bounce isn’t steep or even.
More often than not, the ball doesn’t land on the seam (which means a lack of bounce) but when it does, the bounce he gets is disconcerting.
All bowlers with round-arm actions are known to be lethal with the old ball as for some reason (still not known) they become more effective with the in-swinging yorker.
The flip side
While the batsman is unsure about the line and length of a slinger, it’s also difficult for a bowler with such an action to be as consistent as a Glenn McGrath. These guys tend to be very expensive when things go wrong. Why? When a batsman is set and the ball hasn’t started reverse-swinging, the lack of bounce and inconsistency in length could well make a slinger easy prey.
Finally, this particular action puts a lot of pressure on the back and the bowler is prone to injuries.