The Sri Lankan fast bowler is the first player I can remember truly idolising - so much so that I copied his slingy bowling action and took it onto the field with me, but unfortunately not with the same success! I got into cricket around the age of 10 and a year or two later the Indian Premier League came into existence, bringing the best players from around the world together in one competition. I can remember the blonde curls of Malinga bouncing in as he unleashed hell on the opposing batsmen with his trademark fiery yorkers as he became one of the best Twenty20 bowlers in the world. I think it was the fact he brought something different to the game was what drew me towards him and still to this day he would be my favourite cricketer of all time.
Smith started his career out as more of a leg-spinner that could bat but has turned into one of the finest batsmen of his generation, if not the very best. There is a theme of the weird but wonderful running through my selections as Smith isn't the easiest on the eye with his technique as he jumps about the crease, but he is so effective and his absolute passion for the game and scoring runs shines through. When playing for Armagh III back in June 2013 against CSNI V, we were walking out of the changing rooms at Stormont when the door suddenly opened for us and standing there was Smith and Brad Haddin! They were both on an Australia A tour of Ireland and Scotland, with Smith scoring 133 in the first innings. It has been amazing to watch the evolution of his batting and is always one I'd never get bored of watching.
I've always loved watching players that can bowl with rapid pace and Lee was certainly one of them. Although in the latter stages of his playing career by the time I got to watch him live against Ireland at Stormont in June 2012, it was amazing to see a great of the game with such a reputation running in and he was still hitting 90mph. He wasted no time in showcasing his skills that day by bowling William Porterfield with the very first ball of the game before Ed Joyce followed two balls later to leave Ireland 0/2. Unfortunately the game was rained off after 10 overs and three overs of Lee was all that we got to see that day.