Muttiah Muralitharan was always a maverick. Not for the purists was this Off spinning sensation who could spin the ball on glass and whose “Doosra” turned like a leg break from Warne. His action was controversial to say the least and will always be the topic of debate when it comes to comparison between the great spinners of all time. It is a natural bent arm that caused this atrocious action and due to no fault of his, many have judged him on that.
Let the purists and the detractors bark at you Murali, but rest assured that only you have the bite. 800 test wickets in a time of video analysis and rigorously prepared batsmen shows that there is much more to you than a bent arm.
Scientifically it has been proven time and again that Murali was not cheating nor was he chucking. The ICC made a mockery of the situation by bring a legal 15 degree bent arm.
Enough said lets rejoice at his magnificent career.
I actually first heard of Murali from the press comments of Englishmen who had been bemused by the spitting cobras they had encountered in their series to Lanka in 1992/93. They cried that Murali and Warnawera were chuckers. England had just been beaten soundly 3-0 by India and I put it down to mere whining. Murali, of course, had made his test debut earlier against Australia. Watching him in many matches after that was a mix of varied opinions. Initially I thought it was clear chucking, but the subsequent tests carried out on him that exonerated him made me his fan, not the least for his ability to impart revolutions on the ball and being the only “wrist” off spinner.
Murali was a class act. He developed the doosra mid-career and made himself even more unplayable. He could wheel off 50 overs in an innings without any trouble. He has been in the Wisden Player of the Year, has set many bowling records, has won the World Cup and has won many series’ for SL home and abroad. He was instrumental in wins abroad in England, New Zealand and Pakistan. He has performed extremely well in South Africa also. It is in Australia and India that his record is not great. That would be a dissapointment for Murali as these were the leading teams, Australia over a long period of time and India in more in recent times. It was therefore fitting that Murali finish with a 5 wicket haul against India and crown his career with the 800th wicket.
Among batsmen, he has troubled everybody. Only the formidable Australians in Australia and the twinkling footwork of Brian Charles Lara have had a measure of him.
There are too many achievements that Murali has and I list below my favourites
- The most 10-wicket hauls in a match at Test level (22). He is the only player to take 10 wickets/match against every Test playing nation
- Only player to take 10 wickets in a Test in four consecutive matches. He has achieved this feat twice
- Bowled by Muralitharan (b Muralitharan) is the most common dismissal in Test cricket (excluding run out).
- The only bowler to take 75 or more wickets in a calendar year on three occasions, achieving it in 2000, 2001 and 2006.
and of course
- Most ducks (dismissals for zero) ever in international cricket (Tests+ODI’s+Twenty20): 59 ducks total
He played his cricket earnestly with intent in his popping eyes look and a smile on his face. Win or Lose you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. Murali – the man – of couse was greater than the player. Loved by everyone, his efforts to repatriate the Tsunami victims in Sri Lanka is legendary. He also mentioned magnanimously that he has nothing against the Umpires that called him as they called what they saw. The despecable behaviour by the Australian crowds and vitriolic comments from several players – peers and erstwhile – did not dampen his spirits. He was clear that he could not please everyone and that he loved the game so much that if he were not allowed to bowl off spin he still would have kept playing by bowling leg spin. Like a monk convinced on the spiritual path, he kept trying and climbing, oblivious and enjoying, never angry but always rejoicing.
Take a bow Muttiah, you deserve every bit of your success – Test Cricket will be poorer without you!!