Friday, February 6, 2009

Muttiah Muralitharan: Grand Double for Sri Lankan Spin Wizard

The 36-year-old Sri Lankan ace off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan created history when he became One-Day International (ODI) cricket’s most successful bowler on February 5, 2009, marking a new high for one of the most dreadful bowlers. Muralitharan, one among the greatest legends of Sri Lanka cricket, crossed this milestone of taking 503 wickets in ODIs, surpassing Pakistan’s former captain and left-handed fast bowler Wasim Akram’s record of 502 wickets. He reached this record in fourth match with India in IDBI Fortis Wealthsurance ODI Series when he claimed the wicket of Gautam Gambhir at the Premadasa Stadium (Sri Lanka). Interestingly, Muralitharan began his ODI career against India at this same venue in 1993. He is already the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket with 769 scalps in 125 matches.
Muralitharan achieved this ODI feat in 328 matches at an average of 22.74 with his best figure being 7/30 while Akram needed 356 games to scalp 502 batsmen. Muralitharan’s feat is remarkable in the era of big bats and smaller boundaries. In addition to becoming world’s leading wicket taker, the ace off spinner also became the country’s highest wicket taker against India. He has now captured 72 wickets against India from 60 one day internationals and beaten the record held by his fellow bowler Chaminda Vaas He is the only cricketer to take 500 wickets in both Tests and ODIs.
Most Successful Bowler
Born on April 7, 1972, Muralitharan made his Test debut in 1992. Apart from his intensely competitive nature, he has an uncanny knack of analysing the strategic aspects of the game—the match situation and the changing nature of the pitch. Averaging nearly six wickets per Test, Muralitharan is one of the most successful bowlers in the game, the greatest player in Sri Lanka’s history, and without doubt the most controversial cricketer of the modern age. Muralitharan’s rise from humble beginnings, being the Tamil son of a hill-country confectioner, to the top of the wicket-takers’ list in Test cricket has divided the cricket world in the past decade because of his weird bent-arm bowling action.
Muralitharan bowls marathon spells, yet is forever on the attack. From a loose-limbed, open-chested action, his chief weapons are the big-spinning offbreak and two versions of the top-spinner, one of which goes straight on and the other, which has now been labelled his doosra, which spins in the opposite direction to his stock ball. His newest variation is a version of Warne’s slider, which is flicked out the side of his hand and rushes onto batsman like a flipper. His super-flexible wrist makes him especially potent and guarantees him turn on any surface.
He continues to pick up wickets by the bucket load, although many large hauls have come against the two weakest nations—Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. However, he saves his most stunning efforts for the big boys, such as his duel with the Australians in 2004 and his eight-wicket haul at Trent Bridge in 2006 which produced a famous series-levelling win against England.
Muralitharan picked up 23 wickets in the 2007 ICC World Cup which took his team to the final, though Sri Lanka were unable to repeat their 1996 final win against Australia. He next featured in the home Test series against Bangladesh when, with the last of his 26 wickets, he became the second player to 700 Test wickets. He duly passed Warne’s Test record of 708 wickets against England in December 2007, fittingly on his home soil. He bowled England’s Paul Collingwood in the first Test at Kandy (Sri Lanka) to claim his 709th wicket and surpass retired Australian spin great Shane Warne’s world record tally of 708.Muralitharan reached the record with his 61st five-wicket haul in an innings, already the highest by any bowler, with Warne trailing a distant second with 37 such feats.
The Sri Lankan master bowler has also grabbed 10 or more wickets in a Test an incredible 20 times, double the Australian leg-spinner’s second-placed tally of 10. He has now achieved the grand double of being the highest wicket-taker in ODIs as well in Test cricket.
Beset with Controversy
His career has been beset with controversy from the start. Suspicions about his action were whispered soon after his debut against the Australians in 1993 and then aired freely after he was called for throwing while touring Australia in 1995-96, first in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne by Darrel Hair and later in the one-day series that followed. He was cleared by the ICC after biomechanical analysis at the University of Western Australia and at the University of Hong Kong in 1996. They concluded that his action created the 'optical illusion of throwing'.
But the controversy did not die away. He was called again on the 1998-99 tour to Australia, this time by Ross Emerson. Muralitharan was sent for further tests in Perth and England and was cleared again. However, the perfection of his doosra prompted further suspicion and at the end of a prolific three-match home series against Australia in March 2004 he was reported by ICC match referee Chris Broad. More high-tech tests followed, and ultimately forced the ICC to seriously look into the entire issue of throwing in international cricket, which revealed that many bowlers bend their arms during delivery, and that Murali might have been made an unfair victim. On the field, Murali continued to pile on the wickets, overtaking Courtney Walsh's 519-wicket world record to become the highest wicket-taker in Test history in May 2004.
It is unlikely that Muralitharan's career will ever be controversy-free, a fact that he now accepts. But the rapid progress of technology and sports science in the past decade has undoubtedly salvaged his reputation. He continues to pick up wickets by the bucket load, although many large hauls have come against the two weakest nations - Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. However, he saves his most stunning efforts for the big boys, such as his duel with the Australians in 2004 and his eight-wicket haul at Trent Bridge in 2006 which produced a famous series-levelling win against England. The off-spinner, who played an instrumental role in Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup victory, was named the Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1999.

* Highest wicket taker in Test as well as ODI cricket. Muralitharan’s Career Highlights

* Holds a world record for most five-wicket hauls (61).
* Holds a world record for most instances of 10 wickets in a Test match (20).
* Holds a world record for most Man of the Series awards (11). Pakistan’s Imran Khan, New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee and Australia’s Shane Warne with 8 awards each, share the second place.
* His tally of 18 Man of the Match awards is exceeded only by South Africa’s Jacques Kallis.
* First bowler to capture five wickets in an innings against all the nine opponents.

* His tally of 373 wickets at an average of 15.19 in 45 Tests is the third best for a winning cause in Test annals, next only to Shane Warne (510 in 92) and Glenn McGrath (414 in 84).
* Claimed 9 wickets in an innings twice—9 for 51 (career best) vs Zimbabwe at Kandy in 2002—the fifth best in Test annals and 9 for 65 against England at The Oval in 1998.

* His feat of claiming 143 wickets (ave. 20.94) in 21 Tests at Colombo, SSC and 114 wickets (ave. 15.70) in 16 Tests at Kandy are without parallel in Test cricket.
* Reached 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600 and 650 wickets in the fewest number of matches played.
* Part of the most successful bowler/fielder combination -- c Mahela Jayawardene b Muttiah Muralitharan
* Only player to take 10 wickets in a Test match in four consecutive matches twice.

1 comment:

Iqbal Ather Shamsi said...

But I still think Shane Warne is better spinner than Murlitharan. He mastered the most difficult art in cricket.