Thursday, 22 July 2010

Magic Muralitharan Reaches 800

The Sri Lankan fans at Galle had to wait 15 overs that must have felt a lifetime until Muttiah Muralitharan made cricketing history and a nation weep with joy.

It was the final day of the first test, and Muralitharan's last as an Internatioal Test cricketer. Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha were the two unlucky Indian batsmen stuck in the middle.

But the longer those two survived, the longer you thought that another bowler may get the final wicket, or another run out may happen as it did to Dravid.

You started to wonder if Muralitharan would ever reach the historic milestone of 800 test wickets, or was it just a record that would never be reached and was teasing him and all of Sri Lanka.

Then it happened. Muralitharan went from around the wicket, bowled it to Ojha, who took a step forward and edged it, with the ball ending up in the safe hands of Mahala Jayawardene.

With what ended up as the last ball of the test, and the last of his test career. Muralitharan became the first ever bowler to take 800 test wickets, a record that may never be broken. You could not write it.

Throughout his career (spanning over almost 18 years), Muralitharan has caused controversy. On a number of occasions his bowling action has been scrutinised by fellow cricketers and the ICC, but has been declared legal and within the elbow flexion limits.

He is also a key influence in Sri Lanka's rise to the cricketing elite. When he started playing for Sri Lanka in 1992, they were seen as the Bangladesh of the modern game, having won only 2 test out of 29 in the 1980's.

Since he arrived on the test arena, he has been almost unstoppable. Taking on average over 6 wickets per test and recording 5 wickets in an innings as astonishing 67 times.

Some critics pointed out that many of his test were against the 'smaller' cricketing nations, especially when you compare him Shane Warne, the 2nd all time leading wicket taker in test cricket, behind Muralitharan.

However, Muralitharan played more tests against India (22) than any other nation and has taken over 100 test wickets against England, India and South Africa. Three of the biggest cricketing nations on the planet.

Muralitharan has been one of the most exciting spinners test cricket has ever seen, his variations and the amount of spin he could conjure up where extraordinary, and puzzled some of the best batsmen in the game.

A prime example of this can be seen in India's first innings where he got Sachin Tendulkar, the leading run scorer and century maker in test cricket, out lbw scoring only 8 runs.

I am not sure that we will see another player like Muralitharan in test cricket, but this generation has been spoilt with two of the best spinners of all time in Shane Warne and Muralitharan.

Any young Australian or Sri Lankan spinner will have the difficult task of having to life with constant comparisons to those two elites, in what seems like an impossible challenge to break their records.