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Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Test at Galle - Murali will be missed thereafter !!!

Dear Cricket lover,

Probably I belong to a different generation that loved Test matches. In my early years, a Test match during Pongal days were the most sought after ones. At the age of 10, I relished one of the greatest innings of GR Vishwanath against Andy Roberts, Julien, Holder and Boyce on a green top. Despite his heroic unbeaten 97, the Indians could muster only 190.  Scores of 250 + by Indians were rare those days and those totals were good enough for the famed spin quartet to win some for India. A slender lead of 2 to the mighty line up of Fredricks, Greenidge, Lloyd, Kallicharan and Richards was  largely due to the performance of Prasanna and in the second essay, Indians were looking down the barrel with half the side back at 85.  The young gutsy Gaekwad partnered Vish and then Ghavri  to take them to 256.   The third day 13th Jan was a rest day and Indians were 85/4 in their second when play started on 14th.  Pras, Bedi and Chandra routed them for 154 and Indians won by 100 runs.  The stumping of Lloyd by the flashy Engineer was a picture that featured prominently in The Hindu. A holiday was declared which added lustre.  

 In 1980, the fiery Imran flung at Sunil Gavaskar led Indians. Sandip Patil made his debut and Kapil Dev won the Man of the match winning ‘Enfield Bullet’ with a 7 wicket haul for 56 in the second innings.   Years later, in 1988  Viv Richard’s team bit the dust in a literal dust bowl when Narendra Deepchand Hirwani, the bespectacled 19 year old took 16 wickets in his debut; the other debutants being WV Raman and Ajay Sharma.  Narendra Hirwani spun and mesmerized the Windies handing over a massive 255 run defeat.  That was the only match captained by Ravi Shastri.  Poor Hiru took further 20 wickets in his next three appearances, but his fortunes were the never the same again. He eventually ended with 66 wickets in 17 tests.  That way one looks forward to a Test match

But the First Test match beginning at Galle on July 18th 2010 (India Vs Lanka) somehow weighs heavily on the mind, not bringing the regular pleasure. For a genius, affable gentle person who spins the ball high, spins it both the ways and makes the ball jump around like a toy has chosen it to be his lost. That’s bringing in melancholic feelings.

Galle is a fortified Port city, situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km off from Colombo. It has a long history of trade – way back in 1505 Portuguese ship was driven there by a storm, Portuguese stormed the city. It was very prominent during the Dutch colonial period; badly affected by the Tsunami on 26th Dec 2004. Rumassala Kanda in Unawatuna is a large mound-like hill to which legend attaches some events of Ramayana.
Namma ooru mapillai - Muttiah Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker in Tests and ODIs, will retire from Test cricket after the first Test against India in Galle, which begins on July 18. He could command his place in any International XI, has chosen to hang up after the first test, even as the magical 800 beckons closer. He is the greatest off spinner (in fact the Emperor amongst Spinners) – he is not bowler in the mould and action of Srinivasa Venkatraghavan or Erapalli Prasanna but perhaps the first wrist-spinning offbreak bowler. His leg spinning delivery often turns as good or more than that of Shane Warne.

Murali was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka on 17th April 1972. His has been an up swinging career bothered by many injuries, some racist taunts and out of field attempts to insinuate him. It started way back in 1992 on Aug 28, 1992 when he made his debut against Australia at Khettarama Stadum and took 3 for 141. For stat buffs, Craig Mcdermott was his first victim. In 1993 on Aug 12, he made his ODI debut against India at the same stadium; took one for 38 off ten overs. Praveen Amre was his first ODI wicket. The magical milestone of 700 was reached in July 2007 against Bangla; On Dec 3, 2007 – he broke Shane Warne’s record of 708 and became the leading wicket taker in Test Cricket. Paul Collingwood was the victim this time at Kandy.

Sure he would have thought of retiring for quite some time now but still it hurts. The Lankans want him for the next WC in 2011. As of date, Murali has taken 792 wickets in 132 Tests and 515 wickets in 337 ODIs. Whether Galle and Indians will provide him the 8 wickets in a test to close at 800 is still a vibrant question.

For long, it was the elite club of 300 wickets in Tests. In 70s Gibbs broke Trueman, Lillee took it to 355 and Hadlee breached 400, only to be broken in 1994 by the great Kapil Dev Nikanj at 434; eclipsed by Courtney Walsh’s 519. In 2004, Murali dethroned Walsh by dismissing Mluleki Nkala at Harare (89th test) becoming the first spinner to be on top after Lance Gibbs. Shane Warne equaled the WC in 2004 & Murali broke him. In Oct 2004, Warne took the crown with tally of 532 in his 114th test.

Everything else was interred deeper at Kandy in 2007 when Murali bowled Paul Collingwood increasing his tally to 709 in his 116th test. Feb 2009 another milestone was achieved when he scalped Gautam Gambhir to surpass Wasik Akram’s tally of 502 in One dayers.

His rise in stature has placed Sri Lankans in a commanding position – from a closer losers tag to potential match winners in any soil, Murali has taken them along – with due credit to his mentors and captains with special reference to Arjuna Ranatunga, who stood by him steadfast.
Stats reveal them all - in 228 innings (of 132 tests); Murali has taken 792 at a frugal 2.47 and high strike rate of 55.1. He has taken 10 wickets in a match 22 times and 66times 5 wickets in an innings. In 329 One day innings, he has taken 515 with 10 five wicket hauls

The effervescence and bubbling energy he has displayed are seen to be believed. He is a great fielder at deep with a good throwing arm in his young days.

His career was blemished when he was called for throwing – no doubt his action is freakish but it has been okayed after tests of bio mechanists. His deformed elbow creates the optical illusion of throwing but the arm bend is well within the ICC’s new 15 degree tolerance limit.

His action was cleared by ICC after biomechanical analysis in non-match conditions but in 2004 he was tormented again with doubts on the legality of his doosra – all at a time when you have a handful of raw medium pacers chucking with questionable actions. Will Bret Lee ever be called by the same Darrell Hair or any other Umpire for suspect action ?

It was quite a paradox and ironical that his career was threatened and he had to bowl with medicinal tabs all over the body – bio mechanics or humiliation !!  To many Gilmour, Thompson, Mcgrath, Bret Lee, Shane Bond, Iam Meckiff, Shoaib Akhthar all have suspect action. Lasith Malinga has added completely different dimension to bowling. Perhaps there were very many in the past with not so conventional style of bowling but the mechanism of TV cameras and super slow motion were not present in those era and they escaped.

He has mastered the art, mesmerized the batsmen and taken Lanka to great new heights. The sharp vulture eyes, bubbly run up, whiplash release, huge turn, bamboozled batsmen will always remain a treat to watch. Though Saqlain is credited with invention, the doosra would remain a radical attachment to bowler’s armory.

Just as defining the finesse of gold, spinners can be rated by their performance against Indians who play spin so well. (forget our last tour to Lanka when mendis ran through us). When it comes to comparison, Shane would pale very badly for his heroics against the Indians and Pakis; whereas Murali has proved to be a nightmare to all. He has more top order scalps.

In a test at Kotla, he sliced the famed Indian batting line up taking 5/23 and the ball that spun across like a vicious leg spinner to castle Dhoni around the legs was a beauty and not beast of a delivery.

Here under is the comparison of top 10 in terms of wicket in Tests and One dayers and it is so revealing that Murali beats them by any possible yardstick.

Regards – Sampathkumar. S


  1. Quite amazing that you hint at racism in the case of Darrel Hair. It shows racism in itself.


  2. Dear Bruce

    Thanks for the visit and comments. Please don't call me a racist. Fact remains that Murali was taunted and harassed not because his bowling was not liked but a lankan tormenting aussie batsmen was not digested.

    Cricket is far different than it was 3 or 4 decades ago. Those days even Windies were targetted and tormented.