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Thursday, July 22, 2010


At Galle, with Indians forced back to the wall – the main interest was whether Murali would get to the magical figure of 800 test wickets.

The lankan tail wagged merrily to close at 520-8; Indians were in somewhat a comfortable position but collapsed from 250 to 276 all out after Sehwag left. As usual a section of the Press brayed for his blood at the manner he got out, forgetting that he had complied a glorious century treating the bowlers with disdain.

Following on, India lost 5 wickets yesterday and at lunch were 292/8 – a slender lead of 48 with Lakshman and Ishant at the crease. When this test started Murali had 792 scalps and the second day wash out made his chances thinner. He took five for 63 in the first essay simmering closer and took two thus far in the second innings – Lakshman departed run out – denying Murali a chance to complete the phenomenal 800 – now how long Mithun or Pragyan would hold was the only Question.

Galle has been a farewell test for Murali and rightly so – the entire town is posted with Muralitharan posters, banners, cut outs, messages, an electronic countdown to 800 wickets. At Galle Fort overlooking the stadium there are two giant cut outs. This morning red carpet was rolled out when he walked in. Fitting tributes to a legend whose career started on Aug 28, 1992 at Colombo against Australia. 18 years have fleeted past and there perhaps would never be one – so great taking buckets of wickets. Somebody getting anywhere closer to 800 would be unthinkable, given the least priority to Test cricket and with the nos. dwindling. Also the present generation cricketers with spread of ODIs and T20s may never last long enough to get anywhere nearer.

And no other bowler would have so much weapons in their armoury as Murali did – his big dancing off breaks, doosras, flippers and et al. In the first innings, he thought out and flummoxed Dhoni – an off spinner’s dream that had the loop, turn, and everything. The second innings started with greater expectations, with Murali needing only 3- soon as the Umpire said play, Gambhir was back and Murali had one opportunity less. When it was about to be stumps, Murali got one to spin across the left handed Yuvi who was clueless – whether it was a clean catch by Mahela is another story altogether.

It looked more of a mockery to read an interesting article in cricinfo which read that Murali actually stands fifth on the all time list of Lankan test match six hitters with 29, behind the famed Jayasuriya, Arvinda, Jayawardene and Ranatunga. As a batsman, in 132 tests / 163 innings, he has 1257 runs with a solitary 50 – has 146 hits to the boundary and 29 over it. Has an impressive strike rate of 70 +

It is a sheer coincidence that Warne’s debut was closer to that of Murali, Kumble was recalled in the same year and Ian Salisbury too made his, at the same time.

In our younger days, as I wrote earlier, 300 was the bench mark, broken by Gibbs, bettered by Lillee, then Hadlee and Kapil was perched at the top with 434 for long. Now 800 beckons Murali - after agonizing wait, Pragyan Ojha edged Murali to become part of the history.

MURALI IS 800 NOW.  In all probability, he would remain the first, the last and perhaps the only man to take 800 test wickets, that besides his 515 in one dayers.

Regards – Sampathkumar.

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