Saturday, 24 July 2010

Muttiah Muralitharan and his 800th Test Wicket: The perfect end to an outstanding career

As India's Pragyan Ojha was caught by Jayawardene on Thursday, cricket history was made. It was the moment that Muttiah Muralitharan captured his 800th Test wicket, a landmark that will surely never be eclipsed.

Murali had gone into the Test, which he had already announced to be his last, he was searching for eight more wickets to reach 800. He took 5-63 in the first innings but had only taken a further two in the second innings as his team-mate Malinga took a five-wicket haul. At nine down, Murali toiled away at one end seeking the elusive final wicket and sure enough, as if taken from a Hollywood script, the spinner claimed his 800th wicket with the final ball of his Test career.

It was an outstanding achievement to bring the curtain down for what was an outstanding cricketer. He has left Shane Warne behind on 708 Test wickets and did so having played eleven less tests. Murali played only ten more Tests than the great Glen McGrath surpassed his wicket total by a staggering 237 which puts this achievement into perspective.

He had the ability to spin the ball any which way while giving little indication to a batsmen as to which delivery he was facing until the ball bounced. He used his devastating variety of deliveries with guile and intelligence allowing him to pick up wickets against any opposition, on any wicket and in any form of the game.

Murali has inevitably been lavished with the praise of greats of the game, past and present, and by journalists worldwide, and quite rightly so. Arguably the greatest bowler to ever play International cricket has retired in emphatic circumstances and the cricketing world has duly delivered a rapturous standing ovation.

Since his test debut against Australia in 1992 there has, however, been a constant controversy surrounding Muttiah Muralitharan and his unorthodox action. Questions have been asked throughout his career as to the legality of his bowling technique, many calling it a throw.

It was thanks to Muralitharan that the definitions of a legal delivery, in terms of the angle of the bowlers elbow, were defined. His action was examined on numerous occasions throughout his career where it was discovered that he had a condition that meant he was unable to fully straighten his arm, making his bowling action occasionally look like a throw. Each of his different deliveries were tested and his arm was even placed in a brace to prevent in bending. After all these tests on his arm, his bowling action was declared to be legal.

There have also been some who have attempted to diminish his record by stating that too many of his Test wickets came against the minnows of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, 176 in total. Critics were outspoken through his career and a few linger on even now. Thankfully their criticism is widely ignored.

Murali's action was far from textbook but it never failed to get results. He picked up wickets whenever his skipper threw him the ball. He made great batsmen look foolish and did it all with that trademark smile on his face. The record will probably never be broken, his cricket legacy will certainly never be forgotten.

In other cricket news. Pakistan have just sealed their first Test match victory over Australia since 1995, which means that Ricky Ponting still remains without a Test series win in England as captain. Pakistan made needlessly hard work of the win at Headingly though.

Their bowlers excelled in favourable conditions on day one and dismissed the Aussies for 88 in their first innings. Pakistan managed to get a score of 258 in their first innings before Ricky Ponting and co battled to 349 in their second innings, setting Pakistan a target of 180 for the win. They seemed to be cruising to that target last night but they struggled this morning and gave Australia hope by dropping wickets before eventually reaching the required total to draw the series 1-1.

While enjoying watching Australia struggle in all forms of the game this summer, England will have been watching this series with interest as they prepare to take on Pakistan in the first of four Tests at Trent Bridge on Thursday. Although, with an Ashes series looming, Pakistan may not provide the sternest opposition, they have still shown that they are able of very good cricket, especially with ball, they have just lacked consistency.

It will be interesting to see how England fare against Pakistan in the upcoming series... a blog will follow at some point on this I am sure.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...


  1. Shane Warne is still the greatest bowler of all-time in my opinion. I can't get over the fact that Murali is just exploiting his physical abnormality. I'm not 100% convinced by the legality of his action either. I remember watching the video he made of himself bowling with an arm brace and the strange thing was that he only bowled at half pace; there would be far greater chance of his arm straightening when bowling full pace.

    He was a great bowler and had a superb career but his legacy will always be marred by questions about his action.

  2. The Warne v Murali debate will inevitably divide cricket fans but I think it is a shame that people would over-look Murali because of his unorthodox action. Judge them on the same credentials. I understand that for some it will always be impossible to reflect on his career without the lingering questions on the legality of his bowling action but this is unfair. He has to be one of, if not the, finest spin bowlers to ever play the game. He has had his critics in the game, for the reasons you have stated, but most of them were converted over the course of his career. His action was examined by experts and specialists on four different occasions and bveen declared perfectly legal within the laws of the game. With that the case it would be tragic of his legacy was marred by these questions rather than celebrated as it ought to be.


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