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Murali calls it a day

The world of test cricket this week said goodbye to one its greatest ever bowlers as Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan bowed out in Galle. The man from Kandy made his test debut against Australia in August 1992 and has been a mainstay ever since. Throughout his career, he has, however, had to put up with constant criticism regarding his action, with everybody from Darrel Hair to Bishan Bedi calling him a chucker.

The controversy over his bowling action began during the Boxing Day test in Australia in 1995 when Hair called him for throwing seven times in three overs and it unfortunately became a stigma the off-spinner was unable to shake off with even John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister, accusing Murali of chucking. He has undergone tests on several occasions and his action has never been found to be illegal (at least not once the ICC realised that the 5 degree bend of the arm rule was unrealistic) and so his astonishing achievements should be taken for just that. Cricket fans will not remember a chucker; they will rightly remember one of the greatest bowlers to ever hold a cricket ball.

A look at Murali’s career statistics shows just what a special talent he was. The great man took a record 800 wickets in 133 test matches at average of 22.72 and in addition to being an attacking threat, he was also very economical, with an economy rate of 2.5 runs per over. He took five wickets in a match an incredible 67 times and 10 wickets 22 times. These performances led Wisden Cricket Almanac to name him the greatest test bowler of all time and Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 2000 and 2006. In addition to these test cricket exploits, he also took 515 wickets in One Day Internationals (ODIs), including 53 in World Cups. He also helped the Chennai Super Kings to the IPL title earlier this year, further demonstrating his ability to perform in all forms of the game.

Muralitharan announced his retirement prior to Sri Lanka’s test versus India in Galle whilst on 792 wickets. The question on everybody’s lips was whether he could reach the 800 wicket milestone. Despite the weather’s best attempts to scupper his chances, he took five wickets in the first innings and when Sri Lanka forced India to follow on, the feat was a real possibility. Murali dismissed Yuvraj Singh and then Harbhajan Singh but despite bowling marathon spells, he could not seem to find the eighth wicket he needed. Lasith Malinga was wreaking havoc at the other end and it looked as if he would skittle the Indian batting lineup with Murali stuck on 799. However, Murali’s test career got the dream ending when tail ender Pragyan Ojha edged to the safe hands of Mahela Jayawardene in the slips. Furthermore, Sri Lanka went on to win the game by ten wickets, giving Muralitharan the perfect send off.

Reaction from all around the cricket world was unanimously positive, suggesting people have finally recognised Murali as the elite bowler he is. Fellow spin bowlers Shane Warne and Anil Kumble were quick to congratulate the Sri Lankan and Prime Minister Disanayaka Jayaratne also offered his words of congratulation.

Murali celebrates his record feat (This image is the property of The Telegraph)

Whilst he will continue to play ODIs and T20 cricket, the world of test cricket will be poorer without Muralitharan, a man who simply has to be seen as one of, if not the, best bowlers of all time. 800 wickets tells its own story but his work off the field has to be admired too. He has almost always conducted himself in a polite, gentlemanly fashion and his philanthropic exploits, particularly after the tsunami in 2004, paint a picture of a man who has used his fame and fortune to help those who are not as lucky as he. Cricket is not only losing a great player, but one of its most affable characters. It is as a great player and an affable gentleman that he will be remembered in years to come.

Muttiah Muralitharan

Name: Muttiah Muralitharan

Place of Birth: Kandy, Sri Lanka

Date of Birth: 17th April 1972

Test Match Appearances: 133

Test Match Wickets: 800

One Day Internationals: 337

One Day International Wickets: 515


Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World 2000

Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World 2006

Wisden Best Test Bowler of All Time

Categories: Cricket
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