Murali won Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title in 1991
CRICKET: There are some people who merely talk and not
recognise the deeds of cricketers who need merit. One such cricketer who
has suffered in the past is none other than Sri Lanka’s world beater -
the champion off-spinner and ‘Doosra’ specialist Muttiah Muralitharan
who ‘found his feet’ in the game at an early age at St. Anthony’s
FLASHBACK 1991... The big moment - Muttiah Muralitharan of St.
Anthony’s College, Katugastota (left) receives the Observer
Trophy from Chief Guest Mr. Sirisena Cooray watched by then
Observer Editor Mr. H. L. D. Mahindapala.
Muralitharan, after his many attractive feats with the ball during
the inter-school cricket seasons for St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota
was picked Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991 by the panel
of cricket umpires. He was also picked as the Best Bowler too, that
That was not all the Antonians won that year. They had somewhat a
field day at the awards ceremony, having Sajith Fernando as the Best
Batsman, Nuwan Kalpage - their captain as Best Captain and he was also
chosen as runner-up in the Best Allrounder’s category and Best Fielder’s
Then St. Anthony’s Katugastota was also picked as the Best Team in
the whole island and quite naturally, the Antonians were also chosen as
the Best Team in the Central province. What a collection of awards all
That year in bowling, Murali stood head and shoulders above all
others. It was evident in the matches that there was class written all
over. He may have taken over 100 wickets for two consecutive seasons.
Now, he may have held the all-time record haul of 127 wickets for a
But, more that the figures, the manner in which he performed his task
was really outstanding. This was the obvious reason that the umpires
picked him as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year - the first cricketer
outside Colombo to be picked in the contest organised by the Sunday
Bowling feats recognised
Murali - the star that shook the world
The fine feats in bowling at inter-school level by Murali was duly
recognised by the selectors in the Cricket Board then. After some fine
bowling performances against the Australian Academy team and England ‘A’
early in the year 1992, Muralitharan was the only new face in the
16-strong Sri Lanka cricket team that was picked to tour England in July
The Sri Lanka team that year makes interesting reading:
Opening batsmen: Roshan Mahanama (CCC), Chandika Hathurusinghe (Tamil
Union), Brendon Kuruppu (BRC). Middle-Order: Aravinda de Silva - Capt. (NCC),
Asanka Gurusinha V. Capt. (NCC), Marvan Atapattu (SSC), Sanath
Fast medium bowlers: Rumesh Ratnayake (NCC), Champaka Ramanayake
(Tamil Union), Kapila Wijegunawardena (NCC) and Saliya Ahangama (SSC).
Spinners: Ranjith Madurusinghe (Kurunegala YCC), S. Don Anurasiri (Panadura
SC), Muttiah Muralitharan (Tamil Union.)
Wicket-keepers: Hashan Tillekeratne (NCC) and Romesh Kaluwitharana (BRC).
The selection of 18-year-old Muralitharan was seen as the selector’s
policy to encourage spinners to form the Sri Lanka bowling attack for
According to many knowledgeable experts of the game, Muralitharan was
considered a match winning bowler and he has already proved it several
times first at school and then at club matches in the domestic scene and
now in big company.
In 2002, Muralitharan had the honour of being branded alongside Sir
Donald Bradman of Australia as the top Test players in history of
cricket by the cricket bible - Wisden. Bradman had the outstanding
average of 99.94. Muralitharan was ahead of New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee
with England’s Sydney Barnes, who bowled a unique brand of spin at pace
in the early 1900s, in third place.
Murali, as many ardent followers of the game know, is a glutton for
hard work and hard work has its rewards.
Muralitharan is now Test cricket’s leading bowler, having surpassed
his age-old rival - Shane Warne’s record. When Murali bowled England
batsman Paul Collingwood on the third morning of that Test at Asgiriya
to claim his 709th wicket thereby surpass Warne’s world tally of 708
wickets, he was on top of the world.
Murali added another wicket when England tail-ender Hoggard was
stumped by wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardena off his bowling, his total
went up to 710. After Sri Lanka’s fine victory of that First Test,
Muralitharan’s tally rose to 713. His tally now is 723 in 116 Tests.
So, it has been a wonderful climb to the top for this persevering
bowler who had to overcome many obstacles to reach that top spot. In
getting to the world record, Muralitharan’s best ‘bowl’ in an innings
was 9 for 51 against Zimbabwe at the Asgiriya ground.
It is somewhat unfair to keep questioning his action when through the
Test of time, and a system that has analysed and passed him, for people
to question his action whenever he comes up with a rich haul of wickets.
The son of a hill-country confectioner, Muralitharan learnt to play
the game at St. Anthony’s, Katugastota. As a 14-year-old, he wanted to
become a fast bowler, but his small frame left him fighting for a place
in the school team.
Muralitharan is a cricketer who listens to his elders. His coach in
his young days advised him to take to spin bowling and he obeyed the
coach - and now he is on top of the world.
Muralitharan is on top of the world, but, he has not forgotten the
unfortunate ones and indulges in a lot of charity work.