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Muralitharan celebrates 39th birthday on triumphant note



Muttiah Muralitharan - signs off after a string of fine bowling performances in Sri Lanka and abroad.

CRICKET: Sri Lanka’s and World’s champion spin bowler - the “Doosra” specialist Muttiah Muralitharan has something to ‘crow’ about in his retirement. He is the highest wicket-taker in both forms of cricket - Test and limited-over games. He has been rated as the greatest Test match bowler in Wisden Cricket Almanach 2002.

When Murali dismissed Indian Gautam Gambhir (caught by then wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara in the fourth ODI against India at the Premadasa Stadium on February 5 in 2009, he claimed his 500th ODI wicket. He then went past Pakistan’s Wasim Akram’s haul of 502 wickets. It was then Murali’s 328th match. Murali was then 36 years and the highest wicket-taker in Tests and today (April 17) he celebrates his 39th birthday. Though he has announced his retirement from big-time cricket for Sri Lanka, he has the satisfaction of being on top of both Test and One-Day Internationals in his chosen field.

On the 28th of August 1992 at the age of 20 years, Muralitharan made his debut against Australia at the Khettarama Stadium and claimed 3 for 141. Craig McDeermot was his first Test wicket. His freakish action and his angular run up showed that this was no run-of-the-mill spinner. During his first Test, there was one dismissal which convinced menu of Muralitharan’s special powers. Tom Moody’s leg-stump was dislodged when he shouldered arms to a delivery that pitched at least two feet outside the off-stump.

The youthful Muralitharan went from strength to strength and weathered many a storm about those who questioned his bowling action. In August 1993 Moratuwa, Muralitharan captured 5 for 104 in South Africa’s first innings - his first five-wicket haul in Test - his wickets included Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes.

Unique distinction

Then Muralitharan had the unique distinction of getting 10 or more wickets in a match against all other 9 Test playing nations as well as capturing over 50 wickets against each of them. He had also obtained 7 or more wickets in an innings against 5 nations (namely England, India, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe).

In January 1998, Muralitharan, took his first ten-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in the first test in Kandy. Sri Lanka won by 8 wickets and Muralitharan had figures of 12 for 117.


Sri Lanka’s spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan (left) carries his son Naren. But this won’t be for long as Naren has joined S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. And intentions are known - another Muralitharan on the cricket scene in the not too distant future.

Came August that same year Muralitharan produced his career best Test match figures of 16 for 220, in the one-off Test against England. In England’s second innings Muralitharan bowled a marathon spell of 54.2 overs to pick up 9 for 65, other wicket was a run-out. Bero Hollioake became his 200th Test wicket.

Sri Lanka won by ten wickets, their first Test victory in England.

Five World Cup tourneys

After breaking the world record for the most Test wickets in 2007, Muralitharan said that his 1998 performances at the Oval against England, was his career highlight.

He stated: “Everyone thought I was a good bowler then and I didn’t look back from there.” Muralitharan has played in five Cricket World Cup tournaments. In 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

He has represented Sri Lanka in three world Cup finals. In 1996 Muralitharan was part Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning team that defeated Australia in Lahore, Pakistan.

He also played in the 2007 World Cup final, when Australia defeated Sri Lanka in Bridgetown, Barbados.

He then was in the team that ended runners-up against India this year.

The great cricketer that he is, he has fought his way through many difficult times. Muralitharan’s career has been beset with controversy.

His bowling action called into question on a number of occasions by umpires and sections of the cricket community.

After biomechanical analysis in non-match conditions, Muralitharan’s action was cleared by the International Cricket Council. First in 1996 and again in 1999.

The legality of his “Doosra” was first called into question in 2004. This delivery was found to exceed the ICC elbow extension limit by nine degrees, five degrees being the limit for spinners at that time.

Based on official studies into bowling actions, which revealed that 99 of all bowlers exceed the elbow flexion limits, ICC revised the limits applying to all bowlers in 2005. Muralitharan’s “Doosra” falls within the revised limits.

 

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