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Murali's unbridled hunger for Test wickets

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Oliver Brett | 17:31 UK time, Tuesday, 6 July 2010

It looked like a Test match that would attract only cursory interest in a calendar so bogged down with international fixtures.

But now Sri Lanka's match against India in Galle starting on 18 July will be a very special one, bringing to an end the phenomenal Test career of one of the finest bowlers the game has seen.

Should Muttiah Muralitharan take eight wickets in the match - and for a player with his record it is by no means a distant prospect - he will end with an extraordinary haul of 800 wickets.

With the volume of Test cricket set to drop in the coming years, it is almost unthinkable that anyone will get close to that mark ever again.

Although the left-arm swing bowler Chaminda Vaas gave him valuable support for a while, for long periods of many Test matches Muralitharan carried the Sri Lankan attack on his own two shoulders.

At times, rumours were happily allowed to circulate by Muralitharan himself that the master off-spinner had developed a new delivery, one that this time no opposition batsman would be able to counter.

Muralitharan in action, December 2007Muralitharan dismissing Michael Vaughan on England's 2007-08 tour of Sri Lanka

An exasperated Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, said before one series that he would no longer worry about Murali's variations because there was only a finite number of directions he could turn the ball.

But when I interviewed another former England skipper, Alec Stewart, a few hours after news of Muralitharan's Test retirement had been broken by BBC Sinhala, the former Surrey man said the key issue was the amount of spin imparted.

"I could see which way the ball was spinning in the air, but you never knew how much it was going to turn; it could be a few inches or it could be a few feet," said Stewart.

"Beyond that, there was always change of pace, degree of flight, and angle of delivery to consider as well. All the problems you normally face from a regular spinner are just exaggerated because of the amount of spin he can impart on the ball.

"Anyone who can spin the ball as much as he could - and he obviously spun it more than anyone else who has played the game - is going to take wickets.

"In a Test match, he could bowl half the overs in the day, and was always developing his doosra [the ball that turns the "wrong way", away from the right-hander].

"He performed at the highest level for a long, long time. He would get tired, because it's hard work, but Sri Lanka built their bowling attack around him and with the stack of overs that he bowled there came a stack of wickets.

"There will always be a question mark about his action. Some people say he bowls it, others say that what he does is illegal. But you can't take away what he has achieved."

The accusations of illegal "chucking" that have dogged Muralitharan will never vanish, forming an indelible blot on his career.

But the man himself is such a pleasure to talk to, such a joy to see in action, and such an unbridled entertainer that it seems perverse to attach any notion of skulduggery to what he has done.

Without getting immersed in the technicalities, Muralitharan's right arm has a congenital defect which means that it appears to bend more than it actually does when he bowls.

He has been filmed bowling in the nets with a brace strapped to his arm that allows for virtually no elbow flex.

It is not as though others are untouchable. When the International Cricket Council examined video footage of bowlers during the 2004 Champions Trophy they found that 99% of bowlers flexed their elbows to some extent.

From that point on, it raised the permitted thresh-hold to 15 degrees of elbow bend, and since then the subject has been less of a concern to players and administrators.

Replacing Muralitharan, who was also one of the most carefree and uncomplicated tail-end sloggers, a safe catcher in the deep and a deceptively dangerous fielder close in, will be difficult for Sri Lanka.

His obvious successor appears to be Ajantha Mendis, a 25-year-old with more variety than Muralitharan if not the same lavish turn. But his career has slowed after a dramatically effective first year in the international game.

We are unlikely to see anyone with such an extraordinary hunger for Test wickets ever again. Muralitharan, the attack dog of spin bowlers, was never content to bide his time and wait for errors.

Fleeting appearances in the shorter formats will continue. He is likely to bow out of one-day internationals after next year's World Cup, and may have a season or two left in the Indian Premier League.

But the sight of him relentlessly whirring away for over after over, hour by hour, in Test matches will soon be confined to archive video and our own, fabulous memories.


  • Comment number 1.

    Greatest spin bowler ever.

  • Comment number 2.

    End of an era...great talent...will be missed

  • Comment number 3.

    Great blog.
    I agree its a shame that the controversy of his bowling action was as well known as the great man himself, thankfully he has rightly taking his place in history as one of (if not THE) greatest bowlers world cricket has ever seen. And he always carries himself as a gent off the pitch too.

  • Comment number 4.

    Who was better - Warne or Muttiah?

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    Warne versus Murali...

    Much is said of Warne's record against India counting against him. If you compare the two, Warne actually comes out ahead. He played 9 Tests in India, taking 34 wickets at 43. Murali played 11 Tests, taking 40 wickets at 45. Very little between them in that regard, and it shows that India played spin well at home irrespective of whether it was Antipodean leg breaks or Sri Lankan off breaks.

    The second stat to look at would be their records in Sri Lanka. Murali played 72 Tests at home, taking 485 wickets at 19.49. Warne played 9 Tests in Sri Lanka, taking 49 wickets at 20.45. Murali bowled far more overs per Test due to the limitations of the Sri Lankan attack compared to the Aussies, but the stats do suggest that Warne and Murali bowled at similar levels when given the same conditions to bowl in.

    The third stat to check would be their 'bogey countries' For Murali, it was Australia. Five Tests, 12 wickets at 75 tells a story. For Warne, it was the West Indies (7 Tests, 17 wickets at 39.64). Murali enjoyed good success against and in the West Indies. I'd put that down partly to the number of left handed batsmen the Windies had then. The ball going across them would have presented a greater challenge than Warne bowling leg breaks into them. Also Warne had shoulder surgery in 1998 and didn't look particularly match fit in the 1999 series in the West Indies.

    There's so little to choose between them. I'd hold Warne up as the better tactician, something he has shown with Hampshire and in the IPL. Murali though brought a sheer love for the game that was infectious. My favourite memory of him came from a domestic limited overs match for Lancashire against Yorkshire. Darren Gough was commentating and I'm pretty sure Murali was bowling to Anthony McGrath. McGrath didn't have a clue and Goughie was cracking up. When the end came, Mcgrath was all at sea and Gough was in hysterics. Murali smiled that grin of his and all was right with the world. A truly great bowler and never a chucker in my book.

  • Comment number 7.

    Very tough to compare him with Warne, both incredible players. Murali - Unplayable On Days 4 and 5, but I think Warney would shade it for big wickets at big times, and his batting/aura.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

  • Comment number 10.

    I wonder if any bowler in the history of the game has had there action come under as close scrutiny over such an extended period of time as Murali. FWIW, all the evidence I have seen is that his action was legal. I remember once seeing a video construction of his action that should the excessive spin came from his shoulder, rather than through any illegal action.

    What is true is that he and Warne must go down as the games two best spinners, at least in the modern era. Murali virtually invented the concept of a 'mystery spinner', and completely transformed what is possible for a spinner to achieve, along with Warne. (Sometimes I think much of the Aussie distrust of Murali is because he was such a threat to the idea of Warne, and his mystique).

  • Comment number 11.

    In my book, Murali is the best test bowler of all time..simply because he was the oftentimes the only quality bowler in the team. Warne played in a an Aussie team with a great fast bowling attack throughout his career. If you had Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee pounding the batsmen relentlessly at the other end, it would definitely make things easier for you to take wickets at the other end!!

  • Comment number 12.


    There's one other along with Warne and Murali who needs to be mentioned in the rebirth of spin bowling in the 1990s, and that is Saqlain Mushtaq. It is incredible to think that he is still only 33,hasn't played a Test match for six years despite an average under 30, and hasn't played an ODI game since 2003 despite an average under 22. When you see the chances repeatedly dished out to someone like Shoaib, one wonders why Saqlain wasn't given quite the same considerations. At his peak, Saqlain was a superb off spinner and the world became aware of the doosra because of him primarily and Murali secondary.

  • Comment number 13.

    Warne Murali the greatest?

    I suppose you can argue all day but the thing for me is that you cannot compare it by statistics of wickets taken and where. It is more complex than that. Because Australia have always been winning when Warne played, therefore the batsman are undeer more pressure and more likely to lose their wickets. This skews the statistics in the favour of Warne as by default Australia takes more wickets quicker.
    It is no different to a striker scoring 20 for Wigan or 20 for Chelsea. The striker for Chelsea will find it easier.
    On the oppositr side Murali was so much the figurehead and used as a strike bowler for S. L. that he would have more wickets due to the way he was used in each continent.
    Having said that I believe that these two are the best we have ever seen and I just about choose Murali. Mostly because I cannot think of any players attitude and joy for the sport I would like my children to copy and follow.
    As for chucking, it is others problem not his. The wickets have been taken and the career is over and the great man can now, finally stop smiling at all us fans!

  • Comment number 14.

    Great bowler and a true gent.

    All of you who STILL cry about him being a "chucker" only do so because he was not one of your own!!!

    Test cricket will be poorer especially in the modern game which is all geared towards the batsman.

  • Comment number 15.

    So 1,000 Test wickets is now impossible, I guess. Swann got 50+ wickets last year. If he can play 19 more years, he will get there. Nah, just kidding. Btw, Tendulkar has played for more than 20 years. So who knows?

  • Comment number 16.

    Absolute legend. Will be missed massively.

    As per the Warne/Murali debate, I think it's hard for an Englishman to judge, as Warne was the arch rival for years. I grew up watching England Australia games that involved Warne and he always symbolised everything that was so great about Australia.

    However Murali was a different kettle of fish. An outstanding talent who had the ability to single handedly demolish a team.

    I couldn't pick one, but I fully expect that they will pass into almost legend status as time goes by and every subsequent spinner is compared.

  • Comment number 17.

    Let's just say that Warne is the best leg spin bowler of all time, while Murali is the greatest off spinner ever. I'm sure we can all agree with that easily enough. ;) But seriously, they were (are?) both tremendous players. Pretty difficult to say which is better, if you ask me.

    A toast! To Murali! May he enjoy his well earned retirement and/or whatever he decides to do next. :)

  • Comment number 18.

    My opinion is I preferred Warne.
    The way I thought about it was, on a terrible pitch for spin, with one ball to go and two runs to win, which of the two spinners would I want to bowl for me? For his mystique, tactics, although similar talent level, it would be Warne I would go with. Pretty sad and subjective I know, but there you go!

  • Comment number 19.

    I really enjoyed his game since 1992.He became a match winner from 1993. Sri Lankan team had nice batsmen ( Aravinda,Arjuna) and fielders ( Roshan Mahanama), but they didn't have a match winning bowler.

    Murali with Vaas showed the Cricket World that Sri Lanka could perform consistently and could be a threat to any team. Murali gave his 100% support to Sri Lankan team and they gave their 100% support when he needed. Murali is always a entertainer for the fans who want to see a wonderful game.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    AS others have said, almost impossible to decide between him and Warne. Yes, Warne played in a more dominant team so batsman would have been under more pressure. On the other hand, if you play with more good bowlers in your side it is harder to get all the wickets yourself as you have the likes of McGrath taking loads of wickets at the other end!

    I tend to agree with 'Geordie2004' and think of one as the greatest leg spinner and one as the greatest off spinner.

  • Comment number 22.

    amazing bowler
    pity him and warne didn't play directly against each other more both will be remembered forever

    abit like a holding midfielder in football will probably be apriciated more when he's not there and we see wat were missing

  • Comment number 23.

    Two words: No Ball

    ...but undoubtedly a gent.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    In my opinion Murali is way better than Warne as a bowler, a lot more talented, capable spinner regardless whether if it's off or leg breaks. It's just that in England and Australia cricket fans usually only watch the ashes and make their judgements based on that.

    To this date I believe if Murali was an Australian or an Englishman he would have been accepted as a phenomenon and a genius, once in a life time talent. I am not saying Warne is not a great bowler, it's just that Murali is the best out of the two in a comparison. Murali was called by an umpire, who is biased against the subcontinent teams, glad he's not in the news any more.

    Ex Australian prime minister John Howard said Murali is a chucker, because he had studied the arm flexes of the said bowler personally, not because he couldn't stand the honour of being the best bowler of our generation and the highest wicket taker ever is Murali instead of Warne, end of sory. Yes I am biased towards Murali, and so are you all of Warnes supporters. Thanks for a great article Oliver, Murali the best ever.

  • Comment number 27.

    Murali is the greatest bowler game has ever seen, there might not be a second person as test cricket declines and shorter versions dominate. He had to overcome many obstacles with chucking accusations, racism and political turmoil in Sri Lanka at the time. His courage, determination and will to succeed made him strong and fearless. During his Australian tours spectators have relentlessly 'booed' him, nonetheless state leaders have forgotten diplomacy and accused him even though had no idea about 'what is chucking'. All these were extra ordinary and Murali should have ended his cricket long time ago with the level of opposition he had from some sectors. In the mean time majority of cricket fans adored him and rallied behind him including many greats of the game.
    Conspiracy theories were around him long before Darrell Hair 'no balled' him. Some could not believe and did not want to believe his success instead forced themselves to believe him as a chucker. It is all past and Murali's time came to an end as everything else. It would be nice to see others coming and taking his place but it is most unlikely as test cricket is a vanishing sport.
    So we witness fading away of another great. Well done Murali.

  • Comment number 28.

    As mentioned, a lovely man and a true sportsman. I've never been convinced by his action but if the authorities say its OK then I guess we abide by it and congratulate him on his feats. I think his action is not quite as awkward as it was in the early years when Umpire Hair quite rightly had his doubts.
    However, no matter how much it hurts me to say it, Warne was a far better bowler and took the big wickets at the crucial times.

  • Comment number 29.

    Apparently according to the moderators you can't label Murali as a 'Chucker'.

    OK then...his action is suspect and it appears he throws the ball as opposed to bowling it.

    I wonder if this post will get past the KGBBC?

  • Comment number 30.

    Murali and Warne are both fantastic bowlers.

    As a bowler, Murali probably edges it. Murali was the strike bowler around which Srilankan teams have been built over the last 15 years. It invaribly meant that the batsmen had the option to play out Murali and score off the others. That Murali took so many wickets at an astonishing rate speaks of his skill.

    Warne had the luxury of coming in to bowl after a few wickets has gone down most of the time. He did take key wickets when the other stars failed. Why we didn't notice that is Murali's case was because he was doing it all the time. But when it comes to the bowler/batsman/strategist packge, Warne edges it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Murali vs Warne: My take
    Murali has single handedly carried the Lankan bowling attack for a decade now. He has also helped in grooming the younger genration. Lanka today has quite a few able replacements for him in Herath, Randiv, Mendis.
    On the other hand Warne was always assisted by great pace attack. Also, since he has retired Aussies have struggled to find any sort of replacement for him.

    And as far as behaviour (on or off the field) is concerned, Murali is far better than Warne.

  • Comment number 32.

    For me it was a tragedy and paradox.

    Liked the man enormously. His cricket entertained.

    But, every time I studied his action in close up
    slow-mo he clearly had a non conforming action.

    With Warne there was never any hint of illegality.
    One bonus: Murali and Warne should inspire today's and
    tomorrow's spinners. That they can be decisive, attack bowlers
    and not just someone to use up a few overs and slow the run rate.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think it is a tribute to Sri Lanka who - for such a small island - produce very good cricketers time and time again.
    Murali, in my mind, is the greatest spinner of all time and also a great team player who can now pass on his wisdom to his successors.

  • Comment number 34.

    We have been blessed to see such great bowlers as Warne & Murali who have changed the perception of spin in this great game.

    As well as the bogey tours element I would remove many of the wickets taken against second division test playing countries (Bangladesh & Zimbabwe). This would probably favour Warne statistically.

    I believe most fantasy cricket managers though would have both of them in their team.

  • Comment number 35.

    In addition to what Pete752 says about Murali's often having been the only quality bowler in the Lanka side and having to shoulder an enormous burden, one must also mention the superb Aussie batting lineup which allowed Warne much more freedom and room, and as already stated, McGrath and Lee hustling the batsmen from the other side.

    Warne also could never quite dominate Indian batsmen. He may have taken quite a few wickets there but those were largely the results of overenthusiastic Indian batsman trying to cower him into submission. Only later did he get some respect from the Indians. Murali earned himself this respect a lot earlier.

    The Aussies never could digest their loss to Lanka in the World Cup finals I guess. The Aussie support for Darrell Hair has really been in very bad taste.

    That being said, Murali and Warne, well what a joy to have witnessed these wonderful bowlers bamboozle batsmen with their guile and craft, like Waqar and Wasim among the seamers.

  • Comment number 36.

    Are you people having a laugh? The greatest spin bowler ever, I don't think so, the rules were changed to accomodate a guy who's action was questionable from the start, but when questioned he had already over 300 scalps, but to keep the peace the laws of cricket were changed, that to me is real shame.

    Of those 300 scalps the majority of those wickest were against 3rd rate teams.

    Records do show he's more test wickets, but he will always be rated behind the great Shane Warne...

  • Comment number 37.

    Back in the mid/late 80's i was at the same school as Murali, at St.Anthony's College in Kandy. The man would never get off the field or the nets. Most of the time he didn't have to go to lessons. He was always popular with the kids and remains a legend amongst the old boys.
    A big thank you to Murali.

  • Comment number 38.

    It is not easy to campare Warne and Murali.If you look closey Murali always always had to come and bowl to a well set batsman since SL pace bowling attack was not that good.It has been always tough for him. But Warne most of the time gets to bowl when there's few wickets already down.Warne always had bowlers around him.
    Murali is a real gentlemen but Warne's character is not very good.Overall both are fantastic Crickters.

  • Comment number 39.

    Murali - a gentleman, a character and fantastic bowler, but with a suspect action (no matter how many times it's been 'cleared') that allowed him to impart greater spin on the ball than would have been possible with a standard, unquestionably legitimate action.

    Warne - perceived to be hot-headed, arrogant and his ban did him no favours, but he pretty much rejuvenated leg spin bowling and imparted ridiculous amounts of spin with a perfectly legitimate action.

    Hard to call, but I'd have to go with Warne, purely because his bowling action (unlike some of his off-field actions) can never be called into question and such can never be as controversial.

  • Comment number 40.

    A word on the chucking row:

    A throw involves a bent arm that ends up straight. As Wikipedia states:

    "In the sport of cricket, throwing, commonly referred to as chucking, is an illegal bowling action which occurs when a bowler straightens their arm by more than 15 degrees when delivering the ball. The Laws of Cricket specify that a bowler's arm must be fully extended and rotated about the shoulder to impart velocity to the ball. Throws are not allowed."

    As I understand it, it's that notion of 'fully extended' that is the key point. When Murali bowls, his arm is as fully extended as he can make it. If his arm fully extended is still bent by, say, 15 degrees due to his physical attributes, then you have to take that as the part of zero and he is allowed to bend 15 degrees from that point.

    I've never felt he was a chucker. I've played against people with dubious actions and some were pretty clear. In his case, he has a remarkable physique. His physical attributes are as special as Usain Bolt's are.

  • Comment number 41.

    Sorry---but once a chucker, always a chucker for me! And malinga the slinger doesn't rotate properly about the shoulder so he's one as well for me!

  • Comment number 42.

    Murali is the test and ODI highest wicket taker, only the best bowlercould have achieved this feat. If Warne were the better bowler, then he should have done it. Clearly he couldn't albeit trying his guts out.

    For Warnes 708 wickets he had played 145 matches. Murali had only played 132 so far for his 792 wickets, the 133rd being his last. For those who say he played against lesser opposition, let me reinvigorate your memories that Warnes most test wickets came against Englands players who were inept at playing spinners.

    Search the wikipedia, and all other circus media that one can get their hands on, ICC has cleared Murali, and just because Warne fans doesn;t endorse Murali's action due to the inability of their super star to get more wickets and come second to Murali, it's not Murali's fault. It's Warnes inability to prove he's a better bowler than Murali. End of story again :-).

  • Comment number 43.

    Well played Murali, a true legend and an absolute gent. When comparing the 2 spin greats you have to bare in mind Warney's fellow pace attack applying additional pressure on batsmen and the great Aussie batters who would regularly score over 500 giving Warney the platform unlike the Sri Lankan batsmen who were hit and miss in the test arena when it came to putting a score on the board.

  • Comment number 44.

    Great blog, although you may have been a bit generous about Murali's fielding ability! And what about those eyes? (Muttiah Muralitharan - a decent bloke and not a bad bowler either

    A truly great bowler and like his fellow great Warne, the theatre and anticipation before each delivery they bowled was part of what make test cricket the best game on the planet.

  • Comment number 45.

    Murali vs Warne, that's hardly a fair comparison. Two different bowlers who were absolute masters of two different arts. You might as well compare Michael Yardy and Brett Lee. Cricket, especially Sri-Lankan cricket will be a poorer place without him, likely a much poorer place. I think that's the mark of the man, that some day in a year or so's time Sri-Lanka will mentally turn to Murali in the hour of need and find he's not there anymore.

    As to anyone getting past his record, who knows. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and thanks to the West Indians we all knew there was no point learning the art of spin. Pure speed was what was needed. Then came Saqlain, Warne and Murali. The game changes.

  • Comment number 46.

    A Sri Lankan legend! Irreplaceable! Thank you for the memories!

  • Comment number 47.

    The time for discussing "chucking" Passed long ago. Murali is a legend, and will be remembered as such

  • Comment number 48.

    congenital bent arm or allowed him to chuck the ball. Can't blame him though for it being deemed a legitimate action.
    Warney has to be the best though even though his dabbling with drugs takes off some of the shine -just how good would his record look if he hadn't been banned for so long?

  • Comment number 49.

    For me, he is a fabulous ambassador for S.L cricket.
    However, the law was changed to accommodate his bent arm action from his congenital defect in elbow.... still, is that a bad thing considering all the latest technological advances that batsmen enjoy.
    There is not doubt that a bent arm imparts considerable spin - which others now follow (e.g. Harbajhan Singh) - but, many congrats to Murali for a fine career in spin bowling and a very entertaining number 11 bat

  • Comment number 50.

    Just a couple of quick thoughts. Lots of people seem to be suggesting Sri Lanka have never had a decent quick bowler ahead of Murali, thats not quite true, Chaminda Vaas was pretty good, Malinga isn't that bad. Also Murali would tend to be bowled earlier than a lot of spinners, so its not like the opposition would be 200-0 when Murali came on to bowl regularly.

    Also its important to remember that Murali bowled a lot on sub continental wickets, generally more helpful to spin.

    Truth is, in my view, Warne and Murali share a pedestal as the 2 best spinners of their time, perhaps ever. If I had one space left in a team for either, I would probably go with Warne, as a more consistent bat and a decent slip fielder, but they were a pair of geniusses.

  • Comment number 51.


    Incorrect. It didn't allow him to throw. What the investigation into Murali uncovered was that many bowlers had a bent arm. Read this article:

    " The current law states that there should be no straightening or partial straightening of the bowling arm during delivery, and research conducted with precise instrumentation has revealed that even bowlers like Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock, considered examplars of the classical action, occasionally go over the prescribed tolerance limit, bending their arms by as much as 12 degrees."

    The laws weren't altered for Murali. The laws were altered thanks to advancement of science, technology, and knowledge about bowling.

    As I read it, if your arm is bent at 30 degrees at the point of delivery, that in itself isn't a throw. It becomes a throw if the arm straights by more than 15 degrees (ie. straightens by more than 15 degrees from the angle the arm bent at at the point of delivery). If I deliver the ball with an arm at 30 degrees at the point of delivery and it straightens to 10 degrees, that is a throw.

    Therefore if Murali bowls and his arm is bent at delivery at 30 degrees and it straightens to no more than 15 degrees, that is not a throw. What the ICC did was modernise the rules which were out of date and they provided clarification. It's one of the few areas the ICC has done very well on in the last decade.

    "In the sport of cricket, throwing, commonly referred to as chucking, is an illegal bowling action which occurs when a bowler straightens their arm by more than 15 degrees when delivering the ball. The Laws of Cricket specify that a bowler's arm must be fully extended and rotated about the shoulder to impart velocity to the ball. Throws are not allowed."

  • Comment number 52.

    Folks who says Murali's fielding ability isn't that great, all I have to say is I have not seen a spin bowler who were able to field better than Murali, the great, specially of his own bowling. He has taken so many absolute blinders, which are in fact stunning that would change the face of the game in Srilanka's favour. Through age, that ability may have diminished a little bit, and that happens to the best of us mortals.

    If I had one spot in the team, I wouldn't have any second thoughts of picking Murali ahead of Warne in their prime, as I would be an absolute tool to leave out the best spinner of all time with his great fielding ability and as well as entertaining slogging at the end on days when he can get his bat down on time. The man has the most wickets on both test and ODI formats, whatever ramblings about his bowling action, my reaction would be; then obviously Murali must be the best bowler ever to have played the game. Unless someone else over takes him, he will be the leading wicket taker on both of these formats. Sorry, die hard Waarne fans, unless he comes out of retirement to overtake Murali (even though Warne had already played 12 more tests than Murali), Murali rules for now.

  • Comment number 53.

    The laws of cricket were changed, fact! No one could argue otherwise.

    As for the English can't play spin, that has never been in doubt, they can't. However an Ashes test carries far more importance that Sri Lanka against Zimbabwe.

    The records in time will still show that the chucker has more test wickets, like Steve Waugh has more test runs than Bradman, however we all know who's the best bastman of al time...

    Get a grip, as many have said lovely bloke, but he should never have been allowed to play for so long, and the laws should never have been changed just for one man.

  • Comment number 54.

    Laws were changed, and according to the law now, Murali's in the clear. Get a grip on the law, for one man or for many men, as the law stands today, Murali is legal. Take your beef with the ICC. Murali hasn't done anything illegal. He had made life difficult for batsmen, and got the rewards for it.

    To be honest I would rather watch India Vs. Australia, India Vs. Srilanka, Pakistan Vs. India, Srilanka Vs. Pakistan any day than watching an over hyped, rather old fashioned, outdated ashes series. At least Zimbabwe batsmen deal with spin better than England. The current coach of England Andy Flower has been dismissed by Murali a few times. I rate Andy Flower above all English batsmen to play in the last three decades bar South African Kevin Pieterson.

  • Comment number 55.


    "The laws of cricket were changed, fact! No one could argue otherwise."

    The laws weren't changed for one man. Read the Cricinfo article I linked to above. As the laws were written at the time, even the like of McGrath and Pollock technically were chuckers on occasion. The investigation into Murali showed that the overwhelming majority of bowlers had a degree of flex in their action.

    Laws have changed consistently over time. The LBW rule and back foot/front foot no ball rules are obvious examples. The rules of arm flex actually clarified things.

    The obvious thing to ask is that if it's now easier for people to throw, where are the bowlers who can do it to Murali's level? Quite simply, he is unique and we will not see anyone bowl like him in our lifetime.

  • Comment number 56.

    I have had the pleasure of seeing Murali playing both for Sri Lanka and for Lancashire amazing talent coupled with relentless work ethic a true great! Comparing Murali or Warne so tough to call having seen both live several times I think I would have Warne in my team ahead because of his all round cricket talents but taken on bowling alone the stats don't lie and so you would have to say Murali just a privilege to be around to them both

  • Comment number 57.


    Of course the stats can lie. Mere stats on their own mean nothing. If we took batting average stats, then Bradman is eclipsed by Andy Ganteaume.

    If we went by bowling average, Richard Johnson beats Murali and Warne.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think both Warne and Murali have to make the all-time World XI, possibly the only modern-day players to do so. Between them, they resurrected an art that was in danger of dying out after the fast-bowling dominant 80's and they both deserve our thanks.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    In discussing Murali and Warne it's important to remember that Warne never had to bowl to the best batting side of his era.

  • Comment number 61.

    My earlier post expressing my opinion that Murali's action was illegal apparently breaches some code. Watching the bangladesh "attack" yesterday it is easy to see how allowing a suspect action to remain in the game has encouraged others to do likewise.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Does it really matter who is the better?
    I hope that no IPL team gets BOTH Warne and Murali, game over.
    As for the debate over Chucking/Bowling. His action was legal - end of.
    Regardless of how the ball was delivered 792+ wickets, 133 tests... Who in this blog can match that record.
    As a cricket follower, thank God he is not in the opposite team, as a cricket fan he will be sadly missed.
    Enjoy your retirement (and please don't coach any SL spinners..)

  • Comment number 64.

    Those who are inclined to endorse Murali's personal attributes, and say he's a gent and a nice guy and all that are just trying to bluff their way in to finding an excuse to vindicate his achievements. Honestly, If Murali weren't a such genious of a bowler, would these people be still commenting on what nice guy he is? Give the man a break, he has achieved a feat that no other bowler in the history of the game so far.

    To give Murali the edge over Warne's persona is absurd. To villify a character and then to praise another is not bowling and playing cricket is all about. To me Maradona is a way better player and the best footballer ahead of Pele. Maradona's tarnished persona and Pele's decency doesn't come in to calculations when talking about these two greats. Certain interests, regards Maradona to be less of a fotballer than Pele, due to obvious reasons (hand of god).

    In Murali's case the credit he is due is not given by a handful of interested countries due to in the estimation of some already biased minds, he has overtaken one of thier own heros, and proved to the world, who is King of Spin.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hear goes my third attempt to get past the KGBBC moderators. I must say that I 100% agree with comment 29 written by ninetofivegrind and i wonder how many present cricketers will have something to say when their cricketing careers are over and no longer under the jurisdiction of the ICC

  • Comment number 66.

    Obviously this blog has provided many posters with the opportunity to revert to their playground years. Plenty of name calling from people who, apparently, are better informed than the various medical professionals who conducted extensive tests into Murali's action and those of other test bowlers. Just because you say something enough times, it doesn't become true. You can't even argue the case that there would have been some kind of undue political pressure to come up with the conclusions that they did - we're talking about a Sri Lankan bowler here.

    Murali was not just a great bowler, he came across as a great man. He showed wonderful leadership characteristics on the pitch but far more importantly, showed them off it as well. His response to the tsunami tragedy was inspiring and made a significant difference to his countryment affected. Maybe it was paltry in the face of the tragic loss of life, but it offered hope to many and the banners thanking him that were on disply in England's return test match at Galle were a small indication of that.

    Regarding Warne and Murali? Two great bowlers. I would argue that Warne was the better fielder for his slip catching and was also the better strategist but Murali's sheer volume of wickets is staggering. Strangely, I think that English cricket fans will always have more of a soft sport for Warne. Maybe a touch of Stockholm Syndrome? We have seen far more of him at close quarters and - to put it bluntly - even when he isn't playing, he makes sure that he's seen!

    Let's not degrade this discussion with the pathetic name calling and the 'who's better than who' debate. Both are great players, and now is the time to recognise Murali's fantastic contribution to the game.

  • Comment number 67.

    Murali, you are without doubt the second best spinner of all time. You will be missed.

  • Comment number 68.

    one of the greatest cricketer

  • Comment number 69.

    All these fuss about Murali because he's from an Asian country.He was cleared many times and he's the most tested bowler,so dn't make an issue over it.We need to trust the technology,if not why we use computers and all the other new age technology? The reason is to get correct information and to make things easy.
    Why do we have to beleive one or two umpire's opinion.Do we know how educated they are???
    Who cares about their ideas? Just use the technology and get correct decisions.

  • Comment number 70.

    Murali threw - but not every ball. That was the problem. He COULD bowl legally but every so often the elbow would go and the ball would turn square. The saddest thing for me, as frequent visitor to Sri Lanka and former resident of that beautiful country, was that any criticism was howled down as 'racism'. It was not. I expect Charlie Griffith could plead that today...

    Murali's record will always be tainted. Warne's will not.

  • Comment number 71.

    Nobody dares to allow the truth to be told anymore, which is unfortunate for the game of cricket in the long term. Warne who bowled without controversy was the spinmeister. Remove wickets taken utilising the controversial Doosra and Murali, nice though he may be, and his figures look ordinary. Watching with Sky Plus was all too revealing - freeze frame became the remit of all viewers.

  • Comment number 72.

    If you look at the bare stats, Murali took more wickets at a better strike rate, better economy rate and better average than Warne.

    For me though it's the fact that Warne, outstanding though he was, was always a cog in a machine, but Murali was the standout bowler in his country's history. He revolutionised off spin, with his Doosra and his round the wicket tactics.

    If you throw Warne's captaincy into it then it's about even.

    But for everyone (I'm assuming mostly Aussies) calling Murali a chucker, get over it. The people who decide said he wasn't, end of. Let's not forget Warne got a doping ban too so you could call him a cheat too.

    I can't believe nobody has talked up the King of Spain though...

  • Comment number 73.

    re Warne vs Murali,
    Problem is each bowler has something you can count against him.
    Warne does have fewer wickets and a SLIGHTLY inferior average. However he bowled fewer overs per innings. The he also bowled alongside great quicks is both a plus and a minus. He had great backup and batsman under pressure, but he also had fewer wickets available to him and the probability of wickets falling at the other end, or before he came on was higher.
    Murali has an odd action and the appearence that this could sometime be illiegal. he has a phenominal number of wickets but this he has played many more tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe than Warne. Comparing their respective records against the Eng/SA/WI/NZ/Ind/Pak and Aus/SL respectively, you get:

    Warne; Matches:141 Overs:6612.4 Wickets:685 Ave:25.52 SR:57.9
    Murali; Matches:106 Overs:5985.2 Wickets:611 Ave:24.83 SR:58.7

    From those stats any distinction you make is tiny. Warne possibly a better slip fielder? Better at psyching out his opponents? Better tactically? I also get the feeling that Warne was the more dangerous on pitches with little or no turn, and for that if I had to select only one spinner for my side I'd probably plump for Warnie, but in essence to try and divide the two is all but impossible.

  • Comment number 74.

    " It looked like a Test match that would attract only cursory interest in a calendar so bogged down with international fixtures."

    Nice joke Oliver, we have millions of fans here in India and out of all those multiple millions I am sure there are a few million who follow the Indian Test Match team. Unless of course you only had English fans in mind when you made that extraordinary statement!

  • Comment number 75.

    " he has a phenominal number of wickets but this he has played many more tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe than Warne."

    Well Warne has played many more test matches against England's brilliantly inept players of spin.
    Warne against Eng 36M 195Wkts
    Murali against Eng 16M 112Wkts
    Murali would have been close to a 1000 Test wickets if he had as many Tests against the minnows(as far as ability to play spin is considered) England.

  • Comment number 76.

    Dear Murali

    lets talk about two friends. John Howard and Darrel Hair shall we say this to them

    mates ho ho ho
    our Murali is still great but you ..... sorry Sean
    do some thing better

  • Comment number 77.

    John Howard

    are you biting some dust

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.


    those who compare with Warn, just cannot bite dust

    guys if cannot take up what our Murali has done please take a good walk

  • Comment number 80.

    John Howard

    so you tried to dominate cricket thank god our indian friends did not allow you if not you will make it another asylum seekers heaven

  • Comment number 81.

    Murali is the best spinner cricket ever knew,,, we will miss him,,, Good Luck Murali :)

  • Comment number 82.

    It is very sad when we watch the last test in Galle that Murali will never play test cricket again

    but the time is right you have to go when you are on top and that is the hall mark of a hero

    he is a true hero

  • Comment number 83.

    The best off spin bowler ever is a superlative. Sorry to be the pedant here but you just can't make a reasonable comparison with the astonishing off spinners of the past. Obviously, Jim Laker springs to mind as indeed does Lance Gibbs. However, being a cricket purist, the epithet of greatest can surely only be attached to a classic action. Namely, a high, straight arm. In this sense, the likes of Laker, Gibbs and even Emburey spring to mind. However, on wickets per test and for his action and aura, I would have to go with Jim Laker. Each to their own but I've never seen a finer action and his records speak for themselves.

  • Comment number 84.

    Are you Darrel Hare son b many chance

  • Comment number 85.

    Jim Laker or Lance Gibbs, i haven't seen either of this play. But what I have seen though is Murali play. Do I want to watch Jim Laker or Lance Gibbs play? Probably not, not even remotely interested.

    Doest it matter if they have a purist classic action thus make hem better bowlers? Absolute rubbish. Why is Murali the best bowler ever? Because he has proved to the world, that he is a better strike bowler than any before him. Why is all this fuss about Murali's action? Due to his unorthodox action, since he's an eccentric, gifted bowler, the so called purists are preposterous since Murali defied the odds, elements to be crowned as the best bowler in history.

    Who cares about Jim Laker anyway? I care about Murali lot more than any lake for that matter, and I am not even slightly interested to learn about Jim Lakers feats. Murali's legacy of wicket taking, striking is unmatched. Non of the lakes could produce what Murali have. End of the story. Murali, you are the spin king, and that bowl today to Dhoni was an absolute peach.

  • Comment number 86.

    As a leg spin bowler I look at Warne as more of an inspiration. But when I first watched Murali bowling I started to adapted so I bowled off spin too.

    Murali is a legend....King of the spinners!!

  • Comment number 87.

    Warne v Murali:
    Warne never took a single test wicket against the best side in the world-Oz. Murali must be the greatest. Well done, cricket fans will miss you.

  • Comment number 88.

    King of Spain!

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    Why all the Warne Vs Murali debate? Surely no-one could doubt that the greatest spinner of all time was Peter Such. Just kidding. Anil Kumble was the greatest! What a hero. With bat & ball. & moustache. What more could you ask for in a sportsman. He rightly claimed his spot in the top 3 with the above-mentioned spinners & for me, he's in the top 1.

  • Comment number 91.

    #83, charlesburgessfry: Quite depressed reading your post: "...the epithet of greatest can surely only be attached to a classic action. Namely, a high, straight arm." So, being a cricket purist means that we never want things to change and evolve? We can only call something truly great if it can be mapped to the pages of the MCC coaching manual?

    On this basis, I'm assuming that you were also devestated when the reverse sweep was introduced and considered emigrating to the USA when KP got out his switch hit? C'mon fella - evolution is essential, exciting and exhilerating. Murali is the finest off-spinner we've seen simply because he did deviate from the coaching manual. He realised that he could get more revs on the ball (and bowl a doosra) if he rotated his wrist rather than simply using his fingers. And he did it brilliantly.

    I'm not disparaging the other great names from the past that you mention. Laker and Gibbs were greats of the game and a joy to watch (I have seen less of Gibbs than Laker, but its all good stuff) and I think that #85's response to your post was a little short-sighted. However, despite the well rehearsed arguments about how you cannot compare cricketers from different eras, in this case I think the sheer number of wickets taken by Murali is sufficient to see him crowned as the greatest off-spinner.

  • Comment number 92.

    Congratulations to Muralitharan for being the first to grab 800 wickets in test cricket. What a feat. Well played.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 93.

    I have a lot of empathy for the man. I have a similar thing with my arms (an approximately 10 degree bend in my arm when fully straightened) and was essentially told I couldn't bowl when I was younger. I've always felt that exclusion was unfortunate and would have liked the rule change to have come sooner. Alas, it did not and I had no interest in batting so quit the sport.

  • Comment number 94.

    I think devaluing Murali's achievements by saying that he got the majority of his wickets by playing against Bangladesh,Zimbabwe and other minnows is a case of sour grapes. Haven't other cricketing nations played against them? how many wickets have their bowlers taken against these minnows? I think taking a wicket against any test playing nation is an achievement. After all they were given the status by the ICC who thought that they were good enough to be among the best.
    Also remember that Sri Lanka were never given a 3 match series against the so called "greats" for a very long time. It is only recently that they have been given 3 tests series like the current one against India.
    I have nothing against Shane and his bowling - getting 700 wickets speaks volumes of the bowler. The two have been great in their own style of bowling, lets us laud them for their achievements.
    This is what Warne had to say about Murali -
    I don't think anyone will get there, so well done to Murali for getting his 800," Warne told Sky Sports.

    "The way he's gone about it has been amazing. There's been a lot of controversy about his action but at the end of the day the ICC (International Cricket Council) cleared him, he's allowed to play, and what he did with the ball was amazing.

    "To face it was quite difficult, especially in those spinning conditions in Sri Lanka."
    This is the respect shown by one great bowler to another.
    So, well done Murali! You have achieved a feat that many bowlers would not even dream of.

  • Comment number 95.

    Here are his achievement stats against all the test playing countries:

    112 v England (in 16 Tests)
    105 v India (in 22)
    104 v South Africa (in 15)
    89 v Bangladesh (in 11)
    87 v Zimbabwe (in 14)
    82 v New Zealand (in 14)
    82 v West Indies (in 12)
    80 v Pakistan (in 16)
    59* v Australia (in 13)

    112 v England (in 16 Tests) Vs 87 v Zimbabwe (in 14) England is no Zimbabwe!


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