Saturday, 24 July 2010

Murali's 800

I am by no means an expert on the career of Muttiah Muralitharan. He made his international debut before I was born, and took most of his wickets while I was in even shorter trousers than now. Sri Lankan games never featured much on TV, and I never saw him play live. So much of my opinion of him is second hand.

There are two distinct schools of thought about Murali. The Hussain-Hair-Howard view is that he is nothing more than a cheat, whose chucking of the ball makes all 800 void. The alternative opinion that he is the greatest bowler of all time also stands up, especially when you consider that the ICC ruled that Murali's bent-arm deformity was within the laws.

Personally, I am torn between the two. Yes, his bowling action probably should have been outlawed. Yes, his doosra is a throw. But what a throw. I defy anyone to bowl with such control, such mystery and such effervescence for 18 years, chucking or not, with that degree of success. There may have been an element of suspicion about Murali's action, but as a birth defect it was hardly deliberate. All he could do was bowl and bowl, and take wicket after wicket. Even with the furore surrounding him for the past 18 years, he kept a smile on his face, and the wickets kept stacking up. It would be wrong to condemn Murali for doing what he did for so long, and as test cricket's first (and probably only) member of the 800 club, the cricketing community should pay their respects to a true legend of the game.

As a player, he enticed millions to take up the game. As a person, he united a warring nation. As a cricketer he was a legend of the game. Whatever you think about Murali, this week of all weeks, cricket should celebrate the achievements of the little man from Sri Lanka who did so much for our sport. Even if Shane Warne was better.

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