The Mesmerizing Muralitharan
Murali joins the 300 club.
By V Kumar
The mesmerizing off-spinner from Sri Lanka grabbed the headlines during the 1st test between Sri Lanka and South Africa at Durban. Murali entered into the record books by taking the wicket of Shaun Pollock; his 300th victim.
Muralitharans achievement is not like any other achievement which can be forgotten in hurry. He is the second quickest bowler to take 300 wickets in the list of 300 club. In fact, he has played fewer tests than the current pace-giant Glen McGrath !
Ever since the Sri Lankans have entered into the test-arena, there have not been a single world clubs bowler, till the Muthiah Muralidharan phenomenon happened; Murali is also the first Sri Lankan to get this out-standing feat.
But it has never been a bed of roses for the offfie. Murali has seen a very tough time (a nightmare). He has been called a Chucker and has been no-balled by the Australian Umpires. Only the people, who are made of sterner stuff, can overcome this kind of humiliating experience. But, thanks to the immense courage and support by his former captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, Murali fought and not only he fought, he conquered the over-whelming odds. Today, Sri Lanka has only one bowler to win a Test match and it is only Muthiah Muralitharan. Infact, he is carrying a load of responsibilities on his shoulders and he has always lived upto the expectations of his team.
Sri Lanka won two-consecutive test-series in Pakistan, due to Muralis brilliant bowling. Of course, the effort of the batsmen cannot be discounted but it was Murali -the wrecker in chief.
And who can forget the haul of 16 for 220 against England at Oval Test, when Murali single handedly won the Test match for Sri Lanka. It is said that Murali is the kind of bowler, who can turn the ball even on glass! Murali has performed with the same dexterity at everyplace, wherever hes played. In fact, he has never depended on any kind of help from the track. This is the quality which separates a good bowler to greater bowler.
Now, Murali has set an eye on the 500 club, where only Courtney Walsh can go in the near future. But his aim is neither unrealistic nor unachievable. If his form continues like this for another two or three years, he might be the quickest to achieve the 500th wicket!
(Source : www.yehhaicricket.com)
Born: 17 April 1972, Kandy
Major Teams: Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, Lancashire, Sri Lanka.
Known As: Muttiah Muralitharan
Pronounced: Muttiah Muralitharan
Batting Style: Right Hand Bat
Bowling Style: Right Arm Off Break
Muttiah Muralitharan was born in Kandy. His father, Muttiah Sinnasamy, ran a successful confectionary business and Muralitharan is the eldest of four sons. When he was nine years old he was sent to St Anthony's College, a private school run by Benedictine monks and styled upon Ampleforth College in England. He began his cricketing career as a medium pace bowler, but on the advice of his school coach, Sunil Fernando, he took up off spin when he was fourteen years old. He soon impressed and went ton to play for four years in the school First XI. In those days he played as an all rounder and batted in the middle order. In his final two seasons at St Anthony's he took over one hundred wickets and in 1990/1 was named as the 'Bata Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year.' He joined Tamil Union and was selected for the Sri Lanka A tour of England in 1991. He played in five games but failed to capture a single wicket. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack records: "Muttiah Muralitharan [found] pitches generally unsympathetic to his slow turn. However, at 19 he was very much a novice with time to learn the skills of his trade." On his return to Sri Lanka he impressed against Allan Border's Australian team in a practice game and then went on to make his test debut at Premadasa International Stadium in the Second Test Match of the series. During the early years he rarely played one-day cricket. During the 1995/6 tour of Australia he was no balled twice for bowling with a suspect action, first by Darrel Hair in Melbourne, and then by Ross Emerson in Brisbane. The controversy threatened his career, but analysis carried out by Darryl Foster, a renowned bio-mechanist, and by the University of Hong Kong proved sufficient for the ICC and his action was cleared. However, it was not the end of his problems as Ross Emerson called him again in Adelaide during Sri Lanka's 1999 tour of Australia. Muralitharan claims that the controversy, unfortunate as it was, went on to make him a stronger person and ultimately a better bowler. Certainly he grew in confidence after 1996 and started to unveil greater variations as a bowler. He knows bowls three stock deliveries - the off spinner, top spinner, and floater, which moves away from the right-hander. Moreover, he has learnt to vary the amount of spin that he that imparts without substantially changing his action. He is unnervingly accurate and relishes bowling long spells. In 2000 he claimed 75 wickets from just ten Test matches and only Dennis Lillie has reached 300 Test wickets faster. He admits that 500 wickets is his next target and barring injury he appears certain to achieve it. (04.02.2001)
(Source : www.crciket.org)
I got stronger when somebody tried to put me out - Murali
Saadi Thowfeeq - 22 February 2001
GALLE, Wednesday - Sri Lanka's ace spinner Muttiah Muralitharan said that he got stronger when somebody tried to put him out of the game.
Although he did not make references to anyone in particular, Muralitharan told mediamen here today when questioned about his bowling action: "Somebody was scared of me and they tried to put me out of from the game".
"I thought why should I leave. I got stronger and stronger. When somebody tries to push you it will get harder on them when you come really good," said Muralitharan.
"Initially I was disappointed, but the Sri Lanka Cricket Board and former captain Arjuna Ranatunga backed me a lot. I thought if he can tell me to play, why should I leave," he said.
Muralitharan was twice called for throwing in Australia by the home country's umpires Darrel Hair in 1995-96 and by Ross Emerson in 1998-99, but on each occasion his bowling action was cleared by the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Bowling Review Group comprising past international cricketers.
With 303 wickets in only 59 Tests, Muralitharan is considered to be the leading spinner in contemporary cricket. He said that it was confidence more than any variety that he has added to his bowling armoury, that was the key to his success.
"The delivery with which I have taken most of my wickets is bowling off-spin. I don't quite often bowl the straight one like Saqlain (Mushtaq) does, because I don't believe you can take many wickets with that ball," said Muralitharan. "It all depends on how the batsmen play on that day. I can make so many mistakes and get a batsman out. If they do one mistake, they are out. So it depends on the day who plays well. My first milestone is 400 Tests wickets, and then I will look whether I am fit enough to go for the 500 wickets," he said.
Muralitharan said bowling to a county player and an international player was totally different.
"Taking 66 wickets from six matches for Lancashire was different type of cricket altogether. Most of them are not international cricketers. They play for the counties and they don't know me and they haven't seen me at all. The first time you go and bowl at them, they are confused. In international cricket so many players have come across me, so they have a game plan and so I have to react to that," said Muralitharan.
(Source : www.cricket.org)
Muralitharan: I have a few tricks up my sleeve
Michael Owen-Smith - 20 February 2001
Michael Owen-Smith, of The Cricketer International, talks to Sri Lanka's prolific off-spinner in the March issue of the magazine
The Sri Lankans are almost universally regarded as the nice guys of world cricket, although Australian umpires Ross Emerson and Darrell Hair and some of the other people involved in the triangular series against England and Australia in 1998/99 might beg to differ. Indeed, they are sometimes regarded as being too nice for their own good. Do they not lack that hard edge that characterises South Africa and Australia?
If there is any one person who epitomises that "nice" image it has to be their world-class spin bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan. He is always full of smiles and laughter and there is a definite hint of mischief in the twinkle of his eyes. Whatever anybody thinks about his wrist-driven action, you are always left with the same impression: this man must be good for cricket. He is a character in a game that too often seems to be robot-controlled.
His passion for cricket is unmistakable and uncontrollable. When he feels he is about to reel in his opponent, rather like a fisherman toying with a catch, his eyes seem to come out on stalks - my wife refers to him as 'Mr Big Eyes'. When he appeals vigorously for a catch or berates one of his fielders for failing to take a difficult bat/pad or giving away an unnecessary single, he has a high-pitched shriek which makes it sound as though somebody is strangling him rather than the reality of his strangling the batsman.
Yet this passionate person never loses his emotional control which is such an important part of being a spin bowler. It takes time for him to spin his web and then entangle his prey. What makes Murali so special is his ability to keep the balance between focusing on dismissing his opponent and getting caught in the excitement of the moment.
"I am very competitive. I don't like losing," he explains. "Every time I play, I want to give 100% and do something special for the team. I am totally focused on what I am doing. I don't even like to give away a single run that is not necessary. At the same time you have to realise that cricket requires you to play a very patient game, particularly when you are a spin bowler. It happens in a match that you can get frustrated and sometimes you end up taking it out on a team mate. Afterwards, I will say sorry to the guy. It is part of the game. You have a drink together and forget about what happened in the middle."
Murali's biggest test, of course, has not been to take 300 Test wickets but to handle the disappointment, the mental discomfort and the unhappiness about having his action called into question, especially as he feels he was never doing anything wrong or unfair. There is the additional pressure of being under instructions from his Board to steer well away from controversy in his dealings with the media.
How then did he cope with being no-balled by Australian umpires Hair and Emerson? "It didn't affect me much because I thought I was doing a fair thing. It was his opinion. It was his decision and I cannot overrule that decision. Sometimes it irritates me but you get harder and harder mentally when you feel somebody is trying to push you out. It has certainly improved me mentally when somebody has tried to push me out because it means that somebody is scared of me. You take it at that point and come harder at him. I have never changed my action from the way I bowled as a small boy."
Murali is more concerned about maintaining, or improving if possible, that fantastic rate of wickets-per-Test that has placed him ahead of all other spinners and second only to Dennis Lillee in the time it took him to reach 300 Test wickets.
"When I first started playing Test cricket in 1992 I was quite successful. But after about three years - in 1995, I think it was - I realised that I was still taking wickets but not as quickly as I had been doing previously. I got to 100 wickets in 27 Test matches and to 150 in 36. I thought I needed to do something to speed up the process. That is when I started to think about adding more variety to my armoury. It seemed to work pretty well because I went from 150 to 200 in only six matches.
"I had been trying the ball that turns away from the batsman in practice for two years and I knew Saqlain had also started doing it in Pakistan. So I said to myself why don't I do it in matches? The result was that I got my second 100 wickets in just 16 matches. My third century came in another 16 matches, so they seem to be keeping on coming."
Are there some opponents he finds easier to rout than others? What about England? He took 16 wickets last time out against them at The Oval in the game in which he reached the 200 mark. His innings returns were 7 for 155 and 9 for 65, almost up in the Jim Laker class.
"You can't say England play spin badly. I bowled really well in the 1998 game at The Oval. They got 450 in the first innings, then the pitch helped me a lot on the fourth and fifth days and I am very difficult to play under such circumstances. They are not bad players. They are okay players. I think they proved that in Pakistan. I will have to bowl very well when they come to Sri Lanka.
"I respect every batsman I play against. I respect everyone. You may think that one player is better than the next but people are there to learn. That is what cricket is about. With the technology that is available now, the batsmen can study the bowlers. It does take time but you can get there. Take South Africa as an example. They have now become good players of spin and I think that is one aspect of the Test game where virtually every country has improved. The Indians play spin particularly well and the same applies to Pakistan and Sri Lanka when they are playing under their own conditions."
Does he get frustrated when a team consciously tries to block him out at one end and attack the lesser bowlers at the other? "Sometimes they defend against me and other times they try to attack me. It depends how we bowl as a team on any particular day. If we bowl well, then nobody can stop you. The trouble is that we are a very young side. Over the years I am sure that we will prove ourselves, but there is a lot of work to be done now that some of the older players have gone. We did very well in the era of Arjuna Ranatunga and Roshan Mahanama but those players have gone now. That era is past and a new team has to learn the game. I think we will learn quickly. We have done very well for the past year and a half, winning nearly all our series, and I don't think it will take us long to bounce back again."
One of the questions that immediately springs to mind is just how many wickets he will take if he continues to have a largely injury-free career. He will not admit it because he has too much respect for the county game from his time with Lancashire but he would undoubtedly be looking to take 150 wickets in an England summer, rather than 100, which is the target of most people, were he to play a full season. He took 66 wickets in just seven matches for Lancashire last time out.
"I am just 28, so there are at least five or six years left on my clock. Spinners only start to mature at my current age. If we continue to play Tests at the present rate, I don't think it is unrealistic for me to look at a target of 400 or 500 wickets. I have been lucky that I have missed only a few Test matches through injury. That happened when I had an operation to my shoulder. It got dislocated when I dived in the field and fell on it. The operation was very successful and I have not had any problems with it since then.
"The key to bowling is to realise that you control the game, not the batsman. Where I pitch the ball, they have to play. All the tricks are in my hand. They have got to play according to the length, the line, the type of delivery that I choose. The bowler sets the plan and the batsman tries to react to that as best he can. Thereafter, it depends on who is performing better on the day. Even Sachin Tendulkar has his days when he plays a couple of idiotic shots and gets out. You have to make sure that you keep applying the pressure when that happens.
"It has been a great compliment to me to be the second quickest to take 300 Test wickets. It is very difficult to get 300 wickets in Test cricket. It is a long way to travel. It has taken nearly 10 years for me to play 58 Test matches. It is a great achievement for me. More importantly, it is a great achievement for my country to have a bowler who has taken 300 wickets. You have to play for your country first and foremost."
Does Murali have the problems bowling to left-handers that many critics have maintained? Should he bowl more round the wicket and would he have better control from that angle? "I do bowl a fair amount round the wicket to left-handers. I am learning all the time. The main problem I have with left-handers is that they leave a lot of balls alone, so they have a chance of avoiding playing the ball. In future, I will do something for them. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve for them. I am working on curving the ball in to them through the air and then spinning it back the other way."
Somehow I cannot see Murali having too many problems when he comes up against the likes of Marcus Trescothick and Graham Thorpe in his next home series. He is so comfortable within his own mental zone. He gave this interview a day before the Newlands Test match started when most players are way off limits and leave the talking to their captains. He was just as prepared to talk to the media after Sri Lanka had suffered the worst Test match defeat in their history.
It seemed almost pointless to enquire whether he had difficulty being a Tamil member of the side, bearing in mind the political problems his country is experiencing at the moment. "It isn't an issue," said team manager Ajit Jayasekera, "and it never has been. All the players get on very well together in the team. They virtually all speak both Sinhalese and English. Murali is as popular as any member of the side."
(Source : www.cricket.org)