To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
30 Nov 2007 11:02
With Sri Lanka taking on England in a Test match starting this weekend, Muttiah Muralitharan stands on the brink of overhauling Australia’s Shane Warne to become Test cricket’s all-time leading wicket-taker. Murali needs just five victims to overhaul Warne’s total of 708 wickets.
Some of those dismissed most by Muralitharan shed more light on the legend.
South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman dismissed 12 times, Murali’s most frequent victim
Muttiah Muralitharan has to be one of the best bowlers the game has produced, and he is certainly among the best I have faced.
Warne comes at you with lots of variety, he gets more bounce and he’s always trying to distract you with a chirp or by trying to make you laugh.
Murali doesn’t try to get into your head as much as Warne does, but he turns the ball on anything and often the lack of bounce in a pitch is just as dangerous for batsmen—if it turns square from outside off you’ve got a much better chance of keeping the ball out if you can play it just below the splice than if it’s squirting around your ankles. Murali gets it to squirt square!
Muralitharan also has amazing control and the Sri Lankans back him to the hilt in the field, which means a lot when the wickets start falling. I know he’s dismissed me more times than most, but I’d like to think I’ve also had my victories against him.
I suppose I’ve also faced him more often than guys higher up the order. But the more you play him the more confident you become. The trouble is that the only way to learn how to play him is to play him, and that’s not easy to start with. I’ve certainly enjoyed our battles.
Zimbabwean batsman who now plays for Essex. Murali has taken his wicket 10 times
I have tried a lot of different theories against Muralitharan but not all of them went well. Trying to read him is obviously the first point for anyone facing him, though it’s one thing to try that and another to come up with a solution once you’ve worked out what he’s doing.
My brother, Andy, was one of the best players of spin about so that helped, but it was still a struggle to read him in the air and that meant I couldn’t leave the crease. In that case, you have to be able to sweep.
If you look at the recent series in Australia you’ll see that Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke played Muralitharan very well, moving their feet a lot. Obviously that was on Australian pitches; on Sri Lankan surfaces he is a totally different proposition. You can see a little in his action if you try to read it that way—a little bit in his elbow and wrist.
Video analysis definitely helps, although that might be why he has worked on his doosra and it now turns much more, and why he comes round the wicket more. Over, he turns it so much he’s not going to get too many lbws but round he’s got more of an angle and the ball that goes straight on and he has more ways to get you.
I did best against him in one-day matches, where there are different pressures. I could come down the pitch to him a few times and provoke some short balls. It’s not the same in Tests, but it’s one way to do it. You can knock him out of his rhythm. I saw Brian Lara do it in Sri Lanka, dominate him, and Andy managed it sometimes.
I played against Muralitharan more than Shane Warne, but I’d say Murali was harder to play. He doesn’t have as much talk because he doesn’t have to have it, but he does have some scary eyes going there. He has none of the Warne bullshit, put it that way. Perhaps, like Warne, left-handers can do well against him.
Bangladeshi wicketkeeper-batsman who has fallen to Murali nine times in Tests
It is very tough facing Murali, especially if you are fresh at the crease. It becomes really difficult for a new batsman to pick the doosra, which I think is the most potent weapon in his armoury, because he bowls the off-spin and his “wrong’un” with very little change in action.
Things look pretty easy when you watch on television and you are able to spot the difference in action and wrist position. Out there in the middle, I can assure you, it is a different ball game and you have to concentrate hard on each ball. There is no room for relaxation.
He is different to other international bowlers. He doesn’t have a classical off-spinner’s action. His is rather freakish and the arm bends in an inimitable manner when he is delivering the ball.
He is an aggressive off-spinner and will always try to make things happen. His body language and the big eyes that almost pop out in his delivery motion only add to the aura. I am always there for a fight: I get a kick out of it and facing Murali can be the ultimate test of your ability, determination and confidence.
One thing we have found is that if you play him long enough then you can start picking his variations quite comfortably. But Murali is unique because he can extract prodigious turn bowling both the off-break and the doosra. This is rare because most bowlers are only able to spin one way and the other one they bowl straightens in line at best.—Â
Create Account | Lost Your Password?