Murali’s Unquenchable Journey to Supremacy

The impact Muttiah Muralitharan has made in cricket is just impossible to replicate. It would be right to say he reinvented the art of spin bowling. In fact, he is the first wrist-spinning off-spinner in the history of cricket. You can find in detail about his unique bowling action and the techniques involved in our in-focus blog here.

The legendary off-spinner is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to the Sri Lankan cricket. His contribution to his team has brought in a new face for them in the International arena.

During 1992, when the whole cricketing world was mesmerized with strong and tall pacers like Curtly Ambrose, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, and Allan Donald, a young lad from Sri Lanka came in and made his way to top all the bowling charts.

With his freakish bowling style, Murali faced many controversies from his opposition and the media. Still, his extreme ability to spin the ball in both ways drew attention from the cricket lovers. The young off-spinner started dominating the versatile batsmen of the decade. After so much of yin and yan days in cricket, the off-spinner is still the topper of the bowlers’ list.

Let’s see how it feels to be Muralitharan.

Murali’s Journey

  • Muttiah Muralitharan made his Test debut in 1992 in Australia and managed to take 3 wickets in that match.
  • The Off-spinner continued his super form in the home Test series against England and New Zealand, that followed.
  • In August 1993 at Moratuwa, Muralitharan captured 5 for 104 in South Africa’s first innings, his first five-wicket haul in Tests.
  • The legendary spinner made his ODI debut in 1993 against India. 
  • It was in the Boxing Day Test of 1995, Muralitharan’s bowling action was called for throwing by Darrell Hair, an Australian umpire, in front of a crowd of 55,239. And, the controversies stayed with him for years later.
Arjuna Ranatunga questioned umpire Ross Emerson's no-balls calls for Muralis's bowling before gesturing his players to walk off the field against England at Adelaide 1999
Arjuna Ranatunga questioned umpire Ross Emerson’s no-balls calls for Muralis’s bowling before gesturing his players to walk off the field against England at Adelaide 1999
  • The 1996 World Cup was not so great for Murali with the ball, but he made his contribution in grabbing the World Cup for Sri Lanka. 
  • In 1997, Muttiah Muralitharan became the first Sri Lankan bowler to pick 100 Test wickets. New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming was his 100th victim.
  • In 1998, the spin wizard managed to grab his first ten-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in Kandy. His 12 for 117 won the game for Sri Lanka by 8 wickets.
  • Muralitharan’s extraordinary bowling against England fetched him the best figure of 16 wickets for 220. He picked 9 wickets in the second innings helping Sri Lanka to win their first Test victory in the England soil.
  • It wasn’t a good World cup for Murali in 1999 too. The legendary spinner picked up only 6 wickets out of 5 matches he played in the tournament. 
  • In 2000, Muttiah Muralitharan became the first Sri Lankan bowler to go beyond 300 wickets in Tests. Victim – Shaun Pollock.
  • Later in the same year, the wrist spinner’s 7/30 against India in the Champions trophy brought him the limelight in ODIs. 
  • It was the doosra that made him the best in wicket-taking. He invented it in 1997.
  • The year 2002 was adding more to his kit. He became the fastest to 400 Test wickets and ten 10-wicket hauls in Test cricket, in that year.
  • Muralitharan’s colleague Chaminda Vaas made great stats in the ICC World Cup 2003 with 23 wickets, while Murali made a decent performance to pull off 17 wickets for his side. 
  • The competition between Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan set huge anticipation on the Australia tour of Sri Lanka in 2004.
  • Both the legends reached their 500 wicket mark (Victim: Michael Kasprowicz) in that Test series in 2004. Shane Warne was the first to reach 500 wickets.
  • In the same year, Murali went passed Courtney Walsh’s then Test record of 519 wickets in the longest format. Shane Warne bettered his wickets tally in the latter part of the same year.
  • Then came the Sri Lanka tour of England in 2006, where Muralitharan grabbed 24 wickets in 3 matches and jointly received the man of the series award with Kevin Pietersen.
  • Murali’s 8 for 70 against England in the 3rd Test in that series, in Nottingham, is picked as the Wisden’s Test spell of the 2000s.
  • If you look at the records, Muralitharan has enjoyed bowling against the English batsmen with 112 wickets. It is majorly because of the English batsmen’s habit of not looking at the bowlers’ hands during the release of the ball. They are used to reacting to the turn after the ball gets pitched– not a better technique against a bowler like Murali. 
  • 2006 was the most successful year for Muralitharan as the Lankan off-spinner took his calendar year tally to 90 Test wickets, which is only 6 less than Warne’s record of 96 wickets in a calendar year, the previous year. Know the top 5 bowlers of that sort here
  • Muralitharan managed to pick up 23 wickets in the 2007 World cup and played a big part in his team’s route to the final. 
  • He continued his unquenchable performance in Tests and became the second bowler to grab 700 wickets in Test cricket [Victim: Syed Rasel].
  • In 2007, Murali marked his career-best player rating of 920, which is the best ever rating point achieved by any spinner. He also holds the record for acquiring the best ever career rating for any spinner in the ODI format – 913. Know how ICC calculate their player ratings here.
  • When Muralitharan was planning to retire from Test cricket in 2008, the entry of Ajantha Mendis made it easy for Murali. 

“I wanted to play until the World Cup. Now that Ajantha has come, I can play for a few more years. Because of his presence, my bowling will be reduced. If I bowl 30 to 35 overs, I will be happy as I am ageing. The job will be easier for me.”

Muralitharan said in a press conference. 
  • In 2009, the Sri Lankan spinner reached his 500 wicket mark in ODI. It took him 327 ODI matches. He is only the second player to reach the 500 wickets mark in ODIs, the other being Wasim Akram.

The Galle Test

  • In 2010, Muralitharan made the decision that the first Test against India will be his last Test match for Sri Lanka. 
  • He had 792 wickets for his name when he made the official statement.
  • The highest wicket-taker of all time grabs 8 wickets in his last Test match. He reached the milestone of 800 wickets in Test cricket by picking up the last wicket of India’s final innings. Here’s the moment:
  • It is one of the most emotional Test matches for the Sri Lankans.

“Getting the last wicket of the last ball in Test cricket. And getting 800 wickets and winning the match for the team, you can’t write a better script than that.” 

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan captain during Murali’s final Test match

From the moment he executed the doosra in 1998 it became a different story for the spin wizard. He averaged 20.80 in Test matches, and 21.23 in ODIs, picking up over 1000 international wickets (653 in Tests and 405 in ODIs).

2011 world cup

  • Muttiah Muralitharan dreamt of finishing his ODI career with a World cup win. Sadly, he missed it in one step as it is MS Dhoni’s India that clinched the Trophy.
Muralitharan in World Cup 2011
Muralitharan in 2011 World Cup
  • However, the spin wizard manages to pick 15 wickets in that tournament. 
  • The final of 2011 World cup played at the Wankhede was his farewell ODI game, and the legend left the International cricket with 1347 International Wickets in his kit. 

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