Shamik Das


Friday, February 06, 2009

Magic Murali re-writes the record books

Record-breaker: Muttiah Muralitharan is congratulated by Kumar Sangakkara after the pair combined to make Murali the most prolific bowler in one-day international history

MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN paid tribute to his family after breaking the world record for the most one-day international wickets during Sri Lanka's 67-run defeat to India in Colombo yesterday.

Murali dismissed Gautham Gambhir – caught behind by keeper Kumar Sangakkara for 150 – to record his 503rd one-day wicket for Sri Lanka, passing the mark set by former Pakistan fast bowler Wasim Akram.

The wicket leaves Murali as the leading wicket-taker in both Tests and ODIs having broken Australia spinner Shane Warne's Test record in the December 2007 defeat of England in Kandy.

"They are great supporters of mine, and have stood by me through the bad times and the good, always encouraging me," a delighted Murali said of his family. "This record is dedicated to them.

"This is also a great achievement for our country, because we are not a great cricket-playing nation; we are a smaller nation compared to others."

    

It is the first time one man has held both the Test and one-day international wicket-taking records since iconic India all-rounder Kapil Dev left the field 15 years ago.

In all international cricket, Murali's record now stands at a phenomenal 1,272 wickets – 769 in Tests and 503 in one-dayers, at averages of 21.95 and 22.75 respectively; figures which stand out on their own, but to truly appreciate his worth to the team one need only view how they've fared without him.

Before his debut in the 1993 series at home to India, Sri Lanka had won less than a quarter of their games, which is perhaps understandable for the then emerging cricket nation, the Bangladesh of the 1980s and early nineties if you like.

However, since he burst onto the scene Sri Lanka have won 54 per cent of their games. Impressive enough, but when one analyses their results with him in the XI compared to when he’s absent, his value is almost priceless.

Sri Lanka have won 185 out of 317 one-day internationals in which Murali has played, and only 45 out of 111 matches without him, a win-loss ratio with the spinner in the side (1.50) exactly double that when he's not featured (0.75).

It hasn't been all plain sailing though, with his critics constantly questioning his bowling action over the years, none more so than former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who once labelled Murali a "chucker" after he was no-balled by Howard's countryman Darrell Hair.

Complete and utter nonsense, of course, especially when you consider the character of those doing the accusing: the borderline racist and uncultured whack job booted out of office in 2007 (irony of ironies: Howard's successor Kevin Rudd was sworn in the very day Murali broke Warne’s Test record!) ...

John Howard    Darrell Hair

... and the conceited, injudicious umpire at the centre of the Pakistan ball-tampering row at the Oval in 2006, whose stubborn refusal to compromise lead to the first ever Test to be forfeited in cricket history.

Add to that the fact the ICC have repeatedly and unequivocally cleared Murali's unorthodox action, in 1996, 1999 and again in 2005, and there's more than just a hint of Aussie devilment at play.

But enough about the faux controversies surrounding this most magnificent of men. Let the final word go to the man whose record he broke, Pakistan paceman Akram: "No matter what type of surface he has played on, no matter in which country, and against which team, he is relentless in taking wickets.

"I am happy that a bowler of his calibre has broken my record; he is simply great and more than a good bowler, he is a good human being."

December 2007: Murali breaks Warne's Test record
Cricinfo: Murali by numbers
BBC: Murali in pictures

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