This is same guy.
Murali put the fun back in my cricket
Michael Atherton - 30 January 2001
At his strike rate of just over five wickets a Test, Muttiah Muralitharan
will become, barring misfortune, the greatest wicket- taker in the history
of the game in about four years' time. Not bad for a short, slightly built,
bow-legged finger spinner with a con*** defect of his right arm.
If his general physical stature is unremarkable, however, it is his immense
good fortune to be blessed with an almost *** wrist, propelling the ball
with a wrist rotation that is, according to his coach, Dav Whatmore,
unprecedented in the game.
Murali is no off-spinner in the traditional sense - the close-to-the-
stumps, drift and turn type off-spinner in the Laker or Titmus mould.
Instead, a closer comparison would be with Lance Gibbs, the great West
Indian whose wide-of-the-crease, open-chested action with huge fingers
wrapped around the ball brought him more wickets than any other off- spinner
until Murali took off-spinning to another dimension.
Indeed, such is the *** of his wrist in delivery that I would call him
first and foremost a wrist, rather than finger, spinner. It enables him to
put more revolutions on the ball and bowl with more top spin than any other
off-spinner, with the result that batsmen are often seen groping for the
ball, first imagining a full-toss, then anticipating a half-volley, before
realising too late that the deception is complete, as the ball evades the
drive, and eases through the gate.
Like the other great spinner of my generation, Shane Warne, it is Murali's
control along with the vicious spin that sets him apart. I remember him
bowling to Ian Ward during a championship match at the Oval, and because the
ball was turning so much he kept beating the bat. At mid-off I suggested he
get it half a yard fuller to entice the drive, and sure enough every ball
that over was put tantalisingly on the drive. It was watching a master at
The armoury, that has propelled him to 300 Test wickets in a quicker time
than anybody other than Dennis Lillee, is completed by a top- spinner that
goes straight on and, especially in the presence of an umpire taking a keen
look at his action, a leg-spinner that usually lands on the spot. Add to
this an insatiable appetite for bowling (he bowls on average 53 overs a
Test) and you have a captain's dream for one team and, for the other, that
most dreaded of opponents, the match-winner.
Before you think that his success has come easily and naturally, consider
this: he is the only Tamil in a national team whose country is torn apart by
the Tamil Tigers, and he has had to contend with slurs over his action which
have been harder to remove than red wine from a satin sheet. In 1995-6 he
was called for throwing by Darrell Hair and Ross Emerson which, regardless
of the rights or wrongs, would have broken lesser men.
It was shortly after further doubts were raised over the legality of his
action, following his almost single-handed victory over England at the Oval
in 1998, that Murali became the latest in a long and proud line of overseas
players that have represented Lancashire. If there was any bitterness
following that reaction it did not show and he had as profound an impact on
Lancashire as any of his predecessors. There were, of course, the wickets:
he took 66 in seven matches and had his team-mates backed him up a little
more, the championship pennant ought to have been fluttering over the Old
Trafford pavilion for the first time in my father's lifetime.
He also confirmed to me that the best players invariably are the ones who
work the hardest: not only did he bowl more overs in matches, he bowled more
in the nets than any other bowler. Given the fact that I have only faced him
once in a match, that may prove useful in the months ahead.
More than that, he was a complete breath of fresh air. Sometimes a county
dressing-room can become a tired and cynical place and what was once a game
can become a humdrum job. Indeed, when Murali arrived, I was injured,
sidelined and contemplating retirement as I had lost some enjoyment of the
game in the previous six months through constantly battling injury. Murali's
arrival reaffirmed to me that cricket is played best when it is enjoyed
rather than endured. It was such a pleasure to see a player, a world-class
player, clearly relishing the opportunity to bowl and taking pleasure in
everything he was asked to do. He simply loves the game.
It is rare to see a great player with so little ego. When the ever-
insatiable Lancashire marketing department asked him to dress in lederhosen
in front of the members and cameras one day to promote the Warsteiner
floodlit series, it was a request that would have been flatly refused by
most. But there he was, looking ever so slightly ridiculous, waving his
feathered hat, swigging the amber nectar, having the time of his life.
Despite the fact that he is available for only a fraction of the coming
season, Lancashire have re-engaged his services for next year, and he will
be fondly welcomed by the whole playing staff. Mind you, those who look to
reinvent their careers by manipulating statistics will be shot down by
Murali, who knows every stat in the book. Moreover, whoever is designated to
travel with him to away matches will hope he has improved behind the wheel:
he is quite the worst driver you have ever seen.
This unassuming man, with the bobbing run-up and *** wrist, is the major
obstacle between England and a fourth consecutive series victory. But my
admiration for him as a player, and as a man, is not going to prevent me
from trying my best, over the next two months, to slow down his inexorable
rise to the top of the wicket-takers' list.
? The Electronic Telegraph