On Thursday, 23rd of July, 2010, Muttiah Muralitharan (or is that Muralidaran?) threw down his last delivery in Test cricket. It took his 800th wicket. And thus ended the most successful, most controversial and from some perspectives, the most celebrated bowling career in Test cricket.
On paper, Murali’s achievements bring tears to any statistician’s eyes. Find any individual bowling record list and Murali will be at or near the top. The most wickets taken (could 800 every be topped?) in Tests. I’m glad he got to 800 wickets – 799 would have given Murali a Bradmanesque mystique that is not warranted. The most five wicket hauls (67 – more than double 2nd place), the most ten wicket hauls (22 – more than double 2nd place, Shane Warne (always Warnie)). Most illegal deliveries. Most wickets taken with illegal deliveries. The list goes on. And don’t start on his one day record. That will take even longer.
But to Sri Lankan cricket, Murali was much, much more than just statistics. Murali was its heart and soul for many years. They could not win without Murali. In the whole of Sri Lankan Test history, they have had just one other bowler (Vaas). The ICC recognised this and changed the rules for Murali. There is no other way to say this: Murali was and is a chucker and the rules were changed to keep him in the game. For me, this must taint all of his achievements.
I won’t take away from Murali’s heart or abilty. He was a fierce competitor and a fine character. I guess debate will always rage over whether he chucked or not and about his permanently bent elbow. But the fact remains that it more than 100 years for an off spinner to bowl a Doosra (the “googly” of the off break bowler) and the only way it can be done is by bending the elbow.
Murali’s final numbers:
800 test wickets at 22.72
1267 test runs at 11.67