Muralitharan takes 700th Test wicket, more in store


New Delhi : Legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan Saturday became only the second man to take 700 wickets in Test cricket and could soon became the world record holder in both versions of the game.

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Muralitharan, who took 12 wickets to spin Sri Lanka to a 3-0 series win over Bangladesh in Kandy Saturday on his way to the milestone, is now just nine wickets short of wresting back the world record now held by retired Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne.

The 35-year-old Sri Lankan had first held the world record in May 2004 when he overtook West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh’s tally of 519.

Muralitharan is also hot on retired Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram’s trail for the One-day International world record. Muralitharan needs 48 more wickets to overhaul Akram’s tally of 502.

Muralitharan, who bowls with a naturally deformed right elbow, could have already gone past Warne had he not missed some matches either due to events related to allegations of chucking or not touring Australia in 2004 after Australian Prime Minister John Howard reportedly called him a “chucker”.

It is no secret that many Australians simply hate Muralitharan, especially after Australian umpires Darrel Hair and Ross Emerson called for “throwing” during 1995-96 and 1998-99 tours Down Under.

Then, International Cricket Council match referee Chris Broad of England reported Muralitharan for the same reason in March 2004.

Each time Muralitharan had to go through highly sophisticated and technical elbow tests, from the University of Western Australia to the University of Hong Kong, to check whether his elbow was naturally bent or not.

Every time he came out unscathed, with some of the world’s best scientists concluding that the Kandy-born Muralitharan’s bowling action was legitimate.

It is the off-spinner’s “doosra”, a delivery that turns away from a right-handed batsman instead of coming in as traditionally expected, that has raised heckles from experts besides some umpires and match referees.

This ball is so deceptive that even the best batsmen the world over have failed to master it.

The 700-wicket tally is as much a tribute to Muralitharan’s never-say-die grit and perseverance as it is to his bowling skills. A person with a weak character would have perhaps given up the game following the morale-shattering chucking calls from Hair, Emerson, Broad, Howard et al.

Muralitharan is indebted to Arjuna Ranatunga who was his captain when he was first called for ‘throwing’ by Hair. Ranatunga stood by his bowler, gave him all the encouragement he needed and fought against the world over his action.

Muralitharan mulled giving up cricket in 1995-96 when he was first alleged to be chucking. But Ranatunga persuaded him to carry on and fight his battle with those who were levelling unfounded allegations against his bowling action.

Today, Muralitharan stands on the verge of making history for Sri Lanka – and bringing smiles on the faces of the people of this war-torn country.