Bamboozler on the cricket pitch and consultant off it, it’s Muralitharan’s magnanimity in the sport that should perhaps be regarded in the same breadth as his awe-inspiring statistical feats. But despite his contributions, is he generating the right noises?
Respected by rivals, regarded by contemporaries
While there may be divergent views assessing Murali’s move- some spotting the urgency to make hefty bucks and others spotting selflessness- it must be asked, how often and frequently do we see a modern master ally with a cricketing force that nearly brought about his own downfall? That too, in the peak of his playing career. There’s little sense in pointing to a rather embittered experience that Murali had at the back of Daryl Harper’s decision to no-ball him repeatedly during Arjuna’s reign as captain. And at the same time vital to point to Steven Waugh’s coming in defence of Murali, even if as a fellow retired great and not then, as a fiery opponent.
What defines Murali’s greatness?
In a nearly two-and-a-half decade stint in international cricket, Murali, who’s just turned 46, sifted through some of Sri Lanka’s tumultuous decades leading to their massive transformation. Having been a tiny isle known for possessing passion for cricket when they began, Sri Lanka with Murali’s cerebral cricketing powers went from being a ‘would-be’ strength into being world-cup winners in 1996 and eventually, one of the cricketing powerhouses in the late 1990s and mid 2000s.
An integral part of an age that produced some absorbing multi-faceted talents, Sri Lanka flexed their arms against the ebullience and dexterity of Murali. They competed against the game’s best including Lara, Sachin and Kallis and produced dizzying heights that may never have reached had the dainty-off spinner not had played for as long as he did.
None before him and none since Murali have gathered 430 wickets in wins from just 53 Tests, leaving batsmen constantly in a conundrum that had the lethality of Sri Lanka’s sorcerer written all over it.
No other spinner in the nearly a century and a half of competitive cricket has bowled as many deliveries as Murali has and collected as many wickets as he did.
To this day, it’s hard to say what defines Murali more- his tenacity as a determined athlete or his sagely focus in going such a long way- that resulted in over 1300 international wickets (800 in Tests) and nearly 62000 plus international deliveries?
Muralidharan- The underrated bowling consultant
Not long after he retired from competitive cricket- much to the relief of batsmen- did Muralitharan get involved with the sport. Some would say it was normal, others, who may’ve observed his talismanic talent in contributing silently in shaping forthcoming talents would’ve hailed his decision. It’s been nearly 7 years since Murali puzzled batsmen on the pitch with the profound simplicity one finds in a monk meditating for hours with unwavering focus. But Murali’s contributions at helping youngsters are still waiting to be heard and appreciated. Back in 2016, before Australia’s crucial tour to Sri Lanka, Murali consulted the Test unit in adopting to the spinning sub-continental tracks.
Is Murali the reason for Sunrisers Hyderabad great run?
In the ongoing IPL, even as grizzlies like Mumbai Indian’s haven’t yet opened their account and teams like Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers are barely scraping through, it makes for both compelling viewing and refreshing anomalies in usual construct to find Sunrisers Hyderabad at the top of the table. Little surprise then, that at the heart of one of IPL’s most balanced sides’ admirable streak- boasting of spinners of a rare pedigree in Mohd. Nabi and Rashid Khan- there’s a certain Muttiah Muralitharan as the bowling coach.
You understand the efficacy Murali brings to the office when his contemporaries who’ve played alongside in his former Chennai Super Kings hail the Sri Lankan for his mere presence in IPL’s earlier editions. Decked in bright yellows, Murali, by mere presence fuelled anticipation in 2010-13 editions. It’s not to hard to gauge the impact his IPL opponents- Chahal, Patel and Yadav- would’ve had squaring against him.