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Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan is a former Sri Lankan cricketer whose unorthodox delivery made him one of the most effective and controversial spin bowler in history and enabled him to take unique position of holding the records for most wickets in One Day Internationals as well as Test matches than anyone else who has ever played the game. Whether Sri Lanka played at home or overseas, Murali was the go-to man for half a dozen captains.

Muralitharan’s career was beset by controversy over his bowling action for much of his international career. He has been cleared numerous times by biomechanical experts, by the ICC and by independent observers – but the doubters refuse to be silenced.

Muralitharan held the number one spot in the International Cricket Council’s player rankings for Test bowlers for a record period of 1,711 days spanning 214 Test matches. Murali became the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket when he overtook the previous record-holder Shane Warne in 2007. In 2009, Muralitharan also assumed the record for most career wickets taken in ODI, surpassing the 502 wickets amassed by Pakistan’s Wasim Akram.

Muralitharan was born in Kandy, the eldest of the four sons to Sinnasamy Muttiah and Lakshmi. In early days, he began his cricketing career as the medium pace bowler but on the advice of his school coach, he took up off-spin when he was fourteen years old. After leaving school he joined Tamil Union cricket club and was selected for Sri Lanka A tour of England in 1991.

Muralitharan made his Test debut against Australia in 1992, at the age of 20 at Khettarama Stadium and claimed 3 for 141. When England toured Sri Lanka, many batsmen found Muralitharan’s spin difficult to read and expressed concern about the legitimacy of his bowling action. He has also been called for chucking by umpires in Australia, and been cast aspersions on every time he has walked out on the field.

Muralitharan continued to baffle batsman outside the shores of Sri Lanka, irrespective of the team’s performance. It was in New Zealand in March 1995 that the Muralitharan displayed his qualities as a match-winner on any surface.

During the second Test between Australian and Sri Lanka at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) on Boxing Day Test 1995, Muralitharan was called for “chunking” seven times in one day by an Australian umpire. Muralitharan’s action was cleared by the ICC after biomechanical analysis at the University of Western Australia and at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 1996, and they concluded that his action created the “optical illusion of throwing’ and therefore not illegal.

Muralitharan made his One Day International debut against India in August 1993. He appeared in five Cricket World Cup tournaments and captured 67 World Cup wickets which is the second highest by any bowler. Muralitharan was part of the World Cup winning side in 1996, he was instrumental in the run to the final 11 years later, and he played his parts in some of the country’s greatest sporting moments.

If controversy was nearly constant for Muralitharan, so too was his dominance of batsmen. In 230 innings of 133 Test matches he took 800 wickets with 9/51 as best bowling figure. He is also been the highest wicket taker in ODIs with 534 wickets in 350 matches.

Muralitharan signed off Test cricket in 2010, with a wicket of his last ball, becoming the first bowler in cricket history to take 800 wickets that seemingly unreachable mark. The ODI flame though kept flickering until the 2011 World Cup.