Clarke and Waqar salute `amazing` Murali
Birmingham: Australia`s Michael Clarke paid tribute to Muttiah Muralitharan after the prolific bowler announced his intention to retire from Test cricket, saying the Sri Lanka off-spinner was an "amazing player".
A Sri Lanka Cricket statement issued on Tuesday said the 38-year-old had decided to quit Tests after the home series opener against India in Galle starting on July 18.
Muralitharan is the most successful bowler in international cricket history with record hauls in both Tests (792 wickets) and one-day formats (515).
Clarke, speaking after Australia`s 2-0 series losing 11-run defeat by Pakistan in the second Twenty20 international here at Edgbaston yesterday, joked Muralitharan`s decision was a reflection of the bowler`s belief in his ability to take the eight Tests wickets he needed for 800 in a single match.
"How many wickets has he got? 792. He`s confident then, one more Test. I think he is an amazing player," Australia`s Twenty20 captain added.
"Over a long period of time, statistics don`t lie," the top-order batsman insisted. "I think a lot of batters around the world will be very happy they don`t have to face him anymore.
"I guess on behalf of all Australia cricketers, and all Australian fans who`ve had the opportunity to watch him, congratulations are well and truly deserved. He`s been an amazing ambassador for Sri Lankan cricket and what a talent, what a career. I really hope he gets those eight wickets."
Murali has had an uneasy relationship with Australian cricket.
His unorthodox action has been a repeated source of controversy, especially in Australia where former Prime Minister John Howard once agreed Murali was a "chucker" when asked about the spinner`s bowling style.
It was a comment many believe played a part in Howard`s rejection last week by the International Cricket Council (ICC) board for the vice-presidency of the global governing body.
Murali`s action first came under the microscope when Australian umpire Darrell Hair called him for throwing during Sri Lanka`s tour Down Under in 1995-96.
But it was bio-mechanical analysis at the University of Western Australia, requested by the ICC, which concluded Murali`s action created the "optical illusion of throwing".
However, former England captain Michael Atherton, who played alongside Murali at Lancashire, told Sky Sports: "It`s a controversy that will always be linked with him.
"But, regardless of whether you think the arm straightened or not, it`s still an incredibly skilful thing to do what he did - which is turn it the amount he did, bowl it with the accuracy he did, have the stamina he did."
Former opener Atherton added: "It`s certainly an unorthodox action.
"He bowled from wide of the crease, chest-on, kind of flicked it with his wrist and obviously the elbow as well.
"He caused the ICC to rewrite their regulations really so that now bowlers are allowed to straighten the angle of their arm by 15 degrees at delivery which is strictly against the laws of the game, but the regulations allow for it and that is really down to one man.
"Given those regulations it`s impossible to say what is a throw and that is not," Atherton insisted.
Australian attitudes towards Muralitharan appear to have softened recently and Clarke said: "I think a lot of people have the utmost respect for him."
He added the only bowler to compare with Murali, in his experience, was now retired Australia leg-spin great Shane Warne.
"His performances are as good as anybody, apart in my eyes from Warnie, who I think is the greatest bowler of my time."
Warne and Murali are the only bowlers to have taken more than 700 Test wickets. "Who was better, I think for myself Warne was better," Atherton said. "I felt he had a better cricketing brain.
"But that`s not to take anything away from Murali, who had a kind of freakish brilliance."
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis, who played against Murali, said: "The world is going to miss him. I really congratulate him for his superb career."
Murali though could still be playing one-dayers at next year`s World Cup, where Sri Lanka are one of three Asian co-hosts.
But Clarke said: "As long as I don`t have to face him again in Test cricket again, that`s a good start."
As for anyone breaking Murali`s Test record, Atherton said: "I think it was Fred Trueman who said when he`d taken 300 Test wickets (the late England quick was the first man to that landmark) that whoever beat him would be bloody tired. I think you can probably say the same about Murali."