Salute-e-Murali: Easy to criticize, IMPOSSIBLE to imitate!

Chayan Rastogi

With 800 Test wickets in a career spanning almost 18 years, Muttiah Muralitharan has finally bid goodbye to cricket- a game to which he brought unparallel ‘distinctions’ or ‘divisions’, depending on which side of the fence you stand!

Coveted as a ‘Once in a lifetime’ bowler by many cricket greats, Muralitharan leaves behind a legacy of spin bowling which will be hard to compete with, let alone surpass!

Third and the last to retire from golden generation of spin bowlers, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble being the other two, Murali stands miles ahead of the contemporary bowlers and truly had nothing more to achieve in his Test career.

Such are the stats of the spin wizard from Sri Lanka, that when he named Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh as the front-runner to break his record for maximum Test wickets, many including Bhajji perceived the complement as a joke!

Experts seldom compare a 5-wicket haul to a century and 10-wickets in a Test to a century in both innings. Murali left the arena with a mind-boggling 67 five-wicket hauls and picked 10-wickets in a match for an unprecedented 22 times. Add to this a career average of meager 22.72 runs for a wicket and sending down more than 44,000 deliveries in Test cricket- Murali is a bigger cricketer than what he is made to look like by few doubters.

In case the eyes are still popping out with the statistics just mentioned, Murali is also the highest wicket taker in ODIs and the only bowler other than Pakistan’s Wasim Akram to have more than 500 wickets to his credit. What makes this observation more interesting or ridiculous (as what many people will beg to differ), Ajit Agarkar of India with 288 wickets is the only bowler following him who has not retired from any form of the game!

But the numbers are just one way to tell this magician’s greatness, Murali has been a man who shook up the cricket establishment like no one in his era.

However, the career ride of this phenomenal cricketer hasn’t been a smooth one. He faced ‘throwing’ allegations by umpires, hooting abuses in Australia, underwent biometric tests to prove his action and what not. Yet, the ‘Smiling Assassin’ only concentrated on doing what he did best - knocking down the opposition with his mysterious spin!

Yes, some like Bishen Singh Bedi will never be convinced, but then Murali was not here to prove anything to anyone either. The tests showed that his arm rotation did not breach ICC’s tolerance limit of 15 degrees and he, just like a man on mission, unperturbed by the criticism continued taking wickets.

Such has been his mastery of spin bowling that even in this age of video recording and bowling footage, no batsman can claim to have ever mastered his wrist-spinning off breaks.

Murali was unique and often being the only Tamil to play in the squad, was a perfect ambassador of his community in times of ethnic strife and Lankan civil war.

The feats are unparalleled, the stats are unmatched- just like a Bradman, cricket will never see another Murali.

You were better than the rest and will always be, the record you are leaving is safe for posterity.

Awww, you’ll be missed and really - There won’t be a ‘Doosra’ like you!

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