Muttiah Muralitharan Biography
Muttiah Muralitharan was Milton’s chimera, lurking amongst the rifted rocks of the emerald island, luring batsmen into the entrance of hell. He was a freak of nature — a chaos, a contradiction and a prodigy rolled into a phenomenon. A wrist-spinner who bowled off-breaks, and turned his doosra by yards, he was impossible to fathom, physically and through measurement. He could touch his forearm with his little finger, and rotate the metacarpals through a full 360 degrees. He captured an unprecedented 67 five-fors and 22 10-fors in Tests and was targeted throughout his career by umpires, ex-cricketers and even an Australian Prime Minister for his ‘illegal’ action. Yet, he endured all with that omnipresent smile of his. Umpire Darrel Hair called him, as did Ross Emerson, but he was cleared by biomechanical analysis and continued to snare the best of batsmen with his guile.
For more than a dozen years Murali remained Sri Lanka’s ubiquitous match-winner, hauling up wickets by the bucket — 800 in Tests, 534 in One-Day Internationals. There were three World Cup finals along the way, the first in 1996 an epochal triumph for the island nation. After 17 years and eight months, he stood on 792 scalps as he started bowling in his final Test at Galle. And he got his landmark scalp with his final delivery, the last wicket to fall in the game, Pragyan Ojha falling to the famed caught Jayawardene bowled Muralitharan combination, following a script written by the god of cricket.
In terms of matches played, he is the fastest to 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650 and 700 wickets, and trivially so for 750 and 800. If we remove run-out from the equation, the most common method of getting out in Test cricket till now has been ‘bowled Muralitharan.’
He took a struggling cricketing nation, and, aided by some excellent teammates, placed it firmly on the established high peaks. The average of 22.72 and strike-rate of 55, both audacious for a spinner, are matched by his image of unity — the only Tamil representing a country torn by civil and ethnic divide. He was also the first to volunteer his services for those devastated by tsunami, building 1024 houses for the homeless, and putting in real earthy effort — serving food to the victims, a bucket and a ladle in the hands used to twirling the red cricket ball.