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Elvis has left the building


Over the years, I’ve been privileged to have seen Lillee, Marshall, Hadlee, Akram and Warne.  It’s ridiculous to compare any and I can only direct my internal scale to the term ‘peerless’ …. but then Murali.

It is perhaps right and no less rich that Australia, the country to have benefitted from the most dubious umpiring decisions over the last twenty years; and the country to have enacted the most recorded acts of dishonesty in the sports’ history would continuously and singularly attempt to smear his staggering legacy.

That no other country raised an eyebrow much less a query at any stage of his career resurrects the old line: “What does the accusation say about the accuser?”

From their master’s voices, there have been no ‘ball of the century’ accolades afforded him while almost everyone can recall him twirling the leather far sharper and as effectively, and there have yet been no ‘greatest ever’ claims despite the now-67 Test ‘five-fors’ and 22 Test ‘ten-fors’.

Take a moment and think about those digits.

There ends my speculation angle as I’m confident the cricketing diaspora has long made up its mind that Muttiah Muralitharan was the greatest bowler, regardless of category, to play the game. Relentlessly and unsympathetically, yet always there with a ready smile, he bamboozled the world making a mockery of too many pre-hyped swordsmen to bear repeating here.

The ability to prodigiously turn the ball either way while concealing the direction in his openly visible wrist was one thing, the additional welding of this talent with his ability to quickly analyse his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses is what puts him among the names mentioned above.

That he would so comprehensively eclipse the original renaissance man of leg-spin, Warne, may have clearly been too much for many quarters to bear yet that playing record and the relentless performance, game after game, closes every case every time.

By his own concession, Brian Lara stands as the only one over his career to have picked him (we shall ignore Gilchrist’s squash-ball assisted gamble at the WC 2007 final) and perhaps the best anecdote of Murali’s power is derived from their epic battle over that 2001-2002 series where the ‘Prince’ was compelled to repeatedly conduct batting clinics to his hapless colleagues over the course of almost every team innings regarding the best techniques to counter the Sri Lankan. 

To my eyes he was simply unreadable and all but unplayable as I could not pick what would come next – there is no one else to whom I can make the same reference.  His noted nonchalant response to the demise of each batsman perhaps best windowed his own inner computations, with the scalp long being personally considered as inevitable. 

My favourite memory remains WC 2007 where Sri Lanka took on India in Trinidad. India’s latest superstar M.S. Dhoni arrived to the crease and while he would have faced Murali several times previously, he was humiliated throughout the course of  a master-class of drift and deceit before being finally castled off a painfully angled bat, line completely misread.  I was there with my mother-in-law who, while backing India, turned to me after the dismissal, to concede she had never seen anything like this guy before.

The King is gone, long live his memory, his records have no worry regarding their tenure.

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