Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralidharan has become the highest wicket taker in the history of cricket, overtaking Shane Warne‘s tally of 708, in his home-town Kandy. It is an extraordinary feather in the hat of a small nation which only began playing international cricket a couple of decades ago. And it is an even more extraordinary feat for a smiling assassin who has been his team’s only match-winning weapon.
The numbers tell the tale: Warne took 145 Tests; Murali has done it in just 116 Tests. His average of just a little over 21, his number of five- and ten-wicket hauls, and his role in giving Sri Lankan cricket a semblance of respectability are all obvious. But the shadow of chucking hangs over Murali, just as it has all his career. Bishen Bedi, who has bracketed Indian offspinner Harbhajan Singh with Murali, has called chucking “a bigger disgrace than match-fixing.”
Questions: Will any bowler every overtake The Kandy Man? Is chucking the main reason for Murali’s success or his turn and guile? Will the chucking allegations forever cloud his accomplishments? If life-threatening bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar and Brett Lee can hurl their beamers joyfully, is Bedi barking up the wrong tree? Is chucking a bigger menace than match-fixing or is Bedi plainly jealous? Above all, does Muralidharan’s record of 708 wickets count?
Photo courtesy: BBC