Muttiah Muralitharan: Legend who wreaked havoc on batsmen with a smile

New Delhi: Legendary Sri Lanka off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan turned 48 on Friday. Considered one of the greatest bowlers of all time, Muralitharan’s extraordinary career tally of 800 Test wickets stands alone in the list of all time highest wicket-takers in the longest format of the game.

Muralitharan was part of a wave of great spinners that came to dominate world cricket at the turn of the century. When he made his debut in August 1992, star India all-rounder Kapil Dev was the all time highest wicket-taker in Tests and there was not a single spinner among the top 10 international wicket-takers at the time.

Muralitharan, alongwith Australia’s Shane Warne and India’s Anil Kumble, however changed that. He climbed to the top of the ICC bowler’s rankings in 2004.

But the first half of Muralitharan’s career in international cricket was also defined by him needing to prove the legality of his action time and again. Images went around of him bowling shirtless with sensers on his torso and cameras capturing him before biomechanical experts at the University of Western Australia so as to prove the legality of his action.

Another time, he bowled in front of television cameras with a steel brace on his bowling arm to prove the legality of his action. Many of his contemporaries — team mates and opponents alike — and commentators who worked on Sri Lanka’s matches at the time have repeatedly condemned the umpires and concerned authorities at the time for putting him under the scanner.

Muralitharan played 133 Tests in which he picked up record 800 wickets. He also took 534 ODI wickets in 350 matches, making him the most successful bowler in the shorter format as well. He retired from Test cricket in 2010 and his last ODI was the 2011 World Cup final against India which Sri Lanka lost at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

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