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Anil Kumble - Insight Edge

The fact that Murali has impacted 98% of SL Test wins is amazing, feels Kumble

Sunday, December 06, 2021
Magical Murali

Sunday may probably be the day when the Indian team achieves the absolute high of becoming the number one Test team in the world. In all likelihood, it will also mark the last day for fans to see Muttiah Muralitharan at an Indian cricket ground donning whites. Almost 17 years of top flight cricket have already gone by in his case and I don’t see him coming back to India to play Test cricket ever again but then knowing Murali as well as I do, you never really know.

I have known him almost from the very beginning of his illustrious career and have been a major fan of his bowling. We have enjoyed a special relationship and are really good friends.

When I first saw him I marvelled at the amount of turn he got and he surely is one of the biggest spinners of a cricket ball. Of course, he has come a long way since then and the greatest credit that can be attributed to him is the simple statistic that he has directly impacted about 98% of Sri Lanka’s Test wins.

He was almost single-handedly responsible for the Lankans to be respected the world over as a top-flight bowling unit. Every team looks at Murali as the danger man and that kind of respect doesn’t come easy even if he did make taking wickets ever so easy. To earn and hold that kind of respect from your opponents over such a long period of time is just amazing.

Murali has had his share of ups and downs. So many tarts were thrown at him, his bowling action was constantly scrutinized and questioned, but every time he emerged stronger. Also, even as he educated others around him, he continued to learn, the doosra being a prime example of his penchant for coming with up newer deliveries every now and then.

We always followed each other’s careers closely. Murali and I often spoke about spin bowling, how to bowl to certain opponents, what changes to make when bowling in the sub-continent and outside it and egged each other on to do better.

As with on the field, even off it we have remained close. The family is known to me and I have to say that he has been a great guy to have around. He’s close to most of the Indian team members too and my knowing a bit of Tamil too helps when talking to him and understanding his hearty jokes.

He may have decided it is time for him to move on but I am somehow never convinced when he talks about his retirement. It is something he has been saying for a while now and I can understand that his shoulder, that has wheeled away for so long, is no longer holding up. But even if he does decide that enough is enough, Sri Lanka won’t let him go easily. He will, of course, certainly play on till he gets the 800th wicket.

Murali is just 12 wickets away from that landmark and realistically will get there in Lanka’s next series. He may get to bowl as yet one final time tomorrow but perhaps his captain’s brave knock has come at least one innings too late. Only a miracle can help them save the Test from hereon and it is something Kumar Sangakkara will be aware of.

His Indian counterpart, Mahendra Dhoni’s century that came about with such a flourish on Friday evening, should turn to be the more critical and match-winning one.