A Passing Era

In a saying that's been repeated so often that it's become a cliche, when Fred Trueman became the first man to take 300 Test wickets, in 1964, he remarked that anybody who beat his total would be 'bloody tired' (or something like that). It seems reasonable to suppose, therefore, that Muttiah Muralitharan, who retired today with a round total of 800 wickets under his belt, is feeling a bit sore just now.

Statistics and experience show that Muralitharan is - was - a great bowler. But there will always be an ambivalence about his qualities and achievements of a type which never accompanied the retirements of Warne, or Kumble, or McGrath. It's become less common to hear people talk openly about the deficiencies of his action as the years have passed, but there are many, many people who were never quite able to accept that he didn't throw the ball.

This suspicion, in its turn, seeped into the minds of those who weren't ever quite sure what to make of the wizard of Kandy (myself included, if truth be told), meaning that his achievements have often received less than their due, at least outside the Indian sub-continent.

But all this is to obscure the point. He was judged to be legal, therefore he was legal, and, in the golden years when the muse was with him, nobody on earth could take wickets like he could.

And, unlike his fellow modern greats, he played for a country with only ten years' Test experience when he made his debut, meaning both that he was under greater pressure and that his wickets carried deeper significance. He, more than anyone else - although the huge contribution of Chaminda Vaas should never be forgotten - showed that Sri Lankans could do more than just pile up runs.

With Murali's retirement a magnificent era has all but passed. The world of spin bowling is a more conventional place, with mystery and innovation increasingly the realm of batsmen, and it'll be down to the likes of Harbhajan and Graeme Swann - two of the most combative and optimistic cricketers you could ever come across - to try to re-establish the hegemony of spin.

It'll be fun watching them try.


Freehit said...

Hi Brian

I absolutely agree on how the genius of Murali has not been appreciated around the world.Whats disheartening to see is that even now former Indian legend Bishen Singh Bedi calls him a chucker.
Well written.

Mayank Jhaveri

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Mayank.

Typical Bedi. A pity, as many people are prepared to be a lot more magnanimous about Murali, even if they've had their doubts about him in the past.

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Hi Brian,

Did Bedi really say that?

If so, he sounds like another bitter twisted old'un, that dosen't like seeing people in his profession do better that he did.

In cricket these days, what exactly is a chucker?

I've got my opinion, buts thats all it is, an opinion.

All this percentage of bend etc, is beyond the human eye. It's almost impossible to tell.

Surely if he was blatently chucking the ball, the batsman on the receiving end of it would know, and presumably would let the umpire know.

Look at it from the point of view, if he has got 800 wickets chucking, wouldn't someone have noticed? It clearly couldn't have been totally obvious if he was.

He also isn't the only bolwer out there who dosen't have a 100% straight arm, who does? Not many I bet.

He is a great bowler in my opinion, and apparently a great bloke as well who does a lot for his community.

And I do believe he is a tamil, and from the way his team mates treat him, you would get the impression that he never let political issues get in the way of his cricket.

Unknown said...

I don't think Harbhajan will end up with too many more than 500. He is on 355 now, and with a few more home Tests in the rest of his career, he will just about manage 500.

But I am excited about the possibility of Swann. He may not get even 400 as he is already 31. But if I have some hopes from a spinner today, its just Graeme Swann (and Daniel Vettori).


Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks for the comments.

Dean - I don't know whether Bedi said that or not, but it wouldn't surprise me as he's known for having strong views and being unafarid to express them. And thanks for mentioning Murali's Tamil background something which I'm well aware of but forgot to mention in the original post.

Shridhar - for some reason I forgot about Dan Vettori, a cricketer whom I hold in very high regard. Neither he nor anyone else we can think of is going to take 800 wickets, though.

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