There won’t be a doosra like Muralitharan

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For a long time it seemed it would be a gloriously imperfect record – like that of Don Bradman who signed off with an average of 99.94 runs, Muttiah Muralitharan appeared stuck on 799 wickets in his last Test.

The eighth wicket was taken by Malinga and the penultimate was a run-out! Would Murali climb the peak – 800 Test wickets, a record that’s unlikely to be ever surpassed?

Time came to a standstill across all of Sri Lanka. President Mahinda Rajapaksa sat through the proceedings after lunch. The stadium sighed at its seams, the adjoining ramparts of the fort too. But India’s last pair of Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha doggedly stayed put. And then, finally, the moment arrived. Murali got Ojha to induce an edge to first slip, Mahela Jayawardene.

Murali clenched his fist, grabbed the ball and turned to deal with an onrushing tide of yelling teammates as Galle International exploded. Firecrackers went off, their smoke enveloping the ground and shrouding the players. Outside, traffic came to a halt as a public address system blabbered with excitement.

In the VIP gallery Murali’s wife, parents and brothers hugged each other. Even Ojha lingered on. Maybe he wanted to see the glint in Murali’s eyes, and that gleefully wicked smile – one last time at close range.

The most complex bowler of our times, and the most prolific, had bagged his 800th, a landmark which has raised the bar so unthinkably high that none will dare contemplate even coming close. What reasonable target can a good bowler, off-spinner or otherwise, set for himself now, given shortened career spans and the dwindling frequency of Tests?

The moment also marked the end of a golden era of spin bowling, with three geniuses – Murali, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble – now gone. Mysteriously, this was supposed to be the period of alleged demise of spin.

It’s amazing how Murali’s persistence scripted the perfect fairytale finish. There was pressure, as he admitted later, for no less was expected of him. He captured his 67th five-wicket haul in the first innings to raise expectation. Captain Kumar Sangakkara gave him ample opportunity, removing the devastating Lasith Malinga from the attack. Would Murali’s farewell and the quest for an impossible figure dash Sri Lanka’s victory march?

True to form for someone whose career cycle has been marked by endless controversy over his action, inevitably followed by a masterful performance, Murali mastered the odds in his last Test too. He played an instrumental role as India went down by 10 wickets to lose the first Test of the series (even if the Test’s outcome was lost in the outpouring of joy for Murali).

“It was tense, I was worried because we needed to win,” the modest and forthright Murali said later. “I have had my share of those who did not believe. But life is all about forgetting and forgiving. You won’t miss me much.”

He’s, of course, wrong. Murali faced abuse in Australia, had detractors within the cricket establishment, underwent biometric tests to prove he was above board. Some like Bedi will never be convinced. But it’s testimony to his grand bag of tricks that no batsman can claim to have ever mastered his wrist-spinner’s off-breaks, or that Houdini of a Doosra.

Eight hundred wickets for one man, in an 18-year career, isn’t cricket’s equivalent of landing on the moon. It’s cricket’s equivalent of discovering alien life. That’s how unique Murali was, both on and off the field. The only Tamil to play cricket for Sri Lanka, he has been a flag-bearer both for his people and the island-nation in times of war and ethnic strife. There is no greater unifier in Lanka than Murali.

His send-off was a grand, almost a family affair, the likes of which have not been seen in cricket before, not for Sobers or Bradman or Gavaskar. Marching bands trumpeted their stuff with military reverence. His parents, wife and son were invited on to the dias. For the last time on a cricket field, but not for the first, Murali spoke for the majority of cricket lovers, and not just a minority.
[Story Source]

This post was submitted by komal.

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