Monday, December 3, 2007

The Smiling Assassin

"I meant to spin it one way and the ball went the other way," Muttiah Muralidaran 03/12/2007

That people, was Murail's answer to describe the delivery which got Collingwood out bowled and handed him, for at least an eternity, the record of Test cricket's highest wicket taker. And it is these words that best describe the man. Humility in the greatest moment of his life. What a man!

To understand how much he means to Sri Lanka as a nation one just needs to look at the series of stamps which have been released to commemorate this feat. All through the series of portraits one cannot miss the intensity of his eyes and the intent which it conveys. His geniality is expressed in his bowling and his love for the game in his wide grin. I say love, for passion is not the word. Passion is owed in some part to an external stimuli but love is totally from the inside. It was clear how much this meant to him, for the ever present grin just got wider and wider and it took a few minutes before some sense of calm returned to the playing arena.

It isn't often that you see children in school uniforms assemble in such big numbers to watch a test match and in this case I presume they even had the permission from their teachers to be absent themselves from school to see the wizard produce one of the most poignant moments in recent cricket history.

Warne might have been the the most charismatic of all the record holders, for he revelled in his excesses. He may have revived the art of spin bowling but Murali helped in redefining it. He may not have had the most beautiful action nor the smoothest run up but then his wrists are worth a museum display. The rip he gives the ball and the turn and bounce he extracts off the wicket are just a reflection of the extraordinary talent that he is.

The critics may claim that he owes his wickets to his dubious delivery action and in part to the number of test matches that he's played and wickets he's taken against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. In all fairness to him and as he himself rightly pointed out its not his fault that Sri Lanka's itinerary are strewn with test matches against those teams. But if there's one thing which goes tremendously in favor of Murali its his record against India and in particular Tendulkar. He can claim to be the only spinner to have dominated against India and Indians will not forget too easily his destructive spells against them. On the other hand India remained as Warne's Achilles heel and this is something he'll have to carry with him to the grave. Warne's greatness lay in his craftiness and the way he worked towards getting a batsman out. On the other hand Murali believed in keeping it simple and his untiring approach was the key to his success. And it is this philosophy that has enabled him to maintain such poise when hounded by the critics.

In his unbridled enthusiasm and child like innocence cricket has found the character that its supposedly made for- the gentleman.

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