The contribution and legacy of M. Muralidran to the history of cricket.
Posted on July 20th, 2010

Dr M. R. Somasunderam.

Dear Sir,

I think the retirement of Muralidaran will bring to an end a career of a cricketer, whom many will enjoy conversing about at dinners, parties, pubs, and at homes, and whom some will view, analyse, and evaluate as a genius, and others will interpret as a bowler who did not keep within the legal requirements of the game in relation to his suspect bowling action. Either way, this dialogue and discussion is what makes Muralidaran the most interesting and fascinating player to play the game in regard to its history.

I believe the unconventional action of Muralidaran, in particular his point of release of the ball is his greatest asset, as it comes out of his hand when the ball hits the pitch as a scrambled seam. This makes it very difficult for a batsman to read Muralidaran off the pitch, but it may appear easier for batsman to use their feet against him, but this is much easier said than done in reality, because as many great off spin bowlers before him, he does defeat most batsmen in flight, and through deception of pace, which is Muralidaran’s great asset, apart from spinning the ball a great deal, which is very rare, especially for a finger spinner.

I believe Muralidaran was a “ƒ”¹…”thinking man’s cricketer’, who understood the strengths and weaknesses of most batsman, he was also persistent, consistent, and relentless in regard in his pursuits of achieving results personally, and as a contributor to a team sport, such as cricket, and he evaluated the conditions and the requirement from his perspective very quickly in important, and vital games of cricket, may it be Test Match cricket or One Day Internationals. Therefore he was not just a talented individual, but he brought other facets to the game, especially to a team, such as team sprit and unselfishness, which were invaluable and very much required, and they were greatly appreciated by both team members, cricket officials, and the general public, who were interested in the game, its direction, contribution, and its history.

In my view, because Muralidaran does bowl with an open chested action, rather than a side- on action, he does not gain the late drift, which is required in harder wickets, such as in Australia, and in South Africa to succeed as an off spin bowler at the highest level, which is Test Match cricket. This is why his tack record in Australia is poor, and also because he does prefer to bowl over the wicket to left handers, rather than round the wicket, Muralidaran was not as potent to left handed batsman, as one would have expected of him, as his stock delivery as an off spin bowler is a wicket taking delivery against left handed batsmen, because the delivery is going away from a left handed batsman towards the slips.

I also think Muralidaran’s mental strength, and the way, and manner he played the game of cricket in regard to its correct sprit, principle, and virtues, makes Muralidaran a player everyone should admire, and emulate, as a fine role model.

I will wish mention that Muralidaran is not only a great son to all Sri Lankans who cherish and love the game of cricket, but a great son to all South Asians who admire the great game of cricket, and all nations who cherish and play the game of cricket.

You will be missed Murali, but your legacy and contribution to the game of cricket, especially to finger spin bowling, for revolutionising it, as you bowled off spin as a wrist spinner, not as a finger spinner. Therefore, you will be remembered for your uniqueness, even though some may question this, especially the traditionalists, who played the game of cricket strictly based on the text book. But, I will wish to place on record that all great contributors and players in every sport, who were great in their area or field were mostly unique, and to a fair degree unorthodox.

I will like to take the opportunity to wish you and your family the very best in your future endeavours.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr M. R. Somasunderam.

2 Responses to “The contribution and legacy of M. Muralidran to the history of cricket.”

  1. Ian Says:

    This is a great tribute to Murali by None other than Virender Sehwag (From http://www.cricinfo)

    ‘I could never plan against him’Virender Sehwag takes his hat off to a bowler he was never quite able to figure out how to play comfortably

    As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

    July 20, 2010

    I will miss facing Murali. He is the most difficult bowler I played against. I am happy that I don’t have to face him again, but at the same time I am disappointed he will not be around anymore in Test cricket.

    He was difficult because I could never plan against him. I would try to watch his hand, and if I could pick him, I would play. Otherwise I would watch the ball closely to try to get an idea of the type of delivery he had bowled.

    The first time I faced him, in the tri-series in 2001, was a nightmare because I could hardly pick any of his variations. At times he would spin it at right angles, making my job nearly impossible. I tried to play him defensively and cash in against the other bowlers, because I was never comfortable against Murali. That’s something that never changed.

    One of the reasons I could never prepare against him was because he varied his pace smartly. In that tri-series, my original plan to combat him was to dominate, try and hit some sixes. But he figured that out and had me caught easily at long-off. Then in the 2003 World Cup, when I was batting well on 66, I hit him over midwicket without picking the doosra and was caught at long-on. There were so many occasions like that when I was confused about whether it was his offbreak or the doosra, and didn’t have the time to adjust my body position or my mind to play accordingly. That is how he controlled me.

    He would never give you any easy balls; you had to remain patient and improve your skills. He would be quick first up, then he would introduce the doosra, then he would suddenly bowl a really slow ball.

    He was always at you, keeping you guessing. Over the years I learnt I needed to be patient. I think that helped me get those three centuries I made against Sri Lanka in the last three years – a double-century in Galle, a century in Kanpur and another double in Mumbai, last December – though I must admit his pace and spin were not as lethal in those matches as they were when I played him for the first time. In a way, those hundreds sort of offset the troubles I had against him previously.

    Though I’ve managed to make some runs against him, I could never pick his doosra. It might sound strange but I can pick that delivery off any other spinner, but with Murali I was stumped. In the 2008 Galle Test, I decided to treat every ball as if it was a doosra and play it towards cover. I didn’t hit the ball hard, just used timing to direct it towards cover. Along with that, I waited for loose balls to play shots on the back foot.

    Murali doesn’t spin the ball so much any more. It’s hard to believe this was the same man who could, at one time, pitch it well outside off and get the ball to hit the stumps. That changed when he began bowling a lot of doosras and straighter ones; they probably affected his turn. Yet the doubt remains in my mind. Tomorrow if I walk out, I cannot say for certain that I will score against Murali. I can say that for other bowlers. And that applies through a match: against other bowlers, I usually find it easy to score over a period, but with Murali it did not matter if I was on 0, 10 or 100 – he was always a challenge.

    ‘Tomorrow, if I walk out, I cannot say for certain that I will score against Murali’ © AFP

    I don’t think any bowler likes to show his hand to a batsman, especially to one like me. But Murali is a very good friend. I don’t know if he was joking or being serious but he once told me he did not bowl slower deliveries to me because he believed I would hit him out of the ground. He bowled quick so as to not allow me much time to hit or pick the doosras from the offbreaks. It was nice of him to say that. He knows I like to dominate bowlers, but he was equally dominating.

    The first thing a young spinner could learn from Murali is a lesson in humility. His patience was also amazing. He told me sometimes he had to bowl 40-50 overs to get a five-for and at times he got it in just 15 overs. To excel at the highest level, you have to be able to exercise patience and have a strong character. That is the best thing anyone can learn from Murali.

    I was lucky to be alongside him in the World XI team that played Australia a few years ago. It only confirmed my opinion of him. His best quality is his simplicity. He is down-to-earth; he doesn’t make you feel he is a world record-holder. He always makes you feel comfortable in his company. On the field I’ve never seen him get aggressive or yell at anyone. He always challenged the batsman in a nice manner and motivated his team with a smile and through hard work. Even for an opponent, he was a shining example.

  2. Ram2009 Says:

    This is one Sri Lankan of recent times in whom we can justly be proud of. He has brought honour to the school which nurtured him during his formative years, and the individuals who groomed him for greatness in later life.

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