Muralitharan earns mixed reaction after setting Test record

Muttiah Muralitharan became the second cricketer in a month to break a world record when he claimed his 520th Test wicket in Harare on Saturday. The controversial Sri Lankan spinner passed Courtney Walsh's career haul of 519 when he lured the Zimbabwean tail-ender Mluleki Nkala into edging a pad-bat catch to Mahela Jayawardene at silly mid-off.

Though Muralitharan's remarkable achievement was celebrated enthusiastically by his team-mates in Zimbabwe and his supporters in Sri Lanka, the feat has received a mixed reception from the remainder of the cricketing world. This reaction stands in stark contrast to the euphoric scenes - with the exception of a few sour Australians - which followed Brian Lara's world record score of 400 against England in Antigua.

This is because the game is divided on Muralitharan. Some regard the 32-year-old as the best slow bowler cricket has ever seen, but others see him as a "chucker" who should be booted out of the game.

Muralitharan's helicopter wrists and corkscrew action have allowed him to spin the ball more than any other bowler in the history of the game. It also makes it very difficult for anyone to see what is going on when he lets go of the ball. I do not dispute that a ride on the off-spinner's elbow may not be the smoothest trip in town but I also turn up at cricket matches hoping to be entertained, and Muralitharan seldom lets me down.

What if Muralitharan does throw the odd ball? Cricket is littered with bowlers with questionable actions and he is not going to kill anyone. It still takes an enormous amount of skill and practice to bowl as he does, and if it was that easy, why is the game not full of similar bowlers?

Muralitharan's approach endears him to many. There is a sense of energy and enjoyment about his game that you see in very few cricketers and, although it is inevitable, it would be sad if his career were to be remembered solely for the legality of his bowling action.

Barry Jarman, who played 19 Test matches for Australia during the 1960s, was the first match official to raise suspicions and his views differ from mine. "It makes a joke of the game," said Jarman. "It makes me sick talking about it. Everyone knows he bowls illegally. I saw his photo in the paper the other day and put my old school protractor on his arm. It was bent at 48 degrees. He is a lot worse than the University of Western Australia reckon he is."

Muralitharan's 12-year Test career has been dogged by controversy and he overtook Walsh - another bowler whose action has raised the odd eyebrow - whilst on probation. His action was reported by Chris Broad, the match referee, at the conclusion of Sri Lanka's recent Test series against Australia.

Subsequent tests proved that Muralitharan straightened his arm by 14 degrees - nine more than he is allowed to - when he bowled his "doosra", the delivery which spins away from a right-handed batsman. This has not prevented him from playing Test cricket but if he were to be reported again, he could face a ban.

This was not the first time his unique bowling action has caught the eye of an inquisitive referee or umpire. On two occasions - in 1994-95 and in 1998-99 - he was no-balled for throwing by Australian umpires but was subsequently cleared by experts at the University of Western Australia. During the remedial work which followed in 1995, Muralitharan was found to have a congenital condition which prevented him from straightening his right arm.

His reputation was growing before Sri Lanka toured England in 1998 for a one-off Test at The Oval but the 16 wickets he took in a famous victory appears to be the moment when his career took off. Since then he has taken 334 wickets in 48 Test matches, at an average of seven wickets a game.

It is hard not to have sympathy for this likable cricketer but there must be fears that budding young spinners will attempt to copy him and the game will soon become flooded by bowlers with iffy actions.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment, though, is that Shane Warne, who is probably the greatest spinner cricket has produced, will never hold this record. The Australian leggie beat Muralitharan to 500 Test wickets in March but may never get the chance to top a list where his name would sit favourably with everyone.

Suggested Topics
i100'Geography can be tough'
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
REX/Eye Candy
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis Stinchcombe, of Broad Plain Boys' Club in Bristol, by a Banksy artwork, titled 'Mobile Lovers', where the sale and handover have been completed at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, where it was on display to the public.
artHuge price will help to keep a 120-year-old youth club in Bristol open
Life and Style
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins