Rajan's Wrong 'Un: Sri Lanka desperately miss that old Murali magic

 

Though a brilliant century by Mahela Jayawardena briefly threatened to derail them, Australia clinched a comfortable, 125-run victory over Sri Lanka in Galle on Saturday. Five-wicket hauls for debutant Nathan Lyon and Ryan Harris spun and swung the advantage to the tourists; but the decisive factor was Sri Lanka's weak bowling attack, which at times looked about as threatening as that of Weybridge 2nd XI.

It proved, if proof were needed, that the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan (pictured) has left a hole that will never be filled. Compounded by the loss of Lasith Malinga, who has retired, and Ajantha Mendis, who could not live up to the promise of his early career, it has left Sri Lanka fielding a battery of medium-paced trundlers alongside the capable left-arm spin of Rangana Herath, and the less capable off-spin of Suraj Randiv. But it is Muralitharan's absence that has made Sri Lanka's bowling look suddenly pedestrian.

No team in the history of Test matches has been as dependent on one player. In just over a year since his retirement, Sri Lanka have not won a Test, losing three and drawing six. An excellent analysis by S Rajesh of espncricinfo.com shows that, of their home Tests since 2005, Sri Lanka won 15 out of 20 in which Muralitharan was playing, with their bowlers averaging 24.53. In the nine home Tests in the same period in which Muralitharan did not play, Sri Lanka won only two, and their bowlers' average topped 35.

In the 132 Tests he played, 53 were won by Sri Lanka, with Muralitharan taking 430 wickets at a staggering average of 8.11 per Test. Only Shane Warne, who took 510 wickets in 92 wins for Australia, has surpassed that record. Muralitharan took 42.2 per cent of the wickets in those Test victories.

The emergence of Malinga and Mendis had at least offered hope for the post-Muralitharan era. Now they are gone too, and their successors appear uniformly uninspiring.

Australia ought not to crow about all this. Shane Watson did just that, saying his team would have won bowling first too. That is a nonsensical claim. Someone should tell the burly blond that his team are also hardly oozing with quality at the moment.

It was farcical, for instance, to hear Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, claim before the match that Trent Copeland's lack of pace was actually a good thing. When you hear a Test captain say he's pleased his opening bowler strains to reach 78mph, send for the sick bag. Copeland took one wicket. Mitchell Johnson continues to make Dennis Lillee regret calling him a once-in-a-generation bowler, and Harris is no Glenn McGrath.

And what of Lyon? The off-spinner took 5 for 34 on debut, including Kumar Sangakkara's wicket with his first ball in Test cricket. But he was ineffective on a helpful track in the second innings.

All things considered, this series looks utterly devoid of top-class bowling. Muralitharan played in a couple of fundraisers last month. Might someone bend his notoriously crooked arm a little, and entice him out of retirement? Cricket, never mind, his country, needs him desperately.

twitter.com/amolrajan

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans is the favourite to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing