Rajan's Wrong 'Un: Sri Lanka desperately miss that old Murali magic
Amol Rajan was appointed editor of The Independent in June 2013. He was previously Editor of Independent Voices, a comment, campaigns and community platform across print and digital. He was earlier Deputy Comment Editor, Sports News Correspondent and News Reporter. He writes a restaurant column for The Independent on Sunday, and has a column in the Evening Standard (Thursdays). He presents ‘Power Lunch’ on London Live TV (Thursdays), a one-to-one interview with the most influential people in the capital. Previously, Amol worked on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, and at the Foreign Office. He is currently a trustee of Prospex, a charity for young people in Islington. He has also written a book called ‘Twirlymen: the Unlikely History of Cricket’s Greatest Spin Bowlers’.
Monday 05 September 2011
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.
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: The biggest fight of all time, or maybe just the most lucrative?
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao start?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
Sir Alex Ferguson reveals who he thinks is better between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi
Chelsea transfer news: 'Eden Hazard will cost Real Madrid £100m - and a Galactico,' says Jose Mourinho
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove