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.
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Xabi Alonso to be quizzed before £18m Asier Illarramendi bid; Battle on for Rickie Lambert
Transfer news and rumours LIVE: Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester City, United want Gareth Bale
Arsenal vs Aston Villa report: Inspirational Mesut Ozil takes chance to regain limelight from Alexis Sanchez
Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0 player ratings: Mesut Ozil or Santi Cazorla? Who stole the show at the Emirates Stadium?
Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Marco Reus 'wants to work with Arsene Wenger'; Nicolas Otamendi link; Jose Luis Gaya clause met
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign