Muttiah Muralitharan, the Amazing Wrist-spinner of Sri Lanka Cricket in the Sri Lankan Cricket T-Shirt
Muttiah Muralitharan, the Amazing Wrist-spinner of Sri Lanka Cricket

Heard about Sri Lankan Cricket? If so, the name Muttiah Muralitharan can never be something new for you! Yes, not only in Sri Lanka but also in any place where cricket has a connection, he has become favored. In fact, Muralitharan has become one of the few golden players who have ever played, representing Sri Lanka so far. In addition, he has given his giant support to Sri Lankan cricket and raised it to a higher place in the world.

Thus, he is indeed a gentleman who is worth looking up to. So, we thought of focusing this ready on this amazing wrist-spinner of Sri Lankan Cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan. Excited to know about this wonderful personality, isn’t it? Here we go!

Who is Muttiah Muralitharan?

Muttiah Muralitharan is simply a Sri Lankan legend who has rocked the world of cricket with his amazing bowling talents. Hence, any cricket lover in the world would know him for his remarkable talents.

It says that what Muralitharan has done with bowling is like what Tendulkar has done with the batting. In addition, Muralitharan has become one of the finest bowlers in cricket in the universal consensus. He has shown his colors in bowling in many ways on many different occasions.

Besides, a cricket fan should have heard of Muralitharan at some point due to the presence of several records under his name. Even though this amazing cricket player has achieved a number of goals in his cricket career, he had to enjoy a rough beginning with several controversial situations in his life.

In fact, his way of bowling seemed different from the usual ballers. Because of this, he had to face many difficulties and aspersions from the individual observers and doubters. This led to chaos in his career more and less from time to time up until his retirement.

However, Muralitharan started to show his talents in bowling right after his debut in 1992. After all, one thing that nobody can dispute is his ability to weave magic with a cricket ball in his hand at the playground. Because of this very fact, he had a nickname called the one-man army of Sri Lankan bowling. Thus, he managed to flummox batsmen generation after generation through his prodigious bowling skills.

Early Life and Education of Muttiah Muralitharan

Muralitharan was born on the 17th of April 1972, to a hill country Tamil Hindu family living in Kandy, Sri Lanka. He had three younger brothers and that made him the eldest son of Sinnasamy Muttiah and Lakshmi.

Muralitharan’s grandfather came to Sri Lanka from South India and settled down in Sri Lanka in 1920. Later, his grandfather went back to India though his father and uncles remained in Sri Lanka. Moreover, little Muralitharan entered St. Anthony’s College in Kandy at the age of nine. There he began his cricket career as a medium pace bowler under the guidance of his school coach Mr. Sunil Fernando.

At the age of 14, he took up off-spin. He played for four years in the school First XI as an all-rounder and batted in the middle order. In the final two seasons at St. Anthony’s College, Murali took over one hundred wickets. Thus, in 1990/1991, he got the title of “Bata Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year”.

Later, he joined Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club just after leaving the school. In 1991, Sri Lanka Cricket Board selected him to play for Sri Lanka A tour of England. In this, Muralitharan played for five games and could not capture a single wicket. Yet, after returning to Sri Lanka, he showed impressive performance against Allan Border’s Australian team in a practice game. However, in the second test match of the series, he was able to achieve his first test debut.

International Cricket Career of Muttiah Muralitharan

Muralitharan bowls marathon spells and attacks at the same time. Aside from his stock delivery and off-break, his main deliveries have a high-speed top spinner feature that lands on the seam and normally goes straight on. In addition, he has a unique bowling action that starts with a short run-up and culminates with an open chested extremely wrist-involved release from a partly supinated forearm. However, early in Muralitharan’s career, this action had mistaken him for a leg spinner. Nevertheless, throughout cricket history, Muttiah Muralitharan was the first bowler to become a wrist-spinning off-spinner.

Besides, all these specialties of him, made him an iconic figure in the arena of International Cricket. Hence, let us have a quick glance over his journey in International Cricket, which began with entering Sri Lankan Cricket.

Entering Sri Lanka Cricket

At the age of 20, Murali made his debut against Australia at the Khettarama Stadium and claimed three wickets for 141. Murali dismissed Craig McDermott as his first wicket in test cricket. According to his posture and the action, it cannot be considered as a run-on-the-mill spinner. The dismissal of Tom Moody during his first test cricket match displayed many of Murali’s special abilities. Similarly, Tom Moody’s leg stump dislodge when he shouldered arms to a delivery that pitched at about two feet outside the off stump.

In the same way, young Murali played a major role in Sri Lanka’s back-to-back test cricket victories against England and New Zealand in 1992 -1993. During this period, Murali got the opportunity to build a close bond with his leader, mentor, and one-time business partner. He was indeed the captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team, Arjuna Ranatunga.

This relationship added a solid foundation to Murali’s cricket career as Arjuna saw the precious talents of this young cricketer. Accordingly, Arjuna Ranathunga believed that these skills would lead Sri Lankan cricket to a whole different level in the future.

Murali captured 5 for 104 in South Africa’s first innings as his first 5 wicket haul in test cricket in 1993 August at Moratuwa. These five wickets contained Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje, and Jonty Rhodes. In addition, during the New Zealand tour in March 1995, he proved that he could become a match-winner at any surface. That very tour brought Sri Lanka’s first victory on foreign soil. Later, in the same year, he achieved the historic 2 – 1 victory along with 19 wickets in the series.

Bowling Style and Career Progress

Year after the test debut, when England toured Sri Lanka, many batsmen found Murali’s spin hard to read. They started to be concerned about the legitimacy of his bowling action. Murali seemed to flick the ball with a bent arm and flexible wrist, to the naked eye rather than bowl the ball.

According to the rules imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC), if the arm bends and then straightens at the point of delivery, it seems like a throw. But, in Murali’s case, his arm kept bending throughout the action. Accordingly, after thorough and meticulous observations, ICC declared that his action and the physiology of the right arm showed that it bends due to a natural deformity.

In 1995, an Australian umpire called Murali seven times within one day for chucking. Later, in a one-day international cricket match, another two Australian umpires accused Murali of throwing. However, this new type of bowling introduced by Murali was named “Doosra” in which the ball turns away from a right-handed batsman. Yet, this again popped up in 2004, and in early 2005; ICC reformed the rules, which allowed Murali’s uncommon arm movements.

His dominance of batsmen is as constant as the controversy. Thus, in 2007, Muttiah Muralitharan became the world’s second bowler to get 700 test wickets in a career. Once he claimed the 709th test wicket he became the most prolific bowler in the history of test cricket. Consequently, he broke the record of Australian bowler Shane Warne.

Career Statistics of Muttiah Muralitharan

Murali participated in 133 test matches in total and scored 1256 runs with a batting average of 11.67. He earned one 50s and the 67 scores as the top score. In the same way, he bowled 44039 balls and claimed 800 wickets with a 22.72 bowling average. He recorded 67 five wickets in an innings and 22 ten wickets in a match. Similarly, he has the best bowling of 9/51.

Muttiah Muralitharan played 350 one-day internationals in total during his career and scored 674 runs with a batting average of 6.80. No half-century or century was scored and the best score recorded, is 33 runs for no out. He bowled 18811 balls in his ODI career and obtained 534 wickets with a bowling average of 23.08. In addition, he got 10 five wickets in an innings and no ten wickets in a match. Similarly, he has the best bowling of 7/30 along with 130 catches.

Furthermore, Muralitharan played 232 First Class Cricket Matches (FCs) and scored 2192 with one 50s and a top score of 67. His batting average of FCs was 11.35. He bowled 66933 balls and had 1374 wickets with a bowling average of 19.64. In addition, he got 119 five wickets in an innings and 34 ten wickets in a match with the best bowling of 9/51 along with 123 catches.

Besides, he participated in 453 List A (LA) competitions and scored 945 runs with a batting average of 7.32. But, he was unable to score a century or half-century. He bowled 23734 balls and collected 682 wickets with a bowling average of 22.39 along with 12 five wickets in an innings. Similarly, best bowling was recorded as 7/30 with 159 catches.

Retirement from International Cricket

The legend announced his retirement from test cricket formally at a media briefing held in Colombo on the 7th of July 2010. In addition, he confirmed his final test match as the first test match against India, which was to commence on the 18th of July 2010. Besides, he said that he would like to play ODIs if his commitment seems necessary to lead Sri Lanka up to the 2011 world cup, which Sri Lanka co-hosted.

At the beginning of his last test match, he needed 8 more wickets to fulfill the 800 wickets. By the time the ninth wicket of India’s second innings fell, he still lacked one wicket to pass the milestone of 800 wickets. Accordingly, Murali dismissed the last Indian batsman Pragyan Ojah as his 800th wicket after a resistance of 90 minutes on the last delivery of his final over of the test career. This made him the one and the only bowler to reach 800 wickets in test cricket. Thus, Sri Lanka won the match by 10 wickets for the seventh time.

Muttiah Muralitharan announced his retirement from international cricket in late 2010 after the 2011 world cup. Thus, taking the wicket of Scott Styris in his last delivery in a match against New Zealand, Muralitharan marked his final outing on Sri Lanka soil. Finally, he participated in the world cup finals at Mumbai as his last ODI. But, he could not take any wickets and Sri Lanka lost the match against India.

Muttiah Muralitharan believes that his greatest moment in cricket was Sri Lanka’s world cup win in 1996. He said that the regret in the 19 years of his cricket career was the inability to win test matches in South Africa, India, and Australia.

Domestic Cricket Career of Muttiah Muralitharan

Murali’s domestic cricket career was mainly spent on two first-class Sri Lankan sides as Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club in the Premier Trophy. Besides, he played for the Central Province in the Provincial Championship too.

In addition, he established an exceptional record of 234 wickets at 14.51 runs in 46 matches. In England, he played mainly for Lancashire in 1999, 2001, 2005, and 2009. He played 28 first-class games for the club. He also represented Kent for five first-class games during the 2003 season. In the same way, he could place a remarkable bowling record in English domestic cricket of 236 wickets at 15.62 runs in 33 matches. Despite his talents, he never had the opportunity to play in a title-winning first-class domestic team either the Premier Trophy or the Country Championship.

Muttiah Muralitharan differs from his contemporaries as he played in more test matches than other first-class games. As of the 30th of November 2007, he had played 116 test matches and 99 other first-class matches. Furthermore, Gloucestershire contracted Murali to play T20 matches in 2011. Later, Murali renewed the contract in 2012 though he did not stay on for the 2013 season. When considering Indian domestic cricket, Murali had the opportunity to represent Bengal in the 2008 – 2009 “Ranji Trophy”.

Moreover, Muttiah Muralitharan played T20 cricket for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in February 2008 where they bought him for $600,000 through bidding. Thus, Chennai Super Kings won runners-up in the first IPL and Rajasthan Royals won the trophy. In this, he earned an economy rate of 6.96 per over and got 11 wickets in 15 games. In the third season of IPL held in 2010, Chennai Super Kings won the trophy and he supported them to achieve the victory.

Coaching Career

Murali has coached the Sunrises Hyderabad since 2015. Under his guidance, they became the champions in 2016. Later, he was appointed as the head coach of Thiruvallur Veerans in the second season of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL).

Afterward, Murali joined the Australian National Team as a coaching consultant for the test series against Pakistan, held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2014. In addition, he was appointed as the spin-bowling counselor for the cricket association of Bengal on 11th March 2014. Hence, a camp was held starting from the 15th of March 2014 for all the players for four days before the beginning of the tenure.

Muralitharan joined back prior to Australia’s tour of Sri Lanka in 2015. Despite his presence in the Australian team as a consultant, the team failed to win a single match out of the three test matches held and lost the series 3 to 0.

However, his role in the Australian team as a consultant, led to several controversies throughout Sri Lanka cricket. Eventually, Murali exchanged verbal blows with the Sri Lankan team manager following an altercation. Head of Sri Lanka Cricket Council Thilanga Sumathipala reminded Murali about the behavior of the Australian team towards his bowling posture and the circumstances he had to face. Accordingly, he expressed that Murali’s attempt to coach the Australian team seemed inappropriate. However, Murali considered this as a victory in his cricket career because the team that pressured him in the past requested him to coach them back against Sri Lanka.

Awards, Recognitions, and Records of Muttiah Muralitharan

In Murali’s career, he established, renewed, and passed a number of records and holds several world records with him. Let us go through a few of them.

  1. Highest Number of Test wickets – 800 wickets
  2. Most One Day International (ODI) wickets – 534 wickets
  3. Highest total number of wickets in Test, ODI, and T20s cricket – 1347 wickets
  4. Most 5 wicket hauls in a one-Test cricket inning – 67
  5. Highest 10 wicket hauls in one Test cricket match – 22 (The only player to get 10 wicket hauls in one match against every cricket-playing nation.)
  6. The fastest bowler to reach the test wicket limits 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650, 700, 750, and 800 test wickets in terms of matches played. (Indeed, the only bowler to pass the 708 Test wickets)
  7. The only player to achieve 10 Test wickets in four consecutive matches, not once but twice.
  8. The only bowler to take 50 or more Test wickets against every Test-playing nation.
  9. Only Muralitharan and Jim Laker of England could take 9 wickets in a Test innings twice.
  10. Most Test wickets were taken bowling (167), stumping (47), and caught and bowled (35) jointly with Anil Kumble. The most common dismissal in Test cricket excluding run-outs comes under Murali’s name “bowled by Murali”.
  11. He is the player to have the most test wickets caught by a fielder – 388
  12. The most wickets taken caught – 435
  13. The highest “Man of the Series” award winner in Test cricket – 11
  14. Muttiah is one of the 6 bowlers in the world who could dismiss all the eleven batsmen in a Test match
  15. The most 5 wicket hauls in an International career – 77
  16. Most ducks ever in International cricket (Test, ODIs, and T20s) – 59 ducks in total
  17. The highest number of balls bowled in an International cricket career – 63132

Personal Life and Charity Work

Muttiah Muralitharan married Madhimalar Ramamurthy on the 21st of March 2005. She was a native girl of Chennai, India. They have a son named Naren as the firstborn in 2006 and a daughter named Krisha as the youngest child. He does not need to get a visa for traveling to India since he holds overseas citizenship in India. As per his manager Kushil Gunasekara, he qualified for this as his family originates from India.

Murali announced his retirement from all sports on the 3rd of April 2011. He established a charitable organization foundation of Goodness in the early 2000s along with his manager/friend Kushil Gunasekara. This organization serves the well-being of people in the Seenigama region in the Southern province. It takes care of the children’s needs, education and training, housing, livelihood, healthcare, and psychosocial support, sports, and environment. This project raises funds from cricketers and administrators in England and Australia. Moreover, famous Canadian pop star Bryan Adams donated a swimming pool for this.

In addition, Muttiah Muralitharan planned to establish a second sports complex for war-displaced civilians in the Mankulam area of Northern Province. This project included a sports center, a school, English and IT training centers, and an Elders’ home. Here, the sports center dragged more attention.

Furthermore, Murali joined the United Nations World Food Program in June 2004 as an ambassador to fight hunger amongst school children. Moreover, he contributed to the relief programs when the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004. Similarly, Murali paid and organized three convoys of 10 trucks each to help in the distribution process of foods supplied by the international agencies. Besides, he signed an endorsement with the world-famous Lafarge Company to supply the cement needed for rehabilitation after the Tsunami in exchange for his work.

The Popularity of Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan has become popular not among his peers and colleagues, but also among the common people mostly for his charming infectious smile he wears all the time and his warm heart. He never hesitates to help people whenever they need it the most.

As the only Tamil person on the Sri Lankan cricket team, he could bring all the people together via his talent despite their religion, caste, or ethnicity. He possesses courage and the ability to face challenges too. Furthermore, his charity work should not be taken for granted. His peers said that he resembles his bowling which has qualities such as unpredictability and fun. His characteristics say that he is lovely, very emotional, excitable, and tough at the same time.

As per Kumar Sangakkara’s opinion, Murali can evoke a powerful spirit of reconciliation for a polarized nation. His close friend and the manager Kushil said that Muralitharan is the best father who he has ever come across.

Muttiah Muralitharan also holds popularity for being punctual as well. He always worked as an ambassador who united the people of Sri Lanka as one during the critical civil war. He always cared about the youngsters who came to watch the matches rather than his own performance. Thus, he treated them with kindness and encouraged the talented cricket enthusiastic youngsters to improve their talents and skills. In the same way, he never forgets to treat his fans with a sincere ear-to-ear smile after every small victory. Indeed, Muttiah Muralitharan played the sport of gentlemen as a real gentleman. And yes, that is simply the reason behind his impressive popularity.

The Bottom Line

Muttiah Muralitharan was an absolute game-changer and a man of amazing talents. The way he gained the love of people worldwide with the ball in his hand was quite impressive. Superior talents apart, Muralitharan is also known as a wonderful personality with marvelous qualities, and good humor. Thus, when it comes to cricket, Muralitharan’s name is written in gold. Besides, the name Muttiah Muralitharan still remains in the hearts of Sri Lankan cricket lovers, even though he is not seen in the field anymore. However, his contributions to the field of cricket won’t stop here. So, let us wish him all the best with everything ahead in his life!