Doozey with a doosra…
Treat him with respect: Murali’s doosra is looking more like his regulation off break than ever, making it even harder
MUTTIAH Muralitharan. The mere mention of his name still sends chills down my spine. While Wasim Akram and Curtly Ambrose would bully batsmen with pace and intimidation, Muralitharan’s weapon is as much mental torture as his brilliant spin bowling.
My brother Steve once called the Sri Lankan wizard the Don Bradman of spin bowling. The best accolade I can offer is to say I found him even more difficult to face than the great Shane Warne.
Many television viewers will wonder why the batsmen don’t dance down the wicket and whack him for four, so I will try to give an insight into what Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and co are contending with when they take strike against Murali.
He is not only extremely accurate and boasts great control, but he spins the ball consistently further than any other slow bowler. This is in part because of his quick arm and wrist action that makes the ball skip off the pitch quickly and doesn’t give the batsmen much time to adjust their shots.
He has two balls, the orthodox off spinner and the doosra, which spins in the opposite direction, much like a leg spinner’s wrong’un.
It’s hard for batsmen to pick which way the ball is spinning when he bowls because there are no obvious changes in his action.
Muralitharan is a far more dangerous bowler than when I last faced him a few years ago because the doosra is harder to pick, because he is bowling it quicker and with a trajectory similar to the offie.
Batting against Murali was always challenging. As he prepared to unleash a delivery I’d look at his wrist to see what was coming. When he bowled his doosra, Murali’s wrist would come over the top a fraction more. Some players feel the temptation to hit out at him, but it is dangerous to be too aggressive. I was content to watch the ball onto the bat and hit with the spin to gaps and hope to pick up singles and twos.
When Australia play Sri Lanka, Ponting, Gilchrist and Hayden will try to sweep Muralitharan because they see it as a safe scoring option.
Those who are confident enough will also use their feet and try to get the ball on the half volley, so it doesn’t matter which way the ball spins. I wasn’t a great sweeper, that’s why I didn’t try it too often.
Batting against Murali in a Test was a time for total concentration. That can wear you down.
The advantage for limited-overs batsmen over Test players is they have to focus only a few overs, but any slip in concentration can be fatal.