ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 32

It’s not the end of the world

Once the legendary Muhammad Ali proclaimed “I am the greatest the world has ever seen”. Having so proclaimed he may have been the greatest at that juncture, but more it is the passage of time that has given him the status as the most known boxer that history has produced. Even in soccer the much celebrated ‘Pele’ will always command the respect that he deserves.


In the same vein the Australian batsman Sir Donald Bradman has cut a special niche for himself and no Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting could bring him down from that pedestal. At the same time if one takes the circumstances and the grave stressful professionalism that prevails today being exposed to all the technological guile, could he have been as successful as that or be else could his opponents be able to find a flaw in his armour is hypothetical but arguable. Anyway no one is arguing about his class or ability as a batsman.

Then side-stepping from the art of batting, and stepping on to the skills of spin bowling, one could start his episode with the wiles of the great English left arm spinner Jonny Wardle who finished with a rich haul of 102 wickets in 28 Tests along with an amazing average of 20.39. For years he held sway on the 22 yard green till the advent of Jim Laker who once mesmerized the batsmen from Down Under to capture 19 wickets for 90 runs in an unforgettable feat of off-spin bowling.


Then came the West Indian duo of Ramadin and Valentine who had their rule over the batsmen in the rest of the world and so were the Indian spin bowling quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi (left orthodox spin), Erpali Prasanna, Srinivasan Venkatraghavan ( off spin) and Bagvat Subramanya Chandrasekar (right arm leg spin). Between them, they played more than 225 Test matches taking around 800 wickets. They were one of the most deadly combinations in world cricket, especially on the dusty sub-continental pitches, right up with the West Indian pace attack of the 80's.

After the fading away of the Indian quartet, the world kept on spinning, but, literally for about a decade the cricket ball stopped. Spinners popped up in bubbles but, were never really world beaters besides the Pakistani leg spinner Abdul Qadir who held sway for thirteen years claiming 236 wickets in 67 Tests and thus infusing fresh blood to an art that was once thought dying. He played his sixty seven Tests between the years of 1977 to 1990.

While Qadir was making his exit from the international arena another three spinners quietly took the centre stage. First of them – Anil Kumble (India) played his first Test against England in the city of Manchester in 1990 while Shane Warne (Australia) and Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) walked on to the stage in 1992. The three bowlers in the ensuing seventeen years were quick to assert their authority over the rest of the batsmen in the world and so far the threesome have captured a mind boggling 1922 in 366 appearances.


Out of the three bowlers Muralitharan in his 110 appearances is till going on with 674 wickets. Kumble in 112 outings has 542 wickets so far while Warne has called it a day after 144 matches with 708 wickets in his bag. Then while the Australian has called it a day in the race left are the two spinners from India and Sri Lanka. However at 36 years even Kumble’s days are numbered and with an arrears of more than 150 wickets it is very unlikely that he would bowl on to overhaul the other two. Meanwhile none injury permitting at the age of thirty four Muralitharan should have at least two more years of good cricket on his side and if he continues he go on should make a mark that would be hard to get past by another cricketer at least during our life times.

The next question that arises is that the Western media is trying to portray Warne as the greatest thing that happened to world cricket since his fellow Australian Sir Donald Bradman. How qualified a statement that becomes a very debatable subject. As mundane people we all know the ‘white world’ would like to keep all the ‘great tags” among them and especially in Australia. At the same time the entire Australian media is queuing up to pay ‘poojas’ to their champion leg spinner and call him the greatest. But, at the same time they always never fail to throw a bucket of mud at Muttiah Muralitharan who is sure to go past the number of wickets accumulated by Shane Warne who played so many more tests than Muralitharan to end with 708. I wonder how many wickets Muralitharan will have in his kitty if he reaches the mark of 144 Tests.

Well…nobody will take offence of being tagged as the greatest. But, any opinion will have its own contestants just for the plain reason that no two people would look at a certain object in the same vein. However as father time keeps chiming one day people would look back at the achievements of a given individual and choose him the greatest like Don Bradman who ended with an average of 99+ is looked upon today.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.