‘Our greatest’ takes his stand among the greats of the game

As World Cup fever spreads D.C. Ranatunga takes a walk through the Cricketing Hall of Fame in the Bradman Museum in Australia

Muttiah Muralitharan continues to win recognition in the international cricket scene. When Murali’s manager Kushil Gunasekera mentioned to me that Murali was being inducted into the Hall of Fame in the Bradman Museum in Australia, I had already planned to visit Sydney. Once he broke the news a visit to the Museum in Bowral, a one and a half hour drive from Sydney topped my list of priorities.

Murali is the only Sri Lankan cricketer featured among the ‘Greats of the Game’ in The International Cricket Hall of Fame (ICHOF). Opened last November “inspired by Sir Donald Bradman’s vision”, it is being publicised as “the world’s first and only international cricket hall of fame.”

Murali is the 19th in the list followed by Sachin Tendulkar
Pride of place: Helmet used by Kumar Sangakkara displayed among helmets used by four distinguished players

Murali is one of twenty Greats recognised by the Hall of Fame starting with W.G. Grace (England) and Victor Trumper (Australia). Life size figures of the Greats adorn a long wall. Murali is the 19th in the list followed by Sachin Tendulkar. Ahead of Murali are Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist.

A prominently displayed narrative describes how the players have been elevated to the Greats of the Game category. Three reasons are listed. Firstly, they were cricketing pioneers. They consistently demonstrated more skill than others of the time and thereby directly influenced the development of the game. Thirdly, their historical significance will endure regardless of the game’s evolution. Players have been placed in the era where they made their greatest contribution. The ICHOF will continue to review additional players worthy of acknowledgement to be honoured as Greats of the Game.

The Greats featured are: W.G.Grace (England), Victor Trumper (Australia), Sydney Barnes (Australia), Jack Hobbs (England), George Headley (West Indies), Don Bradman (Australia), Wally Hammond (England), Bill O’Reilly (Australia), Frank Worrell (West Indies), Gary Sobers (West Indies), Graeme Pollock (South Africa), Dennis Lillee (Australia), Sunil Gavaskar (India), Richard Hadlee (New Zealand), Imran Khan (Pakistan), Vivian Richards (West Indies), Shane Warne (Australia), Adam Gilchrist (Australia), Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) and Sachin Tendulkar (India).

Opposite the figures on the wall, action photographs of players and incidents are displayed with related narratives. In the section 1978-2010, alongside an action picture of Murali is the blurb: “In 2010 Muralitharan became the first cricketer to take 800 Test wickets when he had Indian batsman Pragyan Ojha splendidly caught at slip by Mahela Jayewardene in the first test at Galle on 22 July 2010.”

Among the paraphernalia displayed are four helmets worn by four distinguished players. Among them is one used by Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara and the write-up refers to the game in Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka made its Test debut against England in 1981 and proved its class by winning the World Cup in 1996. Always very competitive especially on home soil, Sri Lanka had produced many great players. This helmet was worn by Sri Lanka wicket-keeper and batsman Kumar Sangakkara, who holds the record number of Test dismissals for a Sri Lankan wicket-keeper and holds his nation’s highest batting average. He wore this helmet in 2006, the year he made his highest Test score against South Africa.”

Also displayed is a shirt worn by Sangakkara at a T20 game with the following legend: “Celebrity power has given cricketers increasing influence in supporting a wide range of humanitarian and other causes at both local and global levels. In 2003 the International Cricket Council and the United Nations began a partnership to raise awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS which is at epidemic levels in many cricket nations. During the ICC World T20 in West Indies, the entire Sri Lanka team wore the World AIDS Day ribbon to heighten awareness of the disease. This shirt was worn by the record breaking big-hitting left hander Kumar Sangakkara.”

Close to this exhibit is a group photograph of the captains of World Cup 1985 taken at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when India defeated Pakistan by 8 wickets in the final. In the picture is Sri Lanka skipper Duleep Mendis along with David Gower, Javed Miandad, Clive Lloyd, Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar and Geoff Howarth.

It was quite heartening to see Sri Lanka being featured in this fashion at the Hall of Fame in its first phase. The well thought out project uses the latest technology. The visitors are taken through the history of cricket starting with the basics of the game. Different batting strokes and bowling techniques can be viewed through large touch-screens meant especially for school children to understand the game. They can also play on an interactive fielding table positioning the players strategically to win the game.

The evolution of the game from the 14th century through to the late 20th century is discussed in the gallery titled ‘Origins’. One can see how bats were made, what the players wore and how the game evolved over the centuries including the Bodyline controversy and the Centenary Test, complete with film footage.

The World Series Cricket gallery traces how the game witnessed a significant change in 1977 and discusses how initially the games were played in empty stadiums, how the concept was discussed in courts, how coloured clothing came to be introduced and how it came to attract thousands of new followers.

Footage of cricket’s memorable moments can be viewed at the theatre. In a huge gallery titled ‘Cricket in the World’, interactive displays feature large-scale high definition video. Moving over to the Bradman Gallery, one can enjoy the life and accomplishments of Sir Donald Bradman, the greatest batsman of all time. A most interesting and absorbing journey!

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