The Australian Cricket Board has recently done their best to portray Muttiah Muralitharan as an anti-national. The article on their website titled“Muttiah plotting Sri Lanka’s downfall” certainly caught the eyes of Sri Lanka Cricket Board and their sports minister went on to accuse Muralitharan’s behaviour as ‘unacceptable and disappointing’. Here we would like to remind the fans and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) alike about five of the moments when Muralitharan made Sri Lanka proud.
1. First player from Sri Lanka to enter Hall of Fame
Muttiah Muralitharan became the first player from Sri Lanka to be voted into the ICC Hall of Fame. His successful career spanning across 2 decades led to him being the highest wicket-taker in both test matches and One Day Internationals. It has to be noted that he has 1347 international wickets to his name and besides him, Shane Warne is the only other player to get more than 1000 wickets in the international stage.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said he was pleased with this inclusion. “We have in the list some very famous names of different eras,” Richardson said. “Muralitharan has been one of the greats of the modern era.”
2. Sri Lanka’s first overseas victory
Sri Lanka before their world cup triumph in 1996 was considered as one of the underdogs in test cricket, more so in overseas test matches. It was one such test match in Napier in 1995, the year before World Cup, when Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan paired up to help Sri Lanka fetch their first overseas victory.
In the green Napier pitch, Murali’s 5/64 in New Zealand’s second innings was instrumental in demolishing New Zealand’s top order and put a dent in New Zealand’s quest to reach the target of 427. This match was the Sri Lanka’s first over overseas triumph in test matches and it was indeed a moment that made Sri Lankans proud.
3. Sri Lanka’s World Cup Triumph
The World Cup in 1996 is one the proudest moments for Sri Lanka, not just for cricketing reasons but beyond. This is the main reason why Sri Lanka has continued to produce top class cricketers and is still active in the international cricketing stage.
At the age of 24, it was the first ever big stage in Muralitharan’s career. Nonetheless, he was the most economical bowler in the 1996 World cup finals and the Australians succumbed to the pressure he kept creating at his end. He gave away only 31 runs in his allotted 10 overs and hence Aussies were contained to an achievable 241. Till date, he has played 3 ODI World Cup finals in his career and he is the second highest wicket taker in world cup history.
4. United Sri Lankans cricketers and fans
Murali’s action was one of the interesting things that has united Sri Lankan people alike. His action has been accused multiple times in his career and he has come harder every time after the incident.
In one the matches in Adelaide in 1999, umpire Ross Emerson called 7 no-balls in a span of 3 overs due to his bowling action. It created an outrage not only among the Sri Lankan players, but Sri Lankans at large. As a result, Arjuna Ranathunga, the then captain decided to storm off and the match was suspended for 12 minutes. The Sri Lankans were whole heartedly behind their star bowler and when the match resumed, he continued to bowl again.
5. First bowler to get to 800 test wickets
Muralitharan was the first and only one until now to enter the territory of 800 wickets in international test cricket. In his last test match of his career at Galle, 2010, he needed to get 8 wickets to reach 800 test wickets and it was against the famed batting order of India containing the likes of Sachin, Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman and co. But then, he succeeded.
Sri Lanka managed to win the test match and he managed to get to his 800th scalp and silence his critics as to whom the greatest ever spin bowler is. This was a historic moment for Sri Lanka and made them proud as a cricketing nation.