Murali’s 800 Test wickets is a world record but he was once tested by the ICC for cheating. What if he had been found guilty?
Muttiah Muralitharan, or Murali as he is more commonly known, is a former Sri Lankan international who has taken more Test wickets than any other cricketer in history.
His record-breaking 800 wickets is scarcely believable, particularly considering he beats second-placed Shane Warne by almost 100 wickets.
However, Murali’s career was plagued by critics who called him a cheat for his bowling action.
The Sri Lankan was tested on several occasions to determine whether the bend he had in his arm when he bowled was legitimate, or whether it gave him an unfair advantage.
In a somewhat demeaning moment, Murali was asked to wear a brace that would stop his arm from bending beyond the legal amount. Many in the game still say that the bowler chucked the ball, rather than bowled it.
In the end the ICC decided that the rule should be changed on how straight a bowler’s arm should be. Not because Murali was given special compensation, but because it was said 99% of the bowlers playing the game at the time would have an illegal action otherwise.
However, none of those actions were quite as controversial as the Sri-Lankan’s and one only has to wonder what it would have meant to the game if his action had been banned.
For certain, Murali would not have achieved the colossal amount of wickets he has – 1347 in all forms of the international game.
To some it would also have seemed like the tired old dinosaurs of the game failing to keep up with the modern techniques. For others they say Murali is a charlatan who does not deserve his wicket-taking records.
One thing is true, the little Sri Lankan had a very unique talent. A shy young man, Murali came onto the international scene in the 1990s. His unconventional action helped him master the difficult doosra and from then on batsmen around the world fell to his bowling.
He helped Sri Lanka win the World Cup in 1996 and regularly took 20+ wickets from a three Test series.
In 1998, back when his nation were considered a Test minnow, Murali took 16 wickets in a five day match at the Oval, humbling England and making the cricket world notice his talent.
He could make the ball turn anywhere, finishing his international career in 2011 with an average of below 30 in every country except India and Australia and taking over 100 wickets against England, India and South Africa.
However, this remarkable career could have been so different if the powers that be had banned Murali’s unique style of bowling.