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Playboy, Warrior and the Joker

The last of the “Holy Trinity” has retired. Batsmen world over, need not worry any further. Not that they were really worried of late, but still, for this man, reputation precedes.

Warne, Kumble and Murali – The greatest of all times. Three different bowlers. Leg Spinner, Leg Cutter and Off–Spinner. Unique in their style and attitude. Brat, Warrior and the man next door.

Blonde was the first to go. He had everything one would love of a spinner. Warne, the magician, will be remembered for his off–field adventures as much as his on field accomplishments. Seven Hundred Plus Wickets, Hundred Plus Women. Spoilt to the hilt, playboy would be the right term. This man surely knew to play ball perfectly than anybody else.

The greatest captain Australia never had. Had it not been for his off–field flings, his tryst with drugs and a rub with so called match fixers (ostensibly for sharing weather related information! He would have been better than Ramanan.), he would have definitely pipped Stephen Waugh (the greatest warrior I have ever seen in the cricketing whites), for captaincy.

Among the other shortcomings, was his inability to make full use of his batting potential. Though not one gifted with all the cricketing shots, he surely batted better than the other two spinners, but the results never did justice to his batting abilities.

His greatest spell I would remember is the classic 1999 World Cup Semi Final. What a match. What a player. The ball to Gibbs, to me, is the ball of the century.

Kumble, the warrior, the man with the least talent among the three, but having accomplished atleast three things which the other two couldn’t –
a.       A Test Century at Lords – the final shot, the Kangaroo Shot, for his century qualifies as a fit replacement for all the comic shows across the world
b.      Ten Wickets in an innings – Five belongs to AV Jayaprakash though. The last couple of wickets were courtesy Javagal Srinath, for not making an attempt to take a wicket to ensure his friend etches his name in history books for this unique feat.
c.       Captaining the National Test side.

I am not a big fan of his cricketing qualities. What made him stand out was his sheer warrior like determination on the cricketing field. He would make an earnest attempt to do every thing. He will fight tooth and nail, even when the opposition needs to score one run of one hundred balls with ten wickets left. Grit is the word I would associate with him.

I remember him for that heck of an innings he played with Srinath, against Australia at Bangalore long back (may be 1994), helping India win from 162 for 8, chasing 213+ runs. The figures may look very much achievable by todays run making standards. Back then, the Indian team known to have the longest tail, starting from Batsman No.2 (no prizes for guessing the only head in the team), and the difficulty in chasing anything over 200 runs, it was a quite a sight. Impressive and Inspiring. Want an example for coming from behind victory? This is it.

The other memory of him is the famous statement he made after the rather infamous Monkey Gate Scandal, and the Sydney fiasco. “Only one team played to the spirit of cricket.” Face taut. Eyes blood shot. Controlling tears and anger. Reflecting the mood of almost half the country.

Often subjected to ridicule by lots of people who say he is a fast bowler in a spinner’s disguise, he definitely did far better than 99% of the pace bowlers and spinners. I admit, I didn’t have one bit regard for him during the initial days, but started respecting him over a period of time. He was, to my knowledge, a very honest cricketer. Still remember Dhoni’s statement before the Australian series in 2008 when asked about possible retirement of the five frontline players in the near future (Sachin, Sourav, Rahul, VVS and Kumble). He mentioned that Kumble would be the first one to retire if he thinks his time is up, but would fight till the end. 

Which brings me to the last of the trinity, who is the cause for this blog post. Muttiah Muralitharan. Joker of a batsman, Cracker of a bowler. Always smiling and cheerful. He was everything, the other two weren’t. Picture the three in your mind and you will know – sledging Warne, shouting Kumble and smiling Murali. A child like smile. Infectious.

Murali known to spin the ball on mosaic floorings and water itself, has captured more wickets in international cricket than his previous generation players of his national cricket team. Never the one to aspire for captaincy, nor the one trying to score century, he was a bowler. Pure and simple. And he did his job to perfection. In a world, where the obsession is with pure batsmen and all–rounders, rather than a bowler, he could hold on his own and still inspire a whole lot of people.

A man who had little help from his team in taking wickets, but had the greatest help in times of need. Remember Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva? Warne had enough support at the batting as well as bowling front (McGrath, Gillespi, Damien Fleming, Steve Waugh, Ponting, Damien Martyn etc.), and a team whose reputation would make the most hardened cricketer weak in his knees. Kumble had the fabled Indian batting line up. And all Murali had was, his cherry and the cricketing whites.

Chucking controversies did nothing to him as a human. He still had pleasant words for everybody. He did respond to a few of the comments made on him by Howard, Warne and the Oak which goes by the name Darrel Heir, and Ross Emerson, but those comments were serious enough to warrant a mild response. He is arguably the greatest bowler of our times.

What if he “really” chucked? WT Goddamn F? Why does it matter? The world has been oblivious to real-world real chuckers and suckers, and suddenly it was awake and upapologetic to a person's action which is slightly out of ordinary, which but by no means, could be regarded as chucking.

What really irks me comments being made by Bishen Singh Bedi. He may have been a celebrated bowler of his times. With a pathetic test and domestic records that is etched against his name, he has no rotten business of degrading Murali’s accomplishments or Harbhajan’s bowling. Bedi didn’t pluck anything at the international level or domestic level. He didn’t even do half of what Murali has done. He did enough politics to ensure that certain players didn’t play in his team during captaincy. That record, Murali obviously cannot have equaled simply because, Murali was Murali, while Bedi was pig.

And Bedi’s comment, “A physical deformity by birth is an unfair advantage” is like saying “By birth you are blind, therefore the other senses are great, especially listening, therefore, you have an unfair advantage over others in listening.” Humans are not produced in assembly lines to have same features with same functionalities with same efficiency level. What should be questioned is not the legality of Murali’s action, but the ethical and logical part of such a law in the first place. What should also be questioned is Mr. Bishen Singh Bedi’s sensibilities and reasoning. He has turned senile, and the bastards at Headlines Today haven’t realized it yet. (Somebody please ban this channel, and help me from avoiding it!!!)

What is so great about Murali? Apart from his towering records, which will never be broken by anybody in future, the finest thing about him was his smile. I wasn’t overly excited or extremely happy at Kumble’s ton or ten wickets or Warne’s magical delivery to Gibbs a decade back. I was at awe, but there wasn’t this happiness, that I got when I saw Murali grab the 800th wicket in his last test, and ensuring the perfect sign off which couldn’t be scripted better by anybody.

I just wonder, how could ever a man, who is subjected to such much intense and ridiculous media scrutiny, who is ridiculed by his peers, humiliated by international umpires and national Prime Minister, could maintain such a super cool contagious smile on his face?

With him, we have definitely seen the last of the great bowlers, whose claim to fame was their ability to bowl and bowl fab. In these days of shortened boundaries, and batsmen friendly wickets, batsmen friendly grounds, batsmen friendly rules, bowlers are the pariah. "Overrated" is no longer an adjective to most batsmen, but an inseparable feature. With fast bowlers dying a slow death, and the one that bowls turning out to be brittle, batsmen trying their hand at slow bowling, a full time spinner is an exception. Even that exception does not look exceptional. In light of such a condition, retirement of these three men, surely leaves a hollow in the cricketing world.

Three Men. Over Two Thousand Test Wickets. The Era is truly over.

Note: I hope that a new one begins with the likes of Mohammad Aamir, Dale Steyn and the likes to be the champs of the new generation.


shenbagam said…
A good post. Sure, Murali was the best of the lot, a bowler and a gentleman. He had to take on adversaries not only on-field but also off it. What a delight it was to see the ever-smiling Murali, apparently unaffected by the criticism that his bowling action was doubtful. I suspect his I-know-what-i-am-doing air provoked all those who could not face his bowling even more. Perseverence paid in the end, with Murali signing off in unmatched style. Hats off to the gentleman-cricketer. BTW, why the anger at the TV news channels? But for them, what will you do for comic relief?
G Saimukundhan said…

True! Murali certainly did carry that "I KNOW IT ALL" air around him. He has been repeating that it would take a genius to break his record, and it would be extremely difficult. Considering the dearth of quality bowlers, and limited number of test matches being played, Murali could very well be speaking a fact. But as usual, his critics will hound him for speaking his mind, and call in vain and arrogant.

Comic relief? Admittedly I do find some comic relief in these visual news media. But many a times, they create an issue out of nonsense, to jack up trp ratings. In fact, of late, I turn mostly angry while watching news channels. What really irks me is the alarming consistency with which Headlines Today makes a mockery of news channels. An incorrigible robotic ape in the form of Chief News Editor, scoundrels and wolves calling themselves as experts, and that background music for the theatric / drama effect! Uff... Thats Headlines Today. Despite that I end up watching it somehow. Occasionally the channel seems good, but generally they are in pits.


G Saimukundhan
Krishna said…
After all the hype surrounding batsmen and jet fast bowlers in the T20 era, an article on the 'Holy Trinity' of spin bowling is a classic.I doubt if there are any genuine spinners left alive on the cricket field now.
For Eg:
Harbhajan has become a 'rocket' singh and doosra singh. swann is not a genuine spinner of the ball. Mendis is still a mystery bowler and not graduated into a spinner. etc. Aus and SA are still trying to find a slow bowler who can call himself a spinner. Sudden dearth of quality spinners is a great shock that i got on reading this article. A genuine cricket lover's ramblings.

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