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'The amount he spun the ball made him stand out'
Part ten: Alec Stewart on the best bowlers he has faced: Muttiah Muralitharan was one tough customer (00:00)
Producer: Ranjit Shinde
January 8, 2013
'The amount he spun the ball made him stand out'January 8, 2013
Murali. Unbelievable performer. People talk about his action - put that to one side. To me he's been a fantastic bowler, both to Sri Lanka and the game of cricket, and I sympathise with him for those people who say he throws it, he's this, he's done that. He is a fantastic bowler and always will be looked upon as one of the greatest ever.
Anyone who can spin the ball - I won't say that much - is a regulation offspinner, then can bring the doosra in later on in his career and spin it that much away, is going to be hard work. His record speaks for itself.
I first played against him back in the winter of 1992-93 in Sri Lanka, and I had never seen anyone, first of all, with an action like that, spin the ball as much as that.
He burst on the international scene and he never ever looked back. Prolific wicket-taker. Also, he was able to bowl a lot of overs. I don't know how many overs he bowled percentage-wise in Sri Lanka's Tests, but he was a fit person. Obviously he put a lot of stress on various parts of his body, but he was brilliant.
Always called him "the smiling assassin", because he always had that big grin on his face, with the run-up, and he'd get you out. But it was the amount he spun the ball - you always had to say, "Right, I'm gonna cancel out the off side", because you were always taught to play with the spin. Even if the ball is pitched that much outside off stump, most offspinners, you'd get back and try to punch through the off side and get back and cut the ball. When you first play against Murali, that's what you'd do, but because it'd spin so much, you'd get bottom edges, you'd be back on the stumps, and he'd bowl you through the gate, etc. etc. So it was difficult to master and get on top of Murali.
He bowled some bad balls, don't get me wrong, but because of the amount he spun it, he actually got away with a lot as well. People weren't looking to dominate him as perhaps they would bowlers who didn't spin it quite as much.
The difference between Murali and Saqlain, basically, was the amount that Murali spun the ball, because they could both bowl the doosra. They say Saqlain brought it in first, then Murali developed it as time went on. That made him an even better bowler against left-handers, because to begin with, against left-handers he spun it so much going away from them, they could get back and cut it or just let it go. But once he developed the ball to come back in to the left-hander, most struggled against him. I remember talking to Graham Thorpe about how all of a sudden Murali had changed the way you looked to play him. So well done, Murali, for bringing in that development.
Saqlain or Murali, you'd have to go Murali, as much as I hate to say that, because Saqlain was my Surrey team-mate. Murali's record just says you've got to pick him.
Brilliant for Sri Lankan cricket, brilliant for world cricket. I take my hat off to him for what he's achieved.
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