The all action hero
Murali's record is a remarkable achievement but Bob Willis says there will always be debate about his action.
Last Updated: 03/12/07 3:29pm
We all knew it was coming; it was only a matter of when.
In the end he had to wait until the early hours of Monday morning but Muttiah Muralitharan broke Shane Warne's Test wicket record of 710 when he bowled Paul Collingwood in England's first innings in Kandy.
The history books will remember Collingwood, Kandy and 710 but almost as inevitable as the wicket itself, so too now is the conjecture about Murali's action and whether he deserves his place in the history books.
It is an extraordinary achievement although, in Australia certainly, there will always be some raised eyebrows about his action. But he has the record. The authorities changed the degree of tolerance to allow him and others to bowl in world cricket, and those are the rules, so you can't have any argument with it.
Someone as vehement a speaker as Michael Holding changed his view dramatically once he was consulted and he saw the different sort of footage and he has no problem with it.
My personal opinion is that the 'doosra' bowled by anybody should be outlawed because I don't see how one can legally bowl that delivery. So not just Murali, but also in my opinion, Harbhajan Singh, Saqlain Mushtaq and anyone else who bowls the doosra should be stopped. I don't see how you can do it without throwing the ball.
The ICC though has accommodated that delivery too and we are all going to have to live with it. All of that aside, 710 wickets is an amazing achievement and it is a record that will never be broken.
I would have thought that he could certainly get another 150 wickets. It depends on how much longer he wants to play. He is over 50 per cent of that Sri Lankan team - they don't do very well in either form of cricket without him - so I would think they want to keep him, as they need him, for as long as possible.
With Sanath Jayasuriya retiring again the side does look to be rebuilding but they can't do that without Murali - they would drop way down the rankings without him because the rest of the bowling looks fairly ordinary.
I haven't met Murali myself as I tend to keep my distance from current players. That has been my philosophy over the years and I haven't been back in a dressing room since 1984. I don't intend to go back in one either.
If you speak to anyone who has met him they will tell you he is a charming bloke. He is an old-fashioned cricket; he is never going to be a brilliant fielder and he is a typical, old No.11 batsman who has a swish. He is a very engaging character indeed and, like it or not (there are many in Sri Lanka who love it) he is the world's leading Test wicket taker.
His time to stop will come one day but Sri Lanka will be glad it is not yet. Why Jayasuriya has chosen this moment to go, rather than before or after this series, I'm not sure. And I am not sure who can answer the questions about Sri Lanka selection policy.
It has always been imponderable, how they end up with the decisions they do. The fact Upal Tharanga or Tillakaratne Dilshan are not in the 11 are incredible to observers like myself. As Marvan Attapatu will tell you, there have definitely been some shenanigans going in the background of Sri Lankan cricket. Not to put too fine a point on it, some of the selections have been bizarre.
Nevertheless, even at the age of 38, Jayasuriya is fine Test player and one who will take some replacing. He might have made his name in the one-day game, and he will continue in that format, but he has been a brilliant opening Test batsman.
You have to remember the 340 he scored against India in a Test match in 1997 and also his performance in the one-off Test that England lost at the Oval in 1998, when he smashed 213 in quick time to give Murali the chance to take nine wickets in the second innings, 16 in the match, to easily defeat England (who scored 445 in their first innings) by an innings.
He has been a remarkable servant to Sri Lankan cricket and when he finally stops playing limited over cricket too he will be best remembered for setting the tone for the 1996 World Cup where basically Sri Lanka came out of the blue and won the competition.