season in doubt?
The 2002 inter-club rugby season is at the crossroads. Upto date the itinerary for the
league and knock-out tournaments have not been
finalised. Reason being the world cup qualifiers to be
staged on 10 March against China and an April 21 clash with Kazakasthan.
Traditionally the clubs are informed of the itinerary for
the new season towards the end of the preceding year. Not so this time as it approaches
the end of January. No communications have reached the premier clubs, who are reported to
be finding it difficult to draw up their schedules in preparation for the upcoming season.
This indecision of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union has thus caused much confusion and
anger amongst member clubs, who are perturbed as to what is happening.
The Sunday Leader spoke to the President of the SLRFU, Harsha Mayadunne, on this issue.
Mayadunne said that the union has received two recommendations as to the pattern on which
the season should progress. which is ...
(A) League season, from 3 May to 11 August 2002.
(B) Clifford Cup: from 11 September to 22 September 2002.
(C) Presidents Trophy: 9 October to 20 October 2002.
as one option and as the other to conduct the
(A) League season: from 22 November 2002 to 23 February 2003.
(B) Clifford Cup: from 19 March to 30 March 2003.
(C) Presidents Trophy: from 16 April to 27 April 2003.
The above facts clearly show the absurdity of even considering the second option.
However, be that as it may, the president, further said that a subcommittee appointed for
this purpose would be going into this issue and forwarding their recommendations to the
council. The next council meeting is to be held on January 25. Only then, will a final
decision be made.
He went on to state that the inter club 7's tournament organised by the SLRFU would go
ahead as scheduled in the second week of February following up on the Galle 7's during the
first weekend of February.
These developments clearly reveal that no decision has been made as far as the 2002
league season is concerned. Ibrahim Hamid led subcommittee were due to meet yesterday on
this but the outcome of this meeting was not known at the time of going to press.
Rugby stalwart, and the new Havelocks coach, Y.C. Chang, was an angry man when
confronted with this question. Chang said "Just for the sake of 25 players you don't
sacrifice the whole nation." The local tournament is the backbone of our rugby and
whatever said and done the local tournament cannot be sacrificed. He was finding his new
job getting started on a rough note with him wondering as to when the boys should commence
their weight training programmes, leaving aside all the other pre requisites running up to
the commencement of the season. Everything should be done in accordance with proper and
due timing. Guess what stands in their way.
The second option comes to light on the basis and the provision, that the national side
would emerge victors in the two qualifying games with China and Kazakasthan. If so what
about the Asian games and the Rugby Asiad which also falls inside this year's calendar.
Victory in the first couple of games would make our international commitments more hectic.
However, the concern is whether such should affect the domestic structure.
There are about 200 ruggerites involved in the local format, out of which a 25 member
squad represents the country. What keeps the balance number going? Your guess is as good
as mine. Prolonging the progress of our breeding ground itself is getting the priorities
all wrong no matter what the circumstances demand.
The Sunday Leader also spoke to Priyantha Ekanayake, Kandy Sports Clubs designate
spokesman who expressed his clubs' view on this issue in a rather constructive manner. The
club was of the opinion that the existing format should prevail till the completion of the
upcoming season and suggested that the domestic season be shifted to October and run till
February (the following year), drawing up the curtain at the completion of the Sevens
tournament. This way it would allow a better distributorship of referees and give an
opportunity for schoolboys to feature in the top league the same season and also to
conduct an under 21 tournament on a serious note paving the way for the 'B' Division games
to be played on a friendly basis.
CR and FC President, Michael Matthysz, expressing his views, commented that we should
plan our season according to the Northern Hemisphere structure which falls in line with
Kandy SC's suggestion. That is to commence matches in October and go on till February the
following year. He also said that it was not necessary to halt the local tournament, as
putting a temporary stop would bring about no benefit to the game. Matthysz further said
that it would be ideal to apply Northern Hemisphere format to the schools sector as well.
From the above quoted assertions one thing is quite clear. A change in the format of
the conduct of tournaments could more or less be timely. However, on an organised, long
term plan and not as a measure of resolving an issue at the expense of the interest of the
game of rugby football in this country.
Army boxers face no Slim threat
By T.M.K. Samat
THE 2001 Boxing National Championships hit the boards, coming Tuesday through to
Friday, at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium _ a month too late. The 76th edition of the
event was scheduled for the traditional pre-Christmas date, but was inexplicably put off
at the eleventh hour, much to the annoyance of many boxers.
The four-day championships, beginning 5.30 p.m. each day, is not without special
significance. It kicks-off the SLABA's preparations for three major international
competitions: 1/ the SAF Games in Islamabad in March-April, 2/ Commonwealth Games in
Manchester in July-August and 3/ Asian Games, Sept/Oct in Pusan, S.Korea.
"It's nice to climax the internationals with the Asian Games, our most important
competition next to the Olympics. It's fortunate we have two other two internationals in
the run up to Asian Games,'' said SLABA official, SSP Jayakumar Thangavelu. "A
national pool of 16 boxers will be chosen soon after the nationals _ and they'll be in
training until the Asian Games.''
Parochially, the main point of interest will be if the champion team will come from
outside the services, Army, Air Force, Navy and the Police. Since the Army first won the
team title in 1965, only thrice has a club team won outright (Zahira BC in 1970, the now
defunct Taj BC in '84 and YMCA, Colombo in '88). In 1971 Zahira BC shared the title with
Air Force and in '81 Navy and YMCA were joint champions. Otherwise, over the past 36
years, the title has been claimed by one of the service teams, the Army being the most
domineering winning 29 times.
Of late, however, the Army has been facing a serious challenge by Slimline BC. At the
2000 Nationals, the Pannala-based club finished a close second to Army. "We had a
team of just five boxers for the last Nationals, but this year we have eight and are
optimistic of winning,'' said Dian Gomes, CEO, Slimline Garments, the Pannala club's
benefactor. If Gomes' optimism comes to fruition, the achievement will be recorded in
history as the first mercantile club to emerge national boxing team champion since the
event was founded in 1927.
Jaco and Udanthi singles champs
- 19th ITF Junior Tennis Championship 2002
The 19th ITF Tennis Championship for the year 2002
began on January14 and ended on January18 with sensational results and upsets. The first
seed for the boys singles Nishanka Mishra of India failed to turn up for the tournament.
This created the passage for the 2nd seed Jaco Mathew of India to be the favourite in the
final. During the tournament there were some spectacular results from our Sri Lankan
players. 11th seed and 13 year old Franklyn Emmanuel caused an upset when he beat 8th seed
Tan Jain Chung of Malaysia in straight sets, 6/2, 6/2. With this victory, Franklyn had to
face Jaco Mathew in the quarters. Franklyn played well, but Jaco's power and agility were
too much for the young Sri Lanka.
12th seed Harshana Godamanne created a big upset when he beat 5th seed Weerapt
Doikmakkel of Thailand i straight sets, 7/5, 6/3. He beat fellow Sri Lankan Amrit
Rupasinghe to meet Divij Sharan of India in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, Divij played a
superb match to defeat Harshana 3/6, 6/0, 6/1. In the finals, Jaco showed his superiority
by winning the match in straight sets 6/1, 7/6 (7/4)
In the girls singles Sri Lanka Mahesha Seneviratne played a good match to stretch 2nd
seed Eriko Wada of Japan to three sets to lose in a grueling match. Unseeded Udanthi
Narah- enpitage created the biggest upset of the tournament when she disposed of the 2nd
seeded Eriko and the 1st seeded Nanditha Chanrasekera of India to take the championship.
Her powerful strokes outdid all the girls playing in the tournament.
In the boys doubles 2nd seeds Brian Hung and Lai Xiao Peng of Hong Kong emerged
champions when they beat 1st seeds and favourite Jaco Mathew and Son Dem Varman of India
in straight sets, 6/2, 7/5. Earlier, the Indian duo looked to be in their prime when they
beat Joshua Goodall and Anthony Scragg of Britain in the semi-finals in straight sets 6/3,
7/6 (7/4). The pair from Hong Kong had an easy match when they beat Divij Sharan and
Thushara Liberhan of India 6/4, 6/4 in the semis.
In the girls doubles the 1st seeds, Nanditha Chandrasekar and Vandan Murali of India
emerged champions when they beat 2nd seeds Varanya Vijukasanaboo of Thailand and Eriko
Wada of Japan in straight sets 6/3, 7/5. Earlier, the Indian double had a harder time in
beating Sri Lanka Vindya Dayanada and Udanthi Narahenpitage of France in a long three
setter to win 5/7, 6/2, 6/3. \But they had an easy final match in the end.
Kalutara beat Gampola 4-1
Class and experience will tell every time in any game, from what was seen at the
Weegulawatha grounds, Gampola in the final of the Inter League Football Competion Where
Kalutara F.L. outplayed the Gampola FL, by four superb goals to one.
Kalutara footballers fishing a brand of play, not seen for some time by the hill
country football fans, they surely warned the hearts of the fans.
Kalutara lads presented a fast opener and ever ready to move the ball about. The
Kalutara footballers showed a marked superiority over the Gampola boys in every department
of the game.
It was nice to see, such clean football played by the Kalutara lads, who gave the
Gampola footballers food for thought. They gave a lesson in football to their counterparts
At present the game of football is on a good footing in Kalutara, thanks to their
League president Manilal Vernon Fernando, a man who loves football and does what the sport
needs. He is the man who turned the Kalutara Footballers in to this level by, looking
after all the needs of the players and the sport.
Today they have nearly 12 terms out of which three teams are playing good quality
football with there home town products; they don't have big games or star players.
They way, it is going they are sure to be in the news.
- by All Rounder
|The King of Spin Murali
The smiling assassin
Arjuna Ranatunga (MP, former Sri Lankan captain)
When I was requested to contribute an article to the Leader on the occasion of Muttiah
Muralitharan or simply 'Murali' as we call him, joining the 400 club, I was a little
hesitant. For one thing, when you write about a person you
should be objective to be able to make a fair assessment. I was not certain that I had
this virtue considering our close relationship both as cricketers as well as friends.
I have known Murali for over a decade. During this period
we have played cricket together, enjoyed the fruits of victories and experienced the
despair of defeat. In course of time the team captained by me became seasoned
professionals capable of taking victory as well as defeat in our stride. Generally the
period from 1991 -1998 is considered by many to be the golden era in Sri Lankan cricket.
During this period Sri Lankan cricket came of age. Apart from winning the World Cup in
1996, we had memorable victories against almost all the cricket playing nations both in
Test cricket as well as in limited over games. The teams which we were able to beat
included some formidable and world class cricketers. In fact in 1992 for the first time we
won two victories in the World Cup competitions, one against South Africa and the other
Paradoxically this golden age of cricket started with a loss to Australia in the First
Test match in the tour of 1992 and in the most inexplicable manner. In this match in 1992
Sri Lanka bolstered by three (3) centuries from Sri Lankan batsmen were able to get a huge
lead over Australia, but finally succumbed to them by a mere 16 runs caused by a break
down in the batting in the second innings. It was on this occasion that the Australian
captain Alan Border rightly said that we had to be beaten on our butts. After this
encounter Murali was inducted in to the Test team and he has not looked back since then.
In a subsequent Test match vs. England, we were able to beat them and Murali played an
important role both with the bat and the ball.
Murali blossomed out during our victorious tour of New Zealand in 1994 which was
followed by a series victory over Pakistan. The New Zealand tour was our first series
victory abroad and was immediately followed by our victorious tour of Pakistan thus
achieving back to back series, both away. In both these series Murali played a valuable
part in securing our success along with Pramodya Wickram- singhe and Chaminda Vaas.
Murali really came of age in our controversial tour of Australia in 1994-95. This tour
became infamous when umpire Hair no bowled Murali for throwing. It was obvious to us that
this was a pre-meditated move orchestrated by some Australians who were scared of the
spectre of facing Murali's bowling. There is reason to believe that the whole episode was
the outcome of an innocuous remark by that great spin bowler Mustaq Ahmed of Pakistan. It
came about this way. The Pakistanis after loosing to Australia earlier beat them in Sydney
in the last Test match mainly due to the spin bowling of Mustaq Ahmed . When interviewed
on his remarkable bowling Mustaq Ahmed had warned the Australians about the spin bowling
of Muralidaran which he stated was far better than his own. Obviously a minor tremor has
affected the cricketing establishment of Australia and the final result was the ridiculous
decision by Umpire Hair to call Murali for throwing.
This episode and the subsequent action by Umpire Ross Emerson is well documented and
needs no repetition. What is of note is that our entire team together with the team
management stood firmly behind Murali. One has to place on record the many contributions
made by past Sri Lankans like Dr. Buddy Reid and many others who came forward to ensure
justice for Murali. This was in stark contrast to the apathy and indifference of some of
the Sri Lankan cricket administrators.
As for the Australians it was of no concern to them that Murali had not faced any
problems regarding his bawling action from many other reputed International Umpires. The
only explanation that one could give is that some Australians with their obstinacy were
not worried about ruining the career of a great bowler as long as it served their purpose
which was winning at any cost. In fact the shameless umpiring particularly by Steve
Randall deprived us of the Benzon & Hedges cup in Australia in 1995. Perhaps he has
now time enough to reflect on all his misdeeds. It is to the credit of the scientific
community that they were able to prove to the world that Murali was no 'chucker' and that
the so called throwing was merely an illusion caused by a double jointed wrist formed at
The greatness of Murali as I perceive it, is that despite all the obstacles he has been
able to show the world what a talented bowler he is. He epitomizes success in adversity. I
have played cricket and moved with him and watched him both on and off the field. To me he
was a great asset who was able to raise the spirit of the team at any time. As his
cCaptain and fellow cricketer I came to value his contributions obviously as a bowler, as
a fielder and even as a batsman. When the occasion arose his advent to the batting crease
as the number eleven batsman was an event in itself. One main purpose of cricket is after
all to provide entertainment. This he provides in no small measure as a batsman. There is
a great deal of anticipation when he approaches the batting crease, by his fellow batsman
at the other end, by his team mates, by the commentators and most of all by the cricketing
public. In fact in his role as a number eleven batsman he must be unique in the way he has
scored runs through audacious strokes. Apart from those who enjoyed every bit of his
batting it was no fun for some of the great bowlers who were the victims of his unorthodox
strokes. One could always anticipate a 'Six' or a 'Four' from his lusty hitting rather
than the rattling of the timber behind him as the bowler would have anticipated.
Murali's greatest contribution since the World Cup of 1996 came during our tour of
England in 1998. In the limited over triangular against England and South Africa, he
contributed a lot to our winning the Emirate's Cup. But it was in the solitary Test
allowed by the MCC that Murali really showed his mettle by taking 16 wickets including 9
wickets in an innings. Murali simply mesmerized the English batsmen who had no answer to
his wily bowling. He deservedly won the Man of the Match award despite other brilliant
contributions by Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda De Silva. In fact my decision to put
England in after winning the toss came for a lot of flak particularly because of the huge
English total. I took this decision deliberately because I anticipated that Murali would
have to bowl extensively in the two innings and therefore a follow-on would have been
tiresome even for a work horse like Murali.
There was also the other consideration that if we batted, our batsmen would have to
face a superb attack by English bowlers of the calibre of Angus Fraser & Darren Gough.
David Gover was humble enough, at the end, to accept that my decision was correct after
I am confident that eventually Murali will join the 500 club and perhaps even the 600
and prove himself to be the best spin bowler in modern cricket. There are those who bank
on Shane Warne but we in Sri Lanka and the subcontinent have shown that we could reduce
Shane Warne to an ordinary bowler. There is lot of hype by the media where Shane Warne and
other Australian cricketers are concerned. In as much as they can beat us in Australia, we
can beat them in our own countries, as proved time and again. Recently a writer commented
that Aravinda is the best batsman and Murali the best bowler in the Test era in Sri Lanka.
There is no reason to contest this fact. But what is necessary is to safeguard and nourish
them because they are national treasures who appear only once in a lifetime. Unfortunately
the stupid treatment meted out to Aravinda by some sterile selectors does not indicate
that the selectors go about their duty in the proper manner.
One word of advice to Murali. He should always remember that he is the emblem of a
country and not of a particular club or community. The country loves him and it is
incumbent on him to return that love and pride to the country and to the people.
Murali is an assassin with a perpetual smile on his face whether he bats, bowls or
fields. 'Please keep it that way Murali'.
He fought all obstacles to become the world's best
Duleep Mendis - (Director Development BCCSL)
Let me first congratulate Murali for taking 400 Test wickets for Sri Lanka. It was not
an easy task for him or any other bowler to have achieved this milestone. Especially for a
bowler like him with a very un-orthodox bowling action.
He went through an extremely difficult period during his career but to his credit, this
wily spinner with guts and courage fought all obstacles and today he is most deserving
consolidated as the world's number one bowler. We must also applaud him for his
determination and commitment for the game.
There were many an occasion that he represented his motherland even with injury, thus
proving the fact, that he put his country before self.
Let me also wish him all success and best wishes for many more victims. I am sure, that
if he continues in the same trend, he'll sans doubt, end up, at the pinnacle of the
bowlers leader very soon.
It's not if, it's when
Dav Whatmore - (Head coach BCCSL)
From the very first meeting of Murali (at the N.C.C. for training) in mid 1995, it was
evident that this individual was one of the most focussed players that I had ever met. At
that stage I had not even seen him bowl a single delivery and certainly wouldn't know him
if I'd bumped into him in the street. Its just one of those rare feelings one gets when
you come face to face with a champion.
Since that day my intuition was proved right time and again and whilst writing this
piece I feel privileged to have been apart of his performances and to have witnessed some
incredible hours of work.
A true champion will always see that the job gets done as efficiently as possible and
with Murali it's never if, it's always when he will achieve various targets.
I will never cease to marvel at has competitive spirit when its time to go to work. The
lad possesses an unending amount of physical and mental energy together with an
unquenchable thirst for picking up wickets which qualifies him, in my opinion, as the most
valuable player in the short history of Sri Lankan Test cricket.
Who will ever forget his performance in the one off Test match in England in August
1998. This off spinner epitomised tenacity based on a very special skill that took many
hours of patience and shrewd captaincy to dismiss 16 opposition batsmen.
There has been many more of these herculean efforts around the cricketing globe
providing many thousands of cricket followers the opportunity to witness first hand, the
sort of stuff champions are made of. For the ones who have missed out, the news is good,
as Murali has not come close to retirement age yet. There will be opportunities in the
future!! So don't miss out!!
This guy remains ever eager and in the hot pursuit of Courtney Walsh's record, which I
am certain, will be a matter of time!
Gamini Senadhira - (Sports Editor, The Sunday Leader)
It's with great pride and pleasure that The Sunday Leader present this supplement to
its readers in honour of Muttiah Muralitharan's stupendous achievement.
Every Sri Lankan, young and old alike must be proud to own a magnificent cricketer of
Muralitharan's calibre, who is now crowned as the 'King of Spin'.
After Sri Lanka's transition from tea nation to Test nation, winning the Cricket World
Cup in 1996, producing exciting willow wielders of the likes of Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna
Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardena, Marvan Atapattu to name a few and above
all to be in possession of the world's most feared bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, in a
short history, after achieving ICC status, certainly proves the depth of talent that this
tiny nation could boast of.
Murali in addition to becoming the youngest bowler ever, at 29 years to enter the elite
400 wickets club, had also erased many a world mark in his stride to achieve this feat in
the Test arena.
Despite the obstacles that were placed before him, Murali, the spinning wizard, with
true grit, determination and commitment, had proved that he is surely the greatest spinner
the cricketing world has so far produced.
Judging by the way that he keeps on destroying Lanka's opponents in the international
cricket scene, one can be rest assured that its' only a matter of time in seeing
Muralitharan uprooting Courtney Walsh's middle stump, signalling the World record haul of
520 Test victims. One can also without any fear bet his last buck on Muttiah Muralitharan
to become the very first members of the 600 wicket club. He is yet 29 years, another seven
years of uninterrupted cricket, even might see him forming an impregnable 700 wicket club
too. The Sunday Leader wishes him success after success to achieve this goal.
Sing a song of Murali on the Galle Fort
Trevor Chesterfield - Journalist
Ask any one in Galle these days what has been the most frustrating event of the week
and the crowds who packed into this most spectacular and colourful Test venue, or perched
atop the ramparts, will grumble how long it has taken Muttiah Muralitharan to take his
400th Test wicket. Why, little more than a year ago in balmy and less humid conditions he
bagged his 300th in Durban and was presented with a set of spears for his efforts.
Anyone remembering Muralitharan's brush with Australian umpires over his action in the
mid and late 1990s might have wondered whether the United Cricket Board gift was not a
Freudian slip? Perhaps they could plead ignorance; unless of course when asked what he
would like as a memento of the event a set of Zulu assegai came to mind. Aimed at Darrell
Hair's back no doubt.
He seemed quite happy with his prize. The victim was South Africa's captain Shaun
Pollock and when the then Sri Lanka Minister of Sports Lakshman Kiriella bounced into the
stuffy Kingsmead media centre to ask the question who was Muralitharan's 300th victim, he
was literally beaming. When greeted in Sinhalese by someone obviously not Sri Lankan his
eyes popped almost as much as those of the 29-year-old Kandy-born off-spinner.
What the board's interim committee are likely to present Murali with in Galle to mark
the 400th wicket, that of Zimbabwean Henry Olonga, should either be a chunk of granite
from the famous 450-year-old fort or a well-worn patch of the Galle Test pitch on which he
has taken so many wickets in recent years. Records indicate that Murali has collected more
Test wickets in Galle and at the Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, than any other bowler has
managed at any other Test venue. And to move from 300 to 400 in a matter of fifty-five
weeks, that is consistency for you.
When Olonga fell the first ball he faced he set up a possible hat-trick for Murali as
Travis Friend, one of the bowler's five wickets, had been bowled the delivery before, the
second of the bowler's fifty-ninth over. Not too surprisingly fireworks went off inside
and outside the ground and those on the battlements, who get as good or better view of the
game than those in the top tier of the big South-West Stand at the Melbourne Cricket
Ground could barely contain their enthusiasm; it was a rare moment of pride
They had come to see their hero collect his reward and he did just that: the youngest
and fastest of the seven bowlers to reach the 400 mark. And the way the Test programme is
worked out; there is no reason why he cannot take his 500th before the start of the next
World Cup in South Africa. Well, perhaps that is a tough ambitious but apart from being
the youngest, he is also the fastest with seventy-two Tests.
It is why, for a start, he is the record-breaking bowler he is. Modest, gentle yet not
too shy to ask a flight attendant (well that's what they call cabin crew these days) for a
date while in Cape Town during the 2001 New Year Test at Newlands. He is that sort of guy.
It hurts though when Sri Lanka fared so badly and got beaten as badly as they did in South
What this might suggest is Sri Lanka's away record, other than England, Pakistan and
New Zealand is similar to that of India's. They are becoming poor travellers and the
visits to England later this year as well as South Africa in October/November and then
Australia in December suggests Sri Lanka should know their skill and capability outside
the country. It is far from easy.
Muralitharan is seen as the one world-class bowler who knows his way around most of the
top and not so great Test venues and what is needed from him is to spice up Sri Lanka's
cause. It would have been far more interesting, if not entertaining, had Muralitharan not
needed to put up with the dicey Kandy weather as rain and more rain has twice robbed him
of the possibility of signposting his first fiftieth wicket and even his 300th.
Lucknow instead of Ahmedabad would have been the venue for the fiftieth wicket; his
twelfth instead of his thirteenth Test. And the SSC and not Durban's dowdy Kingsmead could
have been the venue for his 300th wicket: the one difference here is that it would have,
anyway, been a South African, such is the way the itineraries are plotted these days. At
least he was spared having to wait until the tour of England to complete the job. It was
at The Oval where he managed his 200th. There is little doubt that should his fitness
continue he will go well past Shane Warne by the end of the year.
As a matter for the record, Muralitharan's fiftieth wicket took only thirteen Tests,
the 100, twenty-seven and the 150th wicket thirty six Tests.
Rare and priceless possession
Roshan Abeysinghe - (Commentator)
He could be compared to a rare and priceless possession. A rarity. A genius. The list
could go on and will be endless in its mention of Sri Lankan's master craftsman in the
trade of spin Muthiah Muralitharan. Murali as he is fondly known to his fans and
commentators and media men, and Muri to his team mates is no doubt an extraordinary
cricketer. Born in Kandy and educated at that well known school, St. Anthony's College in
Kandy, Murali like any youngster was dreaming to bowl fast. And that was how he started
his career only to be shaped by the well known coach from the Kandy region, Sunil
Fernando. Sunil too a great cricketer in his heyday, didn't need too long to recognise the
talent of this tiny tot. And he was promptly made an off spinner with huge results.
In was during the year 1991 that Muralitharan shot to the lime light. He was so
dominant in school cricket that none of the school boy batsmen were capable of facing him
with confidence. I think that was the year my old school, St. Joseph's College, lost to
St. Anthony's College, Kandy, after a very long time. No prices for any guesses as for who
the destroyer was. It was none other than Murali himself. In that game, if I am not
mistaken, two other youngsters who later presented their country with distinction also
played. They were, Chaminda Vaas of St. Joseph's and Ruwan Kalpage of St. Anthony's. The
story about Muralitharan and his exploits spread like wild fire in the country. And I
recall one of my friends speaking very highly of the young lad and specifically mentioning
of his cheerfulness. And it was then that I decided to go and witness this smiling
assassin. I must tell you, that he was no different from today. Bowling with much less
variations which is understandable, Murali was able even then, to turn the ball a mile. As
I watched in absolute delight a school game he played in Colombo and the manner, he rolled
over that batting side, I was convinced that day that this boy was some body special.
Murali on that day too looked in ability a man amongst boys. As a school boy too, he
carried with him a tremendous self confidence and belief in himself which I thought, I saw
in his body language which is prevalent even today.
After his sensational entry into the big league of Test and one day cricket and his
exploits there, one can only sympathise with him for what he has been subjected to on the
field of play down under. Unfairly accused for chucking by the Australian umpires Hair
& Emerson in 1995 and Emerson in 1999, Muralitharan will no doubt recall with
gratitude, the role former Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranathunga, played particularly in
1999 when he was called by Emerson. The way Ranathunga stuck his neck out for Murali, and
won his battle exemplified what the whole of Sri Lanka has lacked for some time and the
real cause for the unfortunate war which has plagued this beautiful Island. Harmony
One should not forget the back ground of both Ranatunga and Murali and how the latter
was willing to put his career on the line for the youngster. There is no doubt that Murali
will always recall that incident, with gratitude and even vouch for the fact that it was
there that his career took a new turn. Murali subjected to the Aussie onslaught (not by
their batsmen, but by the umpires and the media) hardened himself and since then there has
been nothing that could have stopped him. He claimed 16 wickets in a match at the Oval
when Sri Lankans beat England in England, 10 wickets in a match a record ten times, 5
wickets in an innings on 33 occasions just second to Sir Richard Hadlee and now the
fastest and the youngest to get to 400 Test wickets. Not forgetting that he had just
missed out from becoming the 3rd bowler in the world to have captured 10 wickets in an
innings when he grabbed 9 wickets against Zimbabwe at Asgiriya. In fact Murali beat Sir
Richard Hadlee to the 400 mark with 8 Tests to spare which confirms his very high strike
rate, which is, a wicket every 59 balls, a rate the Indian all rounder, Kapil Dev, had
maintained when he captured his 400 plus wickets.
All of Sri Lanka was brought to a stand still on the 15th of January, 2001, when
he captured his 400th wicket in Tests. It was a rare honour for Sri Lanka and the whole
country was proud of this achievement. I know of a few who shed tears of joy when Murali
achieved this feat. That is how special Murali is for the Sri Lankan public. He has now
become such a household name, I am sure that even back yard games of cricket will not be
able to keep out both young and old imitating him and also trying to emulate him. This
situation is no doubt a very healthy trend in Sri Lanka cricket. The game of cricket in
this country can certainly do with a few more Murali. Having said that I am convinced that
such specimens emerge, may be once in 50 years or even rarer. Take the case of the four
great all rounders in the 80's. Botham, Kapil, Imran and Hadlee, they were such champions
and their duels were just breathtaking. It is almost 15 years since the four started to
fade and a player of such class has not been seen even in the horizon. I say it will be
the same concerning Murali too. We recall with awe the Indian quartet of spinners in the
70's, Bedi, Chandra, Prassanna and Venket and their respective performances. What Murali
has achieved has surpassed everything a spinner in the world of cricket which will include
the Lakers, Locks, Underwoods, Bedis, Chandras, Warnes and even Kumbles have achieved,
leave alone the sub continent. This is why I feel that we may not see another Murali in
our time. Isn't that why we should pray to the Almighty and the living god to grant Murali
more time at the bowling crease? Protect his right arm and fingers from injuries? If it is
not for his wicket taking ability, for the pleasure he has provided both to the cricketing
public and in my case to the commentators too, not just when watching but when describing
his bowling too, which on most times have sounded as follows "Murali runs in at an
angel and bowls another delivery which spins a mile. And he is out! caught! Muralitharan
has struck once more as Sri Lankan inches close to yet another victory" I for one, am
convinced that we owe that prayer to this great cricketer. As he is probably the best
thing that has happened to Sri Lankan cricket.