Was Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan An Underrated Genius?

Muttiah Muralitharan was one of Sri Lanka's best ever cricketers.

Muttiah Muralitharan – The Smiling Assassin 

On the back of the backlash aimed towards actor Vijay Sethupathi over his Muttiah Muralitharan biopic ‘800’. We ask is the legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner an underrated genius?

Undoubtedly statistically one of, if not the greatest bowler to ever play the beautiful game of cricket. Sitting a full 92 scalps ahead of Shane Warne in the list of all-time wicket-takers in Test matches, anyone would be foolish to doubt the genius of the man known simply as ‘Murali’, surely.

Well, often when speaking of the greats of the game, his name can often get overlooked. Perhaps because of his unique, never seen before and most likely never to be repeated bowing action.

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Muttiah Muralitharan Plagued By Controversy

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 07: Muthiah Muralitharan of The Renegades bowls to Luke Wright of the Stars during the Big Bash League match between the Melbourne Renegades and the Melbourne Stars at Etihad Stadium on December 7, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Often questioned as to the legality of the action, owing to the bend in the arm on delivery. Something only the Kandy born spinner could create due to the joints in his elbow.

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However, it was this unique ability that perhaps leaves him out of certain conversations and certainly got him into hot water on more than one occasion.

In 1999 having already been cleared once by the ICC, the bowler was no-balled for perceived throwing by umpire Brett Emerson during a World Cup match. A blight that plagued him for years to come. Especially when the infamous Sri Lankan, with his infectious smile, introduced his ‘Doosra’ delivery which could spin the other way with little to no discernible change in action.

After multiple tweaks and tests the genius throughout his career, who nobody, and certainly no batsman could work out quite how he did it continued to baffle the world over, eventually finishing with 800 Test wickets exactly after his final outing against India in 2010.

The Legacy

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – MARCH 29: Muttiah Muralitharan (L) of Sri Lanka bowls to Ross Taylor during the 2011 ICC World Cup Semi-Final match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa Stadium on March 29, 2011 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Having enjoyed a stellar career both internationally and in franchise cricket, both in red and white ball versions, Muttiah Muralitharan retired a hero and a legend of Sri Lanka in 2011 at 38. Murali took 800 wickets in test cricket and also won the ICC Cricket World Cup. A true superstar of the game. A cricketing genius.

Now, 48 years old, Murali coaches IPL side Sunrisers Hyderabad and passes on his wisdom to more conventional bowlers. He can be safe in the knowledge his action and his stats may never be seen again.

However, next time someone discusses the great bowlers to have graced the game such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh, and James Anderson. Be sure to mention the best of them all…Muttiah Muralitharan.

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