Entering the Hall of Fame

Saturday, 6 May 2017 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



By D.C. Ranatunga

As the days get closer for the induction of the first Sri Lankan cricketer to the ICC Hall of Fame, Muttiah Muralitharan, I visualise the ‘big day’ when we were glued to the TV waiting to see him breaking the record for the highest number of Test wickets. 

India was touring Sri Lanka. The first Test was being played against India at the Galle International Cricket Stadium.

The day: Thursday 22 July 2010. Time: 1.55 pm. Murali bowls a sharp off-break to Pragyan Ojha and Mahela Jayawadene is there to wrap his fingers around an edge off Murali’s bowling for the last time – his 77th catch off him – a record. Murali gets his 800th Test wicket. A new world record. A moment to remember.

I was editing ‘Score’, the quarterly journal of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) at the time, and made the July 2010 issue a ‘special’ to salute Murali. 

In a piece titled ‘What a way to retire’ (he had announced his retirement from Test cricket earlier), ‘Score’ recorded the epoch-making event thus:

“Going into his last Test match needing eight wickets to get to 800, Murali bagged five wickets in the first innings. It was his 67th five-wicket haul. He had reached 799 on the final morning, and needed one out of the three remaining batsmen and then the wickets dried up. Murali tried hard with no results in a 9.3-over spell. A partnership was building up.

“Malinga who was out with some discomfort returned, changed ends and from Murali’s end produced a killer Yorker off the third ball to bring up his career-best figures of 5 for 50. Two wickets more to go. In the second over of Murali’s new spell, Laxman was run out.

“As another partnership was building up, Murali changed ends again. The last two partnerships had lasted 17.3 overs and 15.2 overs. Every ball bowled, every run scored, was eating into the time needed to knock the target off.

“Malinga was off the field again. In his 27th over of the day, out of 57 bowled by Sri Lanka on the day, Murali produced the final breakthrough, through his favourite slip catcher.”


‘Sportstar’, the popular Indian magazine, captured the later scene: “The ground was suffused with emotion. Muttiah Muralitharan, the greatest scalp hunter of all time, was being carried around the arena by his team-mates.  The images of Muralitharan in the stands appeared even larger. The mood was one of celebration at the Galle cricket ground. 

“The 38-year-old’s off-spinner’s farewell Test will now be a part of Sri Lanka’s cricketing folklore. In his final Test, Muralitharan reached the incredible 800-wicket mark. And his eight-wicket haul in the first Test against India played a prominent part in Sri Lanka’s 10-wicket victory. His victims included the maestro, Sachin Tendulkar, dismissed attempting to sweep a fuller-length ball in the first innings.

“Indeed, Muralitharan was resilient. His mental toughness complemented his unique qualities as a bowler. His influence travelled beyond cricket. In Sri Lanka, he was a great unifying force.”

Before the Test, addressing the press conference to announce his retirement, Murali, when asked about getting 800 wickets responded: “800 is only a number. I will be happy if I get it. I will try my best to get it in one game. It’s a challenge. I will be happy to win the game and retire. Ours is a good team.”

He did try. He succeeded. And the team led by Kumar Sangakkara were overjoyed with Murali’s performance as well as winning the match.