Saturday, July 10, 2010

Muralitharan End of an era

My parents tell me an interesting tale. When I was a kid, my father worked for the State Trading Corporation (STC). During his stint with STC, he (which means him and the family) were transferred to the UK. We stayed there between 1986 and 1989. We came back when I was six years old.
We stayed in an area called Corinium Close in London. From what I remember, there were seven large houses and each of them was occupied by someone from the subcontinent. We had these immediate neighbours, who were from Sri Lanka. But at that time, I didn’t even know what Sri Lanka was. Only recently, when I was having a chat with my father, did he tell me that they were from Eelam.
Recently I read an essay by historian and cricket lover Ramachandra Guha about the Eelam struggle going to western Europe and how several refugees over there had played an important role in trying to attain ‘freedom’ from Sri Lanka. Guha then spoke about V Prabhakaran the founder of the LTTE and the reasons why several Sri Lankan Tamils joined his cause, which at the end of the day, after nearly 25-30 years of rebelling, has proved to be futile. Prabhakaran died last year and Sri Lanka can only worry about local leaders and the opposition for the time being.
In the late 90s and for the much of the earlier part of the 21st century another Sri Lankan Tamil gained a lot of fame. Unlike Prabhakaran, who resorted to killing and blasting people, this man destroyed batsmen with his guile. He never spoke much, but let his talent and hard work do most of the talking. It is this dedication to the game of cricket that has made Muttaiah Muralitharan the greatest off-spinner in the modern era. People will question his action and whether it was legitimate or not, but there’s no question that Sri Lanka will never find a better ambassador than Murali.
Murali is a once in a lifetime cricketer. Never again, I believe, will you find a guy who uses his wrist to bowl off-spin. As Harsha Bhogle put it in his tribute to Murali, “If it was the action alone, a clone would have produced at least 300 by now, there would have been kids in the streets bowling like him. Surely they must have tried; that they couldn't is a tribute to his uniqueness.”
I do a parallel comparison between Prabhakaran and Muralitharan and when you read this piece you’ll understand why. Both Sri Lankan Tamils, but one’s choice made his country proud and the other’s made him a wanted man.  Murali never spoke of the Tamil Tigers and what his opinion was about the liberation. He just went on doing what he was supposed to do and that was take wickets for his country. He never said anything when people questioned his action. He just went through a biomechanic test to prove that it wasn’t illegal.
He’ll be playing his last test match against India soon and the tributes have come from all over. And at the end of the day, whether you like him or hate him, you can’t question his commitment to the game. He probably has a better average than Shane Warne because of the number of test matches he’s played against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but they’re wickets nonetheless. He’s taken criticism well (except when Bishan Singh Bedi called him a dacoit, which was completely uncalled for). Most of all, he’s taken Sri Lankan cricket to an all-new high. Without him, the side will miss a match winner.
For someone, who has loved watching the game, irrespective of the opposition, Murali is one guy I will miss. The action, the wide eyes and the smile of a silent assassin will slowly go away from the cricketing world. And nobody like him will appear for the next 100 years

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