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Sunday, 25 September 2011





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World beater Murali won top award in 1991

CRICKET: Come the award ceremony days of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the year, the name of Muttiah Muralitharan comes to mind in a flash. He is such a devoted cricketer that he never fails to think about his cricketing days at his old school – St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota. He has come a long way up the ladder of success because of his school that gave him all the push in his early years of cricket. He is now the top most bowler in the spin trade with 800 wickets in 133 Tests and 534 wickets in 350 One-Day Internationals.

FLASHBACK 1991: The start of a world champion... The big moment for Muttiah Muralitharan of St. Anthony's College, Katugastota (left) receives observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the year Award from the chief guest Minister Sirisena Cooray watched by then Observer Chief Editor H.D.L. Mahindapala.

He is now the champion ‘Doosra’ spinner, but before he mastered the art of his new found trade, Muralitharan was a simple spinner, but his length and accuracy brought him a rich harvest of wickets and before he got into the Sri Lanka Test side, he equally fared well in inter-school cricket and had rich harvest of wickets during his playing days at St. Anthony’s.

When he was a schoolboy in Kandy, playing for St. Anthony’s College gave him immense pleasure. 1991 was the year that Muralitharan fared best in inter-school cricket. The umpires of the Association Cricket Umpires (Sri Lanka) picked him as the Schoolboy Cricketer of the year and not only that he was also picked as the Best Bowler that year. That year, the Antonians had a field day with the awards won, as Sajith Fernando won the award for the Best batsman, Nuwan Kapage – their captain, was the Best Captain and he was also picked as runner-up, Best Fielder and runner-up Best All-rounder.

And with all these awards won, quite naturally the Antonians were picked as the Best Team in the Central Province. And what a collection that was.

That year in bowling, Muralitharan stood head and shoulders above the rest of the bowlers in schools, and being the great trier that he is, Murali stuck to his trade on a methodical manner and kept plugging at the batsmen then in school cricket and later in big-time cricket when he graduated to club cricket and finally to international cricket.

In 2002, Muralitharan had the honour of being branded alongside Sir Donald Bradman of Australia as the top Test players in the history of cricket by the cricket bible – Wisden. Bradman had the outstanding average of 99.94. Muralitharan was ahead of New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee with England’s Sydney Barnes who bowled a unique brand of spin at pace in the early 1900s, in third place. Murali, as many ardent followers of the game know, is glutton for hard work and as the old saying goes, hard work had its rewards. The son of a hill-country confectioner, Muralitharan learnt to play the game at St. Anthony’s, Katugastota at the under-14 age and he wanted to become a fast bowler, but his small frame left him fighting for a place in the school team.

Being a very calm and collected young cricketer, he used listen to his coaches and they advised him to change to spin bowling. He obeyed the coaches advice and he hit the top spot. Muralitharan has showed the world what spin bowling is all about and he has bowled well in many countries.

His best was at the Oval, England between August 27 to 31 in 1998. England batted first and made 445 and Muralitharan had 7 for 155 in 59.3 overs with 14 maidens. The Sri Lanka batted and got 591. Though Muralitharan was not a recognised batsman, made 30. England made 181 in their second innings and Muralitharan took 9 wickets for 65 runs in 45.2 overs inclusive of 27 maidens.

Sri Lanka made 37 for no wickets in the second innings to win their first Test match in England by 10 wickets.

He has had the honour of playing in five World Cup tournaments – 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

He has had the unique distinction of getting 10 or more wickets in a match against all other 9 Test playing nations as well as capturing over 50 wickets against each of them.


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