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.
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 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
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.