DateLine: 17th April 2009
Averaging nearly six wickets per Test, Muttiah Muralitharan is one of the most successful bowlers in the game and the greatest player in Sri Lanka's history. He bowls marathon spells, yet is forever on the attack. From a loose-limbed, open-chested action, his chief weapons are the big-spinning off-break and two versions of the top-spinner, one of which goes straight on and the other, which has now been labelled his doosra, which spins in the opposite direction to his stock ball. His newest variation is a version of Shane Warne's slider, which is flicked out the side of his hand and rushes onto batsmen like a flipper. His super-flexible wrist makes him especially potent and guarantees him turn on any surface.
Muraliís career has been beset with controversy from the start. Whispers about his action abounded soon after his debut against the Australians in 1993 and then aired freely after he was called for throwing while touring Australia in 1995-96, first in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne by Darrel Hair and later in the one-day series that followed. He was cleared by the ICC after biomechanical analysis at the University of Western Australia and at the University of Hong Kong in 1996. They concluded that his action created the 'optical illusion of throwing'.
On the field, Murali continued to pile on the wickets, overtaking Courtney Walsh's 519-wicket world record to become the highest wicket-taker in Test history in May 2004. He continues to pick up wickets by the bucket load, although many large hauls have come against the two weakest nations - Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. However, he saves his most stunning efforts for the big boys, such as his duel with the Australians in 2004 and his eight-wicket haul at Trent Bridge in 2006 which produced a famous series-levelling win against England.
He picked up 23 wickets in the 2007 World Cup, though Sri Lanka were unable to repeat their 1996 final win against Australia. Murali next featured in the home Test series against Bangladesh when, with the last of his 26 wickets, he became the second player to 700 Test wickets. He duly passed Warne's Test record of 708 wickets against England in December 2007, fittingly on his home ground in Kandy. He achieved the grand double of being the highest wicket-taker in ODIs as well when he went past Wasim Akram's record of 502 wickets in 2009.