July 10, 2010

Neither Harbhajan nor anyone else can emulate magician Murali


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I don’t know in which frame of mind Muttiah Muralitharan was in while having singled out Harbhajan Singh as the only bowler capable of emulating his record haul of nearly eight hundred wickets in Tests.

The legendary off-spinner, who will be retiring from Test cricket in a few days time, was quoted as saying in an interview the other day that only Harbhajan, another champion off-spinner, was most likely to have a go at his world record tally in Tests and One-day Internationals.

"I think only Harbhajan can do this. I don't know how old is he and how long he will continue. But he is the only one who can achieve this feat in Test cricket," Murali was reported to have said.

Probably it might have slipped out of his mind that Harbhajan is already 30 years old whose tally of 355 wickets in 83 Tests is far too less than his haul of 792 wickets which is likely to go further up when he calls it a day after the upcoming Galle Test.

Ideally Murali would ideally like to get at least eight more scalps in his last Test to reach the inconceivable landmark of 800 wickets. If the vulnerability of the Indian batsmen against spin bowling is taken in account I reckon he should get those wickets if he bowls well enough.

I don’t think anybody, either a spinner or a fast bowler, would be able eclipse his record haul of Test wickets in foreseeable future. It may stand for stages until and unless the cricket boards decide to shift their focus to Test cricket which is something very unlikely to happen given the fact that now even 50-overs games are being considered long enough and they might be replaced by 40-overs contest.

Harbhajan will of course become the most accomplished spin bowler in the world after the retirement of Murali but it doesn’t just not practically possible for anyone to overtake the record set by the champion Sri Lankan off-spinner.

In the same interview Murali has admitted that it would get increasingly difficult for spinners to chase his records.

"In the current scenario Test cricket is dying. One-day cricket does not have bright future. Only Twenty20 is going to survive. So it will be difficult for any slow bowler to survive so long," he said.

Harbhajan, undoubtedly, has been a class act all along but expecting him to think to go after the records set by Murali is not fair I think.

Murali and Harbhajan have remained the two top off-spinners of the world for quite sometime just as Shane Warne and Anil Kumble were the two best leg-spinners on the international scene for a long time.

With Warne and Kumble already having retired, Test cricket will become poorer with the exit of Murali. Harbhajan will be the senior most quality spin bowler on the international scene and it remains to be seen for how long he will be able to cope with the pressures of continuous cricket.


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