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Friday, 23 July 2010

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Creating history:

Murali scales the Everest

*Claims 800th scalp

*Feat that will never be equalled

*President at Galle venue

Muttiah Muralitharan, undoubtedly the greatest spinner in the history of Test Cricket, savoured the finest moment of his illustrious career spanning 18 years by becoming the first bowler to claim 800 wickets in Tests, a feat that is bound to stand the test of time.


Muttiah Muralitharan celebrates with teammates. AFP

He performed this great feat in the presence of the highest in the land - President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has been an ardent admirer of his throughout his career and his family members - wife, father, mother, son, his former team members, ex Sri Lanka cricketers, distinguished guests and his team-mates.

The historic moment came when Indian tail-ender Prajan Ojah edged a delivery from Muralitharan to slip fielder Mahela Jayawardena who took the catch to the jubilation of thousands of cricket fans at the Galle International Stadium and millions of cricket lovers who viewed it on television all over the world. Fittingly he signed off with the last wicket in the match bringing to end a monumental Test career during which Sri Lanka reached new heights in the cricketing world.

The entire Galle Stadium reveberated to the sounds of fire crackers and bathed in colour as spectators set off smoke bombs the moments the milestone was reached. His wife, parents and relatives were seen hugging each other in emotional scenes while past cricketing colleagues rose in jubilation to applaud the little champion.


Muralitharan’s wife Madhimalar

He was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates off the field to the tumultuous ovations along a special red carpet befitting a right royal send off.

Muralitharan first came into the limelight as a schoolboy at St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota where he performed the rare feat of capturing over 100 wickets in two successive seasons in 1990 and 1991 for which he was richly rewarded by being adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991.


President Mahinda Rajapaksa talking to Muttiah Muralitharan’s son. Muralitharan’s
wife and mother are also in the picture. Picture by Sudath Silva

He entered the Test arena in 1992 when he made his debut against Australia. Despite failing to make an impact in his first Test, he went on to secure a permanent place in the national team and became a nightmare to opposing batsmen who were deceived by his well flighted deliveries including the ‘Doosra’.

He played a vital role along with two other legends Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva in Sri Lanka enjoying its finest moment in cricket by clinching the World Cup by beating Australia in the final at Lahore in March, 1996.

Muralitharan came up with a stupendous performance at the London Oval in August 1998 when he bowled Sri Lanka to its maiden victory over England in England with a matchbag of 16 wickets including nine wickets for 65 in the second innings. He came into the first Test against India on July 18, needing eight wickets to reach the landmark of 800 and in the first innings he went onto capture 5 for 63, the 67th occasion he has bagged five wickets or more and went onto complete the task in a grand fashion by taking three wickets in the second innings.

His steely determination enabled him to overcome many obstacles during his majestic career such as being no-balled by Australian Umpire Darreel Hair during the Boxing Day Test of 1995 and by Umpire Ross Emerson in a One Day International against England in 1999.


Muttiah Muralitharan is carried on the shoulders of his team mates Chanaka Welegedara (L) and Angelo Mathews in a lap of honour around the pitch at the end of India’s second innings. AFP

He went on to claim the then world bowling record of Shane Warne (708 wickets) by claiming the wicket of Paul Collingwood of England in 2008 at Asgiriya and never looked back till he went onto become the first bowler in history to reach the 800 wicket mark.

By his heroic deeds on the cricketing field, he not only brought honour and fame to his alma mater St. Anthony’s, home town Kandy but also his motherland Sri Lanka putting it among the four top Test teams in the world. All Sri Lankans can be justly proud of this cricketing icon who has reached the summit of world cricket.

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