Superman Muttiah takes Warne’s record
Rarely has a sportsman beaten a world record to cries of “freakish genius” or “it’s his defect that’s his secret”. But that was the talk in the early hours today when the Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan overtook Australia’s Shane Warne to become cricket’s leading Test wicket-taker. Playing in front of his home crowd in Kandy, Sri Lanka, in the first of a series of Test matches against England, Muralitharan was four behind Warne’s record tally of 708 Test wickets at the start of the match. When Muralitharan took his fifth wicket – bowling England’s Paul Collingwood – and broke the record, the crowd went wild, setting off firecrackers to mark the historic moment. Family and friends applauded from the stands.
What makes the man “a freakish genius” in the eyes of cricket commentators is that a defect in his elbow from birth means he cannot straighten his arm. In another sport this might have been a drawback, but in cricket it has allowed him – controversially – to break the rule that bowlers must bowl with a straight arm to avoid accusations of throwing the ball.
A second physical abnormality is that he is double-jointed in the wrist, enabling him to rotate his wrist 360 degrees. When he bowls, the back of his hand faces the batsman which means he can disguise which way he’s going to spin the ball.
Muralitharan, 35, had hoped to reach the record on a recent tour of Australia but it wasn’t his finest hour, with figures of 4-400 over two Tests.
“It’s a bigger moment than if I had taken it in Australia,” he said this morning in Kandy. “It’s my hometown, my parents are here, my wife is here… all the relatives are here and all my schoolfriends.”