A wrist-spinner who bowled off-breaks, and turned his doosra by yards, he was impossible to fathom, physically and through measurement. He could touch his forearm with his little finger and rotate the metacarpals through a full 360 degrees.

For more than a dozen years Murali remained Sri Lanka’s ubiquitous match-winner, hauling up wickets by the buckets, 534 in One-Day Internationals. There were three World Cup finals along the way, the first in 1996 an epochal triumph for the island nation.

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Muttiah Muralitharan

Born: April 17, 1972 (age 48), Kandy, Dominion of Ceylon

Height: 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)

Batting style: Right-handed

Bowling style: Right-arm off-break

Playing Role: Bowler  

 

ODI Career: Sri Lanka (1993-2011)

Mat      Inns       Balls     Runs     Wkts      BBI      BBM       Ave      Econ     SR        4w    5w    10w

350        341       18811   12326     534       7/30     7/30       23.08     3.93     35.2      15      10       0

 

Career Highlights

  • Most One-Day International wickets (534)
  • Average of 23.08 in ODIs
  • Highest career peak ODI Bowling Rating by a spinner (913)
  • Second most World Cup scalps (67)

The Ultimate Test XI is done and the fans have made their votes count, overruling a panel of experts and the SportsMax Zone to pick two spinners in their line-up.

From jump street, the fans looked as if they would not be swayed by the opinions of the Zone and the panel, who had to get their ducks in a row if they wanted the final say on who makes SportsMax’s Ultimate XI.

Whereas all were agreed that India’s Sunil Gavaskar was probably the greatest opener the world has ever seen as was a shoo-in for the first opening spot on offer, the fans disagreed with the panel and the Zone on the other opener. Hands down, Fanalysts believed Gordon Greenidge, despite boasting a lower average than most in the Ultimate XI Test shortlist, was the man for the job.

The Fanalysts were outvoted as the Zone, who had 30% of all votes and the panel, who had another 30, believed Australia’s Matthew Hayden the man to walk to the crease in partnership with Gavaskar.

Then there were other differences of opinion. According to the panel, the greatest middle-order batsmen of all time, read Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sir Vivian Richards.

The Zone team, despite being made up of solely Caribbean journalists, disagreed. Sir Viv, they said could not fill the third spot in that middle order ahead of an Australian, Sir Donald Bradman.

The Fanalysts agreed and put the weight of their 40% of the vote squarely behind the Australian great.

So now the fans missed out on one of their picks for opener and the panel missed out on one of their picks for a middle-order batsman.

At the allrounder position and the wicketkeeper position, there was unison as Fanalysts, Zone and panel believed Sir Garfield Sobers should fill the former position, while Australia’s Adam Gilchrist is the best the world has ever seen don gloves.

It is in the bowling category that the most controversy was expected and that’s where the most variance occurred.

According to the Zone, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Wasim Akram and Muttiah Muralitharan would provide the greatest bowling attack the world has ever seen.

The panel disagreed.

The panel, believed Marshall a shoo-in, New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee could not be left out, and South Africa’s Dale Steyn was the final pacer to make up a bowling attack that had one spinner in Muttiah Muralitharan.

Hadlee never stood a chance for the Fanalysts, and neither did Steyn for that matter.

For the Fanalysts, a choice between Muralitharan and Warne, the two bowlers with the most wickets in the history of Test cricket, was too difficult to make and they picked both.

That left space for just two pacers and the all-West-Indian pairing of Marshall and Ambrose was the obvious choice.

With 30 per cent of the vote going to Hadlee, and another 30 per cent going to Steyn, Warne easily made his way into the Ultimate XI with the Fanalysts offering him up with their 40.

Based on all the Ultimate XI profiles have told you about these players, tell us who was right.

Were the fans who got their way with Bradman and the two spinners right? Or is there something to be said for the experts who went with Hadlee and Steyn, or even the Zone, who decided on Akram?

Were the Fanalysts accurate in going against the grain with picking Greenidge ahead of Hayden, or were the Zone and the panel correct in overruling them?  

Crazy or not, we are trusting the Fanalysts again with our Ultimate XI ODI team. 

Check out the shortlist below, tell me who you would pick in the comments section on Facebook and Twitter then go and vote after we tell you how wrong you are. Voting begins later today after the SportsMax Zone on SportsMax.tv.

 

Viewed purely through numbers, Muralitharan is a giant performer and is in the unique position of holding the records for most wickets in One Day Internationals as well as Test matches. 

In fact, what Murali has done in bowling is akin to what Tendulkar has done in batting.

But the spin genius has also created a fair bit of controversy as well. While some believe him to be the greatest spinner of all time by a long way, there are others who believe his achievements should be wiped from the books and deemed void.

Muralitharan’s action, because of a deformed elbow, was often questioned and may have been the reason the laws on what constitutes throwing were changed. Today, bowlers have 15 degrees of bend allowed and many believe this is because Muralitharan bowled with a bent arm at the elbow.

In 2004 Muralitharan was asked not to bowl the doosra because it violated the 15-degree law agreed upon. In truth, it was the doosra, a delivery that either went straight or turned like a leg-spinning delivery, away from the right-hander, that made Muralitharan comparable to another spinning great, Shane Warne.

In that context, there may be a point to the detractors. But detractors or not, Muralitharan’s 800 wickets cannot go uncounted and like him or not, there has never been a more prolific wicket-taker in the history of the sport.

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Muttiah Muralitharan

Born: 17 April 1972 (age 48)

Place of birth: Kandy, Dominion of Ceylon

Height: 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)

Batting style: Right-handed

Bowling: Right-arm off-break

Role: Bowler

 

Test Career: Sri Lanka (1992-2010)

Mat     Inns      Balls     Runs     Wkts    BBI       BBM      Ave      Econ    SR       4w       5w       10w

133      230       44039   18180     800     9/51     16/220   22.72     2.47     55.0     45         67        22

 

Career Highlights

  • The most Test wickets (800 wickets)
  • Most 5-wicket hauls in an innings (67)
  • Most 10-wicket hauls in a match (22)
  • Only bowler with over 50 wickets against all Test nations

Tom Brady called time on a 20-season stint with the New England Patriots in March, having led the team to unprecedented success.

April 16 marks the 20th anniversary since the quarterback was drafted by the Patriots, before going on to become one of the most successful sportsmen on the planet.

The date is also the day a Sri Lankan cricket icon – offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan – was born, while tennis legend Arthur Ashe decided to call it a day on April 16, 1980.

We take a look at what has previously occurred across sport on this day.

 

2000 – The Brady era begins

Future superstars can somehow fall through the cracks in NFL drafts, with Brady the most significant example.

With the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, New England selected the 22-year-old quarterback from the University of Michigan.

Six Super Bowl wins, nine AFC titles and 14 Pro Bowl appearances later, Brady finally called time on his Patriots career earlier this year, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.

1972 – A star is born

Eighteen years prior to the start of Brady's NFL career, one of cricket's greatest spinners was born.

Muralitharan, known for a controversial bowling action, made his international debut in 1992 and went on to become the leading wicket-taker in Test and ODI history, with 800 in the longest form of the game and 534 in 50-over cricket.

The Test record went back and forth between Muralitharan and Shane Warne, up until the latter's retirement in 2007. Muralitharan took his 800th and final wicket to seal a Sri Lanka victory over India in 2010.

1980 – Ashe calls time on glittering career

The first player to win the US Open as an open event, Ashe went on to claim two further grand slam titles – in Australia in 1970 and at Wimbledon five years later.

Having appeared in four other grand slam singles finals, Ashe retired on April 16, 1980, though he continued to be involved with tennis and became the captain of the US Davis Cup team.

However, three years later, Ashe underwent a heart operation in which he is believed to have been given an infected blood transfusion from which he contracted HIV.

The virus was diagnosed in 1988, but Ashe did not make it public until 1992. He passed away the following year, at the age of 49. The main court at New York's Flushing Meadows is named after him.

2011 – Derby delight ends Man City's miserable FA Cup run

Manchester City have become one of the leading teams in world football in recent seasons but, in 2011, they were still growing following the takeover by Sheikh Mansour three years previous.

But City took a huge stride towards their first FA Cup triumph in 30 years thanks to Yaya Toure's strike against rivals Manchester United in the semi-final of the 2011 FA Cup.

Roberto Mancini's side went on to defeat Stoke City in the final, before clinching their maiden Premier League title in dramatic fashion on the last day of the following season.

The importance of good spinners in Test cricket has fluctuated over the years, with different environments changing the need for them. Over the decades, the spinners to stand out are those who defied their environment. The list of spinners who have done that isn’t as small as you would think and finding the best Test spinners of all time is not the easiest task. But here is the best that we have come up with to date.


 

Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)

The wide-eyed steer of Muttiah Muralitharan has signaled the demise of batsmen in Test cricket 800 times over the course of 133 Test matches, making the Sri Lankan, the most successful bowler, let alone spinner, in the history of the game. His doosra meant that for about four and a half years, the off-spinner remained the number one bowler on the ICC Test bowlers rankings, a record to this day. For some, Murali should never have been allowed to bowl, a deformed elbow forcing a change in the laws of the game that some believe legitimized throwing. But wherever you stand on this point, for at least five Sri Lankan captains over the course of his 18 years in Test cricket, he was the man you could depend on to change the course of a game. In fact, his greatness was given an exclamation mark, when in 2004, he was asked to stop bowling his doosra. It never mattered, he would go on to devastate batting line-ups over the next six years with the same kind of consistency.

 

Shane Warne (Australia)

Shane Warne can lay claim to being the man that made being a leg spinner a thing again. After the 1980s and ‘90s where pace ruled supreme for both Australia and the West Indies, the two kings of cricket throughout those decades, the spinner was left a forgotten artform filled with people whose job it was to give the high-energy, high-impact quicks a breather. Warne was never a space filler and became Australia’s go-to bowler. Warne was rated as one of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century, no great surprise when you remember the remarkable turn he could impart on a ball, his ability to drift it away from the batsman’s eyeline at the last moment, as well as an incredible ability to vary his pace without a discernable difference in the speed of his action. Then there was the addition of the flipper, which for the most part, batsmen never saw coming. That combination has led many to agree that Warne and not Muralitharan is the greatest bowler of all time and one couldn’t mount a serious challenge to the argument without creating some animosity. Warne was certainly a headline maker and the ball he bowled England’s Mike Gatting with in 1993, is the most famous delivery ever released from a bowler’s fingers. The ball was full and pitched well outside Gatting’s leg stump and turned so big, it clipped off stump. Warne was the first bowler to 700 wickets and would end his career with 708 from 145 Tests at an average of 25.41.

 

Jim Laker (England)

Jim Laker is most notably remembered for taking 19 Australian in wickets in a single Test match at Old Trafford, a feat that has not been repeated at the Test level or at the first-class one for that matter. But the off-spinner was more than that. Initially he was seen as good in County cricket but not quite at the Test level, however, that would change in 1952 when his 100 wickets for Surrey forced him back into the England set-up from which he was routinely dropped. He ended among the five cricketers of the year, according to Wisden. More regular inclusion meant he played 46 Tests, taking 193 wickets at an average of 21.24. That average made him one of the most dangerous spinners in the history of the game. In addition to his Test career, which admittedly could have included more Tests had his value been seen differently, he took nearly 2000 first-class wickets at the incredible average of just 18.41.

 

Anil Kumble

Tall and elegant, fairly quick through the air, Anil Kumble was not the typical Indian spinner who used flight and guile to dig batsmen from the pitch. His results weren’t typical either. Even among a country notorious for creating the best spinners in the world, Kumble still has the feather in his cap of being the bowler to have won most matches for India in their history. Kumble, rather than relying on flight and variations in pace, preferred to spear his deliveries in, extracting bite upon pitching. The leg-spinner’s tac made him notoriously hard to score off. He would get his variation from changing where he delivered from, creating illusions that were very difficult to manage. Kumble would go on to stand only behind Muralitharan and Warne in the wicket-taking department, ending his career with 619 wickets from 132 Tests at an average of 29.65. The figures meant he would break every bowling record for an Indian player.

 

Lance Gibbs (West Indies)

Lance Gibbs had unusually long fingers and it allowed him to extract prodigious turn from even the most pace-friendly wickets. Running in chest on, Gibbs was remarkably accurate and seemed to possess unlimited stamina. That stamina, combined with his ability, led to him becoming the West Indies all-time leading wicket-taker and the first spinner to go past 300 Test wickets. What was more impressive, was the fact that Gibbs, who ended his career with 309 wickets, did so in just 79 Tests at an average of 29.09. His accuracy meant he would end his career with an economy rate of 1.98 runs per over. On 18 occasions Gibbs would take five wickets in an innings, making sure that even if the West Indies batsmen were not at their best, they would never be completely out of a contest.

 

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

It is not often that an active player can lay claim to being one of the greatest of all time at anything. Those athletes are usually so far ahead of the competition in their era, that it begs the question of where they could find greater. Rangana Herath has played 93 Tests for Sri Lanka, and in that time, he has taken 433 wickets at an average of 28.07. For a long time, Herath was the man that held one end, creating pressure, while Muttiah Muralitharan destroyed batting attacks from the other. With Murali’s retirement, Herath has stepped out of the great spinner’s shadow to become Sri Lanka’s go-to bowler. The left-arm orthodox spinner is accurate to a fault and his ability to bowl long spells makes him a true Test for even the most obdurate of batsmen. His greatness has been added to, by the inclusion of a mystery ball to his arsenal, a quicker delivery that darts back into the right hander. That arsenal includes the ability to vary his pace and flight, ever so subtly. But there is nothing subtle about his wicket-taking ability.

 

Bishan Singh Bedi (India)

Like the West Indies or Australia could fill a greatest of all time list with their pacers, the same is true about India and their spinners. At different times in their history, India have been able to field four high-quality spinners, keeping opposition attacks at bay. The patriarch of using spin to devastate oppositions, is one Bishan Singh Bedi.

Bedi was the consummate master of deception, conjuring variations in flight, loop, spin and pace all without changing his action. He would challenge batsmen to hit over the top, yet he wasn’t expensive, becoming a consistent wicket-taker throughout his career. In 67 Tests, Bedi carved out 266 wickets at an average of 28.71. His economy rate of 2.14 runs per over was not at all shabby.

 

Richie Benaud (Australia)

His brilliance from the commentary booth meant there are many who do not realise that at one time Richie Benaud was one of the best bowlers in the world. Benaud, who would captain Australia with the same quiet authority that he displays as a commentator, didn’t start very well, remaining a fairly ordinary player in the Australian side for the first six years of his Test career. But as captain, he thrived, leading from the front to end with 247 wickets from 63 Tests at an average of 27.03. His leg break googlies would be filled with little nuggets for batsmen on the attack to fall for, and as his wicket haul suggests, they often did. Benaud was the guru who Shane Warne would look to on his way to becoming arguably the greatest spinner of all time. Later Australian captains like Ian Chappell, who never lost a Test series as captain, would also look to the example of Benaud.

 

Clarrie Grimmett (Australia)

While Clarrie Grimmett turned out for Australia, he was really born in New Zealand, a fact which may have been why he never got the chance to suit up for Australia until he was 33 years old. Despite the advanced age for a debut, so high was his skill level, that he went on to play for 11 years, from 1925 when he started against England at Sydney, until he faced South Africa at Durban for his last.

At 44, he took his 216th wicket from just 37 Tests at an average of 24.21. Grimmett’s bowling was the stuff of legends. He was as accurate as a machine, adding the top spinner, the googly, and the flipper, by the time he began his foray in the Test arena. He was a wily customer and worked out whatever strategy batsmen had worked out for him. For instance, he would snap his left fingers when he bowled a regular leg spinner so as to hide the snap of his fingers when he produced the flipper. Australia put Grimmett out to pasture after the Durban Test, but his 7-100 in the first innings and 6-73 in the second, proved he may still have continued to twirl his magic for a few years more. Many believed, that in his earlier years, he was as important to Australia’s fortunes as was the batting of a certain Don Bradman.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India)

Ravichandran Ashwin leads the new generation of Indian spinner, who have now taken a more traditional role in bowling line-ups with the cricket-crazy country investing in fast bowlers in recent times.

Still, Ashwin has proven to be a go-to bowler, notching up 365 wickets in just 71 Tests at an average of 25.43. Ashwin broke into the Indian side via the Indian Premier League. He found it difficult to get into the Test team and play a major role thanks to the presence of Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan’s fortunes began to fade and in the meantime, Ashwin began to put together an impressive tally of performances. In his first Test against the West Indies, Ashwin took nine wickets but it was agreed that a weak batting line-up may have contributed to that. The world waited to see if the performances could have been replicated and Ashwin duly provided the proof he was for real after a lean spell. While a far more dangerous limited-overs bowler, his progress since his Test debut in 2011 has made him one of the most impressive spinners in the modern age.

 

Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan)

Saqlain Mushtaq can most be remembered for being the bowler who first mastered the doosra, a delivery from an offspinner that turns the other way. Saqlain has been accused of trying too many different deliveries, always trying to get a wicket. Despite the differing attitudes to the spinner, Saqlain still managed 208 wickets in just 49 Tests at an average 29.83. His 10-155 in a match against India that brought about a close 12-run win is still talked about today.

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