Murali the unparallel record setter | Sunday Observer

Murali the unparallel record setter

24 February, 2019
Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan needs no introduction. He is the world’s highest wicket taker in Test cricket. Apart from that unique feat, there are several other world records in Muralithran’s cupboard in a legendary career as an exemplary Sri Lanka cricketer.

He first came to the limelight through the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer contest some 28 years ago. A highly successful bowler in school cricket at that time, Murali was adjudged Observer Schoolboy Cricketer in 1991 when he was playing for St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota.

The selection of Muralitharan to the elite band of cricketers is a golden moment in the four-decade-old history of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest which has given that much-needed inspiration and motivation to the country’s budding schoolboy cricketers to extend their playing careers beyond school level.

Though there have been many outstanding players who aggregate over 1000 runs or capture over 100 wickets during a season, only a few have taken such performances to the next level. Playing for a reputed club after ending their school careers and winning the Sri Lanka cap thereafter has been the dream of every schoolboy cricketer but only a handful would eventually make that dream come true.

Undoubtedly, one such outstanding player who not only had achieved that goal in style but had also gone to erase world records in Test cricket, had emerged through the premier school cricket awards show some 28 years ago.

The early 90s belonged to a magical off spinner who had shattered the dreams of all batsmen in inter-school cricket during that period. He came to the limelight to enjoy rich harvests of over 100 wickets each on successive seasons.

But the soft-spoken and publicity-shy young cricketer from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota ultimately turned out to be the biggest headache to all top batsmen in world cricket.

The stepping stone for the young lad to international cricket was the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year title he had won in 1991. After making his Sri Lanka debut soon afterwards, he cemented his place in the national team in next to no time, shattering all bowling records in both Test and ODI cricket.

Eventually, he became the highest ever wicket-taker in Test cricket, establishing several other world records in international cricket. He was none other than spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan who returned to the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year stage in 2011 as the chief guest, some 20 years after his crowning glory.

Muralitharan looked emotional when he went down the memory lane while addressing the 33rd Observer-Mobitel Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year awards night as the chief guest. “You are the future Sri Lanka players. You must keep the Sri Lanka flag flying wherever you go. Play hard and dedicate yourself, then success is bound to come,” he told the gathering.

“You must keep in mind as young cricketers that only 11 could play in a team. When you get that rare chance of making it to the team, you must put your heart and soul into the effort. Give hundred percent to the team and ultimately success will come your way,” Muralitharan told a packed house. He paid a glowing tribute to the Sunday Observer for its role in rewarding the outstanding schoolboy cricketers since 1979. “You must always be determined. You should not get disappointed if you fail once or twice in the early stages of your career. Keep on trying and success is bound to come your way,” he was quoted as saying.

Muralitharan said success of a cricketer could be judged how he acts when the going gets tough. He advised the schoolboys to be calm but determined during such periods. “Be absolutely cool even when the going is not going your way. I learnt this from my captain Arjuna Ranatunga (another proud recipient of the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year award in 1980 and 1982) who sported a cool head even when the going was tough. He used to take pressure off the players when the going was not to his liking. He doesn’t show any anger – that’s why he is called ‘Captain Cool,” Muralitharan said.

Murali was born on April 17, 1972 and achieved loads of records which would be hard to emulate. He is the only bowler to capture 800 wickets in Test cricket. Representing Sri Lanka in 133 Tests, Muralitharan has accounted for 800 scalps with an attractive average of 22.72.

Muralitharan’s deadly off breaks brought him bags of ten wickets or more on 22 occasions which too is a world record. No other bowler has captured five wickets or more on 67 occasions in Test cricket. His One-Day International record too is equally impressive. In 350 ODIs, the master spinner has captured 534 wickets with an average of 23.08. It is heartening to see the Mega Show entering its fifth decade. Most importantly, the country’s national mobile service provider has been associated with Sri Lanka’s first-ever school cricket awards show for 12 years. Together with the Sri Lanka Telecom and SLT Mobitel management, SLT Mobitel’s Chief Executive Officer Nalin Perera is extending the fullest support to make the ‘Mother of all Shows’ a resounding success once again as it continues to remain the dream of every schoolboy cricketer.

With the commencement of the annual ‘big matches’ from early next month, there will be more excitement in school cricket.

Meanwhile, the voting for the Observer-Mobitel Most Popular Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year contest is conducted in three categories. Hence, it’s high time to support your alma mater by voting for your favourite schoolboy cricketer and motivate the next generation cricketers. It will be a morale booster for those outstanding young cricketers as the cream of them prepare to enter the club arena with the hope of proudly wearing that elusive Sri Lanka cap eventually.

It is good to discover that several others have followed the Sunday Observer’s initiative to hold similar awards shows to commend the achievements of schoolboy cricketers after every season. But the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year remains the ‘Mother of all Shows’. ‘We lead others follow’

Needless to say how important it is for schoolboy cricketers to win an award as recognition for their commendable achievements after a strenuous season. It is not just appreciating their achievements but also a big inspiration for them to step into the big league.