Muttiah Muralitharan is the only bowler in the history of Test cricket to take 800 wickets. The former Sri Lanka spinner got to the landmark against India in the final Test match of his career when he dismissed Pragyan Ojha at Galle in 2010. 10 years on, no active player is even close to Muralitharan’s tally of 800 Test wickets. The second best, Shane Warne, is behind by 92 wickets, followed by the legendary Anil Kumble with 619 wickets.
From the current stock of Test spin bowlers, R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon stand out. Ashwin has played 74 Tests for India, whereas Lyon, with 99 games, will play his 100th for Australia in the fourth Test against India starting Friday at the Gabba in Brisbane. With 377 and 396 wickets respectively, Ashwin and Lyon are the two premier Test spinners of the current era. But do either have what it takes to perhaps get where Muralitharan did?
“Will anyone reach to 800 wickets? Ashwin has a chance because he is a great bowler,” Muralitharan told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Other than that, I don’t think any younger bowler coming in will go to 800. Maybe Nathan Lyon is not good enough to reach it. He is close to 400 but he has had to play many, many matches to get there.”
The reason why there may not be another golden era of spinners in Test cricket, Muralitharan reckons is because of the highly-changing dynamic of the game. “The problem in Test cricket is that Twenty20s and one-day internationals have changed the dynamics. When I played, the batsmen were technically so good and wickets were flat; now, they try to finish matches in three days,” the former off-spinner added.
“The bowlers in my day had to do extra work to get spin and do something magic to get results. Nowadays, if you bowl line and length over a period of time, you will get five wickets. It is guaranteed because batsmen cannot stay for long without attacking.
“You have a better chance of taking wickets, which is why spinners only have to set the field properly, bowl line and length and let the pitches and batsmen do the rest. Spinners used to have to work hard for wickets, which is why they worked hard on developing other deliveries. Now they do that in T20 cricket instead. They bowl different variations because batsmen are coming after them. But in Test cricket you don’t need to do it.”