Legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan believes Australia’s Nathan Lyon is ‘not good enough’ to breach the 700 or 800 wicket barrier in Tests, but feels ‘great’ Ravi Ashwin could achieve the feat. Muralitharan also feels that the impatient nature of modern batsmen has made it easy for the spinners.
On July 22, 2010, more than a decade ago, Muttiah Muralitharan created history by becoming the first ever bowler in Test history to breach the 800-wicket mark. 11 years on, his record remains unruffled, with no one even in the vicinity of his ‘800’. England’s Jimmy Anderson recently moved 200 within Murali by bringing up 600 Test wickets, but the closest active spinner is Nathan Lyon, who is still 404 wickets away from the coveted 800 mark.
Lyon, 33, who is 4 wickets away from 400, claimed on Wednesday that he will ‘play for as long as he can’ but according to Muralitharan, there is no way the Aussie can get to the 800 or even the 700-wicket mark. In an interview with Michael Vaughan, Murali termed Lyon ‘not good enough’ but gave a chance to Ravi Ashwin to break his record, labelling the Indian off-spinner ‘great’.
“Ashwin has a chance because he is a great bowler. 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,” Murali told Vaughan in an interview in Daily Telegraph.
What made and makes Muralitharan’s 800 scalps ludicrous is that he not only played in an era which had some behemoths who were adept at handling spinners masterfully, he also toiled hard on flatter wickets. It is no secret that pitches over the last half-a-decade have been tilted more in favour of the bowlers to produce results. But the maestro feels that, more than the wickets, it is the inability of batsmen which makes it easier for spinners to claim wicket in the modern era. Murali believes that new-gen batsmen ‘cannot stay long without attacking’ due to their feeble technique, and feels this in turn helps spinners pick up a ton of cheap wickets as compared to his days, where he had to toil hard.
“The problem in Test cricket is that T20 and ODI cricket have changed the dynamics,” says Murali, talking to me on Zoom from his house in Colombo, shortly before the start of England's Test series against Sri Lanka. “When I played, the batsmen were technically so good and wickets were flat. Now they try to finish matches in three days. 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,” Murali said.