The owner of 800 Test wickets and the greatest spinner of all time made his point with an observation that a bowler of the caliber of Ravichandran Ashwin struggles to break into India’s playing eleven in white-ball matches.
Ashwin, who is closing in on 450 Test wickets, is back in the white-ball mix after being in the wilderness in shorter formats for more than three years.
“There are too many quality options in the Indian cricket system. There is a lot of stiff competition among the top Indian spinners in white-ball cricket,” Murali told PTI in an interview organized by the Legends League Cricket (LLC).
“In red-ball cricket, there is not much competition as Ashwin is at the top. He is peerless. The moment we turn to T20, because of IPL, we see too many talented options as there are so many matches being played. It definitely speaks of the depth of Indian cricket.
“So when you get an option to compare his exploits with others and the opportunities to play T20Is are shared.”
One of the greatest exponents of doosra (the wrong ‘un), Murali never compromised on his core power, which was a great break that he could turn square and take the track out of equation.
So do off-spinners use too many carrom balls in white-ball cricket?
“You can’t just bowl cartwheels. You have to mix it up. Even in our times we used drivers with conventional breakdowns. You can’t bowl the same ball over and over again as batsmen tend to read you well. To stay on top , you have to have enough variations in your bowling.”
Off-spinners vs left-handers? Murali wants flexibility
Since the advent of T20 leagues around the world, the cricketing term in vogue is the word “matches” – a player of a particular skill being pitted against an opposition player of a different skill.
Like a spinner against lefties.
However, Murali does not believe in that concept.
“Never buy into this concept that an off-spinner will only be effective when a left-handed batsman is in action. That’s not the kind of mindset you need to have when you go out there. Even if there’s a right-handed batsman, you have skills to get him out. The skipper also has to have a lot of faith that his spinner can do the job.”
Finger spinners will never go out of fashion in T20Is
During the Ravi Shastri-Bharat Arun era, one saw the advent of “Kul-Cha”, the two wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who did achieve a fair amount of success before both suffered a slump in form has.
There have been discussions about whether finger spinners are going out of fashion. Ask Murali and he will emphatically deny such theories.
“Spinners will always remain special bowlers in T20 cricket. All these T20 leagues would not be what they are if there were not quality spinners in every team. Finger spinners, if you mean off spinners, will never go out of style in T20 cricket doesn’t go.
A good leg-spinner needs a good captain to flourish, but does the same apply to an off-break bowler?
“I wouldn’t say a good spinner will always need a good captain. A captain has to think about all 11 players, including himself, but the primary requirement of a spinner will always be talent.”
A tournament victory cannot heal a nation’s wound
Sri Lanka recently won a major trophy in Asia Cup after a gap of eight years. While Murali believes that Sri Lankan players have every right to celebrate the success, he does not believe that a sporting victory can heal the scars of what his country has gone through due to the collapse of democracy.
“I will not say that a victory in a cricket tournament can heal the wounds of a nation. Sport is different and nation is different. Just like every nation goes through rough times, our cricket also went through a bad patch and going in the right direction now.”
He declined to draw a comparison between the current team and the previous ones when he was an active player.
“In our era we won many matches and then many tournaments like World Cup, Asia Cup and many trophies. For us Asia Cup was another Cup. But I must say, for this team, pushed back by everyone, to win after 8 years is a wonderful thing.”
Regarding Dasun Shanaka’s captaincy, he termed him as a “good captain”.
But as he signed off, he didn’t forget to add that a captain is only as good as his team.