Reliving Murali's magic

Spin wizard begins RCB journey with match-winning spell

Bengaluru 08 April 2012
You can take a cricketer out of cricket but you cannot take cricket out of a cricketer. Muttiah Muralitharan is a proof of that. He’s 10 days shy of his 40th birthday and it’s been more than a year since he ended his 20-year international cricket career. But he still plays his cricket with the enthusiasm of a child.

He itches to get on the field, grab a ball and send down those wily spinners. And if his performance against the Delhi Daredevils at Bengaluru is anything to go by, Murali hasn’t lost his touch. Everything from the guile to the smile is intact. En route to figures of three for 25 in four overs, Muralitharan deployed all his weapons with great effect, enabling the Royal Challengers Bangalore to defend 157 on a good batting track.

He struck off just his third delivery and picked up a wicket in each of the three overs of his first spell. Having settled down in his rhythm in his first over, the smiling assassin unleashed some delightful variations in the next. Out came the doosra; then he pitched one outside off, pushed one through the air and then bowled an off-spinner to wrap a clueless Aaron Finch on his legs. His third victim, Glenn Maxwell, was deceived by a top-spinner. The youngsters clearly and miserably failed to pick the master tweaker.

With his performance, the Sri Lankan spin wizard vindicated RCB’s decision to invest in the wily old magician who is long past his prime. Murali knows the kind of faith that went into him signing with the RCB this season; and he knows it came from another great spinner of his time – Anil Kumble.

“I thank Anil and the owners for showing faith in me. Fortunately, I got an opportunity and did well,” Murali told after the match.

Describing his journey in the IPL as a “rollercoaster”, Muralitharan said, “I played well for Chennai for three seasons and didn’t get much opportunity to play with Kochi. Now it’s RCB. I want to play for them for a couple of years.”

Given the dominance of batting captains in world cricket, Muralitharan has, perhaps, never played under the leadership of a fellow spinner in his long cricketing career. He has got that opportunity at RCB this time, with Daniel Vettori at the helm. And the world’s highest wicket-taker admits, as a spinner, it does make a difference having a captain who knows the mindset of a spin bowler.

“It’s great because he knows how the spinners operate,” Muralitharan said of Vettori, who brought him into the attack in the eighth over. “He called me in at the right time when we needed wickets and I did the job for them, and from there the game turned around.”

After this performance, the legendary off-spinner can rest assured of getting many more chances to do what he does best – win games for his team – in IPL 2012. With Shane Warne and Anil Kumble having put their respective wrists to rest, let’s enjoy yesteryear’s spin magic while we can in form of Murali
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