800 Wickets
July 22, 2010 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Muttiah Muralitharan, who is retiring from Test cricket, takes his 800th Test wicket.

800 wickets is a lot. Reaction to the record. Australian bowler Shane Warne suspects the record won't be broken for a very long time, if ever:
Even though so much more Test cricket is played these days, I think Murali's record will stand for a long, long time and probably forever. You just have to work it out by numbers - for that record to be broken someone has to play 140-150 Tests and take 5-6 wickets a Test. That will take some doing.
posted by chunking express (26 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The man is a legend and will probably never be equalled, but he's had incredible influence on the game. Here's a decent article on some of the (race-based if you ask many South Asians) controversies that surrounded his career and how they helped formalise the sport a little more.

Murali is also Tamil. It would be interesting to hear from any SL mefites about how that plays out in the national team, if at all.
posted by tavegyl at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2010

What a guy.

As an aside, the Aussies were all out for 88 yesterday at Headingly.

On the one hand, I'm English so this is good news :)

On the other, England's next test is with Pakistan :S

Sorry to digress, it's nice to see a cricket thread here!
posted by dumdidumdum at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2010

From the Wikipedia page on Test Cricket:
Test cricket is played between two teams of 11 players over a period of up to a maximum five days (though finishing earlier if a result is reached before the maximum time). On each day there are usually three two-hour sessions, with a forty minute break for "lunch" and a twenty minute break for "tea".
posted by octothorpe at 7:40 AM on July 22, 2010

Interesting to try to match up video of the event with the words in the story.
posted by gleuschk at 7:41 AM on July 22, 2010

Not to worry, dumdidumdum. If Pakistan run true to form, they will either score 400 runs in the first innings (after the openers leave with single figures) or be bowled out before lunch.

Sigh. It can be trying to be a Pakistan supporter. Exciting, certainly, but trying.
posted by tavegyl at 7:43 AM on July 22, 2010

Cricinfo's S Rajesh has some amazing statistics on his career. My personal favourite: 1.98 Tests per five-for.

1.98. For reference, Bradman took 1.79 Tests per century, which - although it's clearly impossible to compare, given the different eras, and that one's batting and the other's bowling - seems to fit reasonably well.
posted by smcg at 7:54 AM on July 22, 2010

I'd also like to announce my retirement from Test cricket.

Interesting post. I was hoping that one of the links would contextualize the achievement a little more for those of us who barely understand the game, either within the sport or comparatively between sports. But it's still amazing.

Actually, this hopelessly provincial American has wanted to learn more about cricket for quite some time. I've read parts of CLR James' Beyond A Boundary, watched part of a match (not test -- twenty20??) without much understanding, and that's it. Could someone recommend some useful introductory material for an absolute neophyte?
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:14 AM on July 22, 2010

Some more info in this Sportsfilter post.
posted by yerfatma at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2010

Not to be too Americans-don't-get-cricket, but that third link is so full of jargon I could barely figure out the play-by-play.
posted by me3dia at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2010

tavegyl: (race-based if you ask many South Asians)

Here's an ugly story. Nobody has been more stridently opposed to Murali's bowling action than the cricket-going public of Australia and most visibly, ex-PM and cricket fan John Howard. Howard wouldn't shut up even after Murali's action was cleared by the ICC.

So this year he applies to become VP of the ICC and is dismayed to find that every majority non-white cricketing nation has denied him support. The result? Loud accusations of reverse-racism and politicization of the ICC.

The funny thing is, it's quite likely true. Howard has a thorny history on race issues in general and in cricket in particular, the only surprise is that Australia and NZ didn't see this coming a mile away.
posted by vanar sena at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2010

Including 10 wickets in a Test match on 22 occasions, (12 times more than Shane Warne).
It will take an awful long time to see this record fall.
Thank you and well played Muttiah Muralitharan.
posted by adamvasco at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2010

.kobayashi.: Others will probably have more knowledge of general resources, but it will help a lot to know that in cricket, the rules say the bowlers arm has to be straight out - no bend at the elbow - when they release the ball. I lived in the UK as a teenager, got introduced to the game, and my gym teacher and I drove each other crazy as I tried to perform a motion that the rules would allow. (That rule is not perfectly applied for anyone, of course. A little bend is inevitable, but the permissibility is a judgment call, much like a strike zone in baseball.)

I think this, along with some other subtle features of his delivery, is what's at issue. The best analogy I can think of is "carrying" the ball or "traveling" in basketball. Whether you can do (according to the letter of the law) what many NBA players are doing is a subject of some debate. I hear grumpy old John Wooden types who say, "Allen Iverson never scored a basket in the NBA. He travels or carries the ball on every play!" Just give that cranky old (probably white) guy an Australian accent, transpose rule books, and you've got John Howard.
posted by el_lupino at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not to be too Americans-don't-get-cricket, but that third link is so full of jargon I could barely figure out the play-by-play.

I'll start (it's not too complicated to those of us brought up with it, but impenetrable if you weren't).

Spin: Murali is a type of bowler who "spins" the ball by flicking his wrist (or fingers) as he delivers it. The ball spins through the air, and deviates from its line when it bounces. (As opposed to fast bowlers, who rely on pace, and on "swinging" the ball as it moves through the air. Massively simplified, obviously).

115.4: Muralitharan to Ojha, OUT, 800 it is! The wait and the tension is finally over! Tossed up outside off and the four men around the bat wait in anticipation! Ojha lunges forward, edges it and Mahela falls to his left and takes the catch at first slip! No need to look anywhere for confirmation, straightforward and Murali is ecstatic."

Tossed up: he lobbed the ball, as opposed to bowling it with a flat trajectory. This is more attacking - it makes it more likely that he'll take a wicket, but also makes it potentially easier for batsman to score runs.

Outside off:
there are three wickets, or stumps: leg, middle and off. Picture a batsman standing in front of the wickets: the off side will be the one away from his legs. For a left-handed batsman, like Ojha, this will be to his left side (therefore Murali's right). Again, by bowling outside off he is inviting the batsman to attack, at the risk of getting out.

Four men around the bat: this is a very attacking field setting (imagine bringing the infield right in as close as the catcher, in the hope that the batsman mishits the ball and is caught).....

...as indeed happens. Ojha lunges forward trying to hit the ball, but it bounces and spins away from him and hits the edge of his bat. It goes behind Ojha, to his left. (Remember that in cricket, the whole field is in play, there is no foul zone). It is caught by the first slip (imagine someone standing to the left of the catcher - there could be up to 4 or 5 of them).

No need for confirmation: TV replays are available for close calls. The slip would have dived forward to catch it, and often it is uncertain whether the ball has hit the ground before being caught (and therefore not out).

(I gotta run now so can't go through everything else, hopefully someone else can)
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

.kobayashi. - I would recommend sitting down and watching a Test match, start to finish, across the whole 5 days.

You'll need a cricket fanatic to help describe the rules as you go (it makes little/no sense if you don't see it in context). If you don't know anyone, watch the match anyway and keep this by your side to read up on the rules if you get confused.

Good luck, it took 5 years for the rules to stick in my head after many hours watching the Ashes (glossary: a test-match series between Australia and England) with my dad.

Or you could try playing it at home!

tavegyl - I think I'm booked to see first day of the test at Lord's. I respectfully look forward to us bowling you out, sir. ;)
posted by dumdidumdum at 9:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

The action thing is even more fraught with difficulty than el_lupino suggests. Muralitharan does not bowl with a "straight" arm, and cannot due to a (I think congenital) bend. This is not illegal in cricket. Rather, it is illegal to extend the arm by more than 15°. This has been the case since (looks in wikipedia) 2005 (yes?). Previously such straightening was regarded as chucking, but biomechanical evidence shows that it is inevitable in nearly all bowlers' actions, because of the centrifugal hyperextension (sounds like a King Crimson album) that swinging the arm causes.

I think that's all pretty much right, anyway.

"A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing."
posted by howfar at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2010

Like a lot of American sports buffs, I'm curious but puzzled with cricket - there's strategy, offense/defense portions that are clearly separated, amazing athletic feats requiring hand-eye dexterity and physical power, and boy howdy, lots of stats to pore over and argue about.

It's just that the learning curve is too steep. You can't just sit down and watch a game on TV and pick up the basics, like you can with Lacross or Australian Rules Football. I keep hoping recent influxes of Indian and Pakistani immigrants would inspire local cricket leagues, like recent Irish and South African ex-pats have brought over rugby, so I can join up and see what it's like.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2010

To take up from Infinite Jest:
He finishes with 800 Test wickets
In Test matches, he got batsmen out off his bowling 800 times.

at 22.72
This is his average. For a bowler it means the number of runs conceded off his bowling divided by the number of wickets he took. So for every wicket he took, the opposition on average scored less than 23 runs. This is remarkably good for any Test bowler, but is extraordinary for a spinner (who by their nature can often cost a lot of runs) - the 8th best average for a spinner (with more than 100 wickets) for all time.

in 133 Tests.
He played 133 matches of "Test" status.

He took five in an innings on 67 occasions.
Each Test match consists of two innings per team. In an innings, every player on the team bats, and because there must be two batsmen at any one time, there are ten wickets available for a bowler to take in an innings. To get five out of those ten is regarded as a noteworthy feat for the bowler.

Murali achieved this on 67 separate occasions. This is not just more than any other Test bowler in history, it is nearly twice as much (closest rival is Warne with 37).

When Laxman, on 69, risked a single to short third man and failed to beat Angelo Mathews' throw by the narrowest of margins

VVS Laxman played a shot towards the fielder at short third man - the slips as explained earlier are to the left of the wicketkeeper (or catcher), but third man is behind the slips near the boundary. Short, describing a fielding position means "closer to the batsman".

"Risked a single" meant he thought he could play the ball to that fielder, set off for a run, and get to his safe ground (or "crease") in time. He failed: Mathews threw the ball at the stumps to which Laxman was running, the ball hit the stumps and knocked the bails off before Laxman had got there. Laxman was thus "run out".

This meant that with Murali on 799 wickets, the last two batsmen were in. If another bowler got one of those two batsmen out, the match would be over and Murali would be stuck on 799.
posted by Electric Dragon at 10:55 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

the match would have been over, and Murali would have been stuck on 799.

(I need to brush up on my semi-conditionally modified sub-inverted plagal past subjunctive intentionals).
posted by Electric Dragon at 11:08 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

"What a guy.

As an aside, the Aussies were all out for 88 yesterday at Headingly.

On the one hand, I'm English so this is good news :)

On the other, England's next test is with Pakistan :S

Sorry to digress, it's nice to see a cricket thread here!
posted by dumdidumdum at 3:37 PM on July 22 [+] [!] "

hah yes. I saw this and thought "fantastic, take that aussies." Then, as I read further, realised, as you say, that we have to play Pakistan next.

Congratultions to Muralitharan.

*hires sniper*
posted by marienbad at 1:01 PM on July 22, 2010

Murali ought to consider a career in polo next - in that sport, chukkas are a legitimate part of the game.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:19 PM on July 22, 2010

(only joking - good on him; it's a remarkable achievement)
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2010

Why do Americans (and it only seems to be Americans) have such difficulty with cricket? It's really not any more complicated than baseball, and it's just as easy to pick up just by watching a match. Both sports have their jargon and terminology, but you don't need to know any of that to enjoy a game.
posted by salmacis at 5:14 AM on July 23, 2010

I can't speak for all Americans, but for me, it's lack of easy access to games to watch, and lack of access to people who can answer questions on the off chance I do find a game. This leaves me with books and articles which are more accessible. Yet many texts are written for initiates, which is fine, but it does mean that you've got to puzzle out some of the jargon and terminology. I assure you, it's not a proud American ignorance or anything like that (not to say that you were implying any such thing). Those who have difficulty with cricket are those who are *trying*.

It may well not be any more complicated than baseball, but as someone who's tried to explain baseball to those unfamiliar with the sport , it turns out that's not as easy as you think either.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:08 AM on July 23, 2010

I'm not actually much of a cricket fan, but let me have a crack at defining enough of the rules and objectives of cricket that a newcomer should be able to follow a game.

Two teams of eleven players.
Every player bats.
Some players also bowl (throw).

A match is played on an oval ground. In the middle of the ground is the pitch, and area of dry earth about 22 yards long. At each end of the pitch three pieces of wood are pushed into the ground ("wicket" / "stumps").

A bowler bowls ( = pitches) the ball by throwing the ball towards the batter from behind a line (the "crease"). He must do so using a straight arm action, a bit like a windmill (as alluded to above slow motion video replays reveal that no player actually bowls without straightening their elbow, so the rules have had to be modified to match the reality.) A bowler has six deliveries in a row (an "over") before it is another player's turn to bowl an over.

Batters score:
a run for every time that they run the length of the pitch after hitting the ball. A batter may run more than once per hit.
4 runs if the ball reaches the boundary (the rope around the edge of the ground).
6 runs if the ball clears the boundary on the full.

Players bat until such time as they are out ("lose their wicket" / "dismissed"). A player can go out on the first delivery that they face, or bat for more than day some times.

A player can go out in one of four basic circumstances:
1. Bowled - the ball hits the stumps (three pieces of wood in ground behind batter) either directly, or after touching the player or his bat.
2. Caught - the fielding team catches a ball on the full after it has been hit by the bat
3. Leg Before Wicket (LBW) - the umpire adjudges that if the batter's leg did not obstruct the ball it would have hit the stumps (as per 1)
4. Run out or stumped - the batter is outside the crease (the line about three feet in front of the stumps) when the ball thrown by a fielder hits the stumps

The team bats until ten of it's batters are out ("an innings").

A Test match lasts up to 5 days. To win a test match a team must score more runs than the opposition and bowl the opposition team out completely in two innings (ie they must take 20 wickets). (In Test matches players wear predominately white or cream clothes.)

A One Day or Twenty20 match last a few hours. To win a match a team must merely score more runs in a set number of deliveries (=pitches) than the opposition. There is no requirement to bowl the opposition out. (IN One Day and Twenty20 matches players wear coloured clothes)


This is necessarily a simplification of the rules of cricket, and there are others - not to mention huge amounts of specific terminology used by enthusiasts to describe it. But I think this should provide newcomers with sufficient understanding of the objective and the rules of cricket to follow what is happening in a game.

Of course I'm sure I've used some arcane terminology without even realising it, so let me know if something doesn't make sense.
posted by puffmoike at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

And I never thought I'd ever hear Australian Rules described as easier to understand than cricket ;-)
posted by puffmoike at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2010

For those who want more explanations of cricket (especially for those here in the US), I've always found this site to be helpful.
posted by RyanAdams at 5:17 PM on July 28, 2010

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