Those of us who have tried our hand at bowling right arm orthodox off spin know just how hard it is to get wickets. The simple reason being that, it is what EVERYONE who plays the game of cricket, grows up on. The ball gently turning into to the right hand batsman is the very foundation of the game.
Hence, when I first heard about Murali and saw records of his phenomenal success at school level, initial tendency was to dismiss is it as some form of cheating or deception that will go away. Well it wasn’t and it didn’t and it went on to establish world records!
There is NO DOUBT that it was his captain Arjuna Ranatunga who stood by him; probably also because he saw that Murali was the single reason that was going to put Sri Lanka on the "serious" cricketing map ( we always had batsman but until Murali we didn’t have bowlers who could run through a good test batting line up) during Arjuna’s tenure. So one could argue that Arjuna’s intentions were not without an ulterior motive, but the ultimate aim one could reason, was the development of Sri Lankan cricket.
Murali’s controversies also brought a degree of reality into cricket. It was exposed that many, if not most bowlers, who have had success, bowled with a slightly bent arm……didn’t it ? In fact a permanently bent arm was fairer than the occasional ball delivered with a bent arm that either bounced awkwardly or bounced and turned as well!
Many well known fast bowlers would have been classed as mere military medium or been dispatched to the boundaries on the principle that "the faster it comes the faster it goes" if not for the fact that they did bowl the odd ball with a bent arm. A bent arm than on occasion did straighten at the point of delivery…a clear chuck (according to the original laws) as against Murali who bowled with a permanently bent arm.
The laws were subsequently amended.
Hence Murali certainly INFLUENCED and changed the game and as far as us Sri Lankans’ go he put us on the map.
Surely he is a national treasure and an icon. Unfortunately he is human and I hope he has learnt enough from life and has good enough advisers to live the rest of his life with dignity and decorum that befits a true figure of history.