More spin for the Big Bash, from Murali
Muthiah Muralidaran during his last World Cup. Photo: Reuters
IT GOES without saying that the presence of Test cricket's two leading wicket-takers, Muthiah Muralidaran and Shane Warne, next month in the opening match of the Big Bash League season will be a key promotional tool for Cricket Australia.
What is less obvious, but equally correct, is that despite being 40 and 43 respectively the spinners can still rival the current-day elite for a key Twenty20 goal: shackling slog-happy batsmen.
When Warne came out of retirement last season to spearhead Melbourne Stars' inaugural season, the turn from his leg-spinners was meagre compared to during his peak. Nevertheless, he was clearly the Stars' most economical bowler at 6.74 runs an over.
Muralidaran, the Melbourne Renegades tweaker, has fared even better. His career IPL and Champions League record of 6.41 runs an over is the best of any bowler to play in more than one season of the lavish India-based T20 competition.
The Renegades' rationale for prioritising the legendary Sri Lankan when scouting international players was obvious, based on last season's record of nine of the top 12 BBL bowlers for economy rate being spinners.
While T20 came late in Muralidaran's career – and has extended it beyond his international retirement – he said he was unsurprised that slow bowling had proved so effective.
"Fast bowling is all about needing a little bit of help from the pitch, for seam movement, [but for spin] on any wicket you can change the pace and make the batsmen struggle a bit," he said this week from Sri Lanka.
"It's not easy to hit spin because you vary the pace of the ball. Some players also turn the ball and have a lot of different deliveries these days so people struggle to read them."
Muralidaran's 15 wickets across 10 matches for Bangalore in the past IPL season was creditable, yet arguably their importance was secondary to him conceding only 6.5 runs an over. "Taking wickets is also important, [but when you are not] taking wickets your economy rate has to be good. If you are going at less than seven and a half [an] it's a good performance, because with five bowlers [the projected score] would be 150 runs, and you can get that [when chasing]."
The looming debut appearance for Muralidaran in the BBL has come after a few hiccups. Three years ago he signed for Victoria only to be withdrawn when Sri Lanka made a late commitment to a conflicting ODI tournament, while last season he played for Wellington in New Zealand's smaller T20 competition, the HRV Cup.
During their international careers Muralidaran and Warne duelled, albeit indirectly, 10 times in Test and 12 in ODIs. In the IPL they have been on opposing teams eight times, most recently in April 2011.
Approaching their ninth T20 clash, at Etihad Stadium on December 7 as the Renegades host the Stars, the genial Muralidaran expressed no inclination to want to reiterate why he sits comfortably above Warne on the Test wicket tally.
"It's not a competition. I think he's a great bowler and I like to see him bowl," he said.