Yeah, but he’s no Warne

Muttiah Muralitharan recently claimed he’ll take 1000 Test wickets. A bold statement but if anyone can, it’s he. But why do I always hear myself muttering “yeah, but he’s no Warne”?

Is it because Warne has been around a little longer? Because he revolutionised (and revamped) the art of legspin? Is it because I always dreamed of being a leggie myself? Or is it because or Murali’s elastic arm and the cloud of suspicion which still hangs over his head?

Murali is no less a showman, no less hungry for wickets. His throaty, raucous appeal is a frightening ordeal for any batsman or umpire and he really can turn a ball on glass. He is a phenomena of control – bendy arm and wobbly wrist, or not – which even Warne must envy. But, still…he’s no Warne.

Perhaps this highlights Warne’s appeal more than Murali’s failings. Yesterday, before picking up his 700th Test wicket, Warne spoke to Mike Atherton about his career. One thing stuck out like one of his rare wrong’uns: “I always like to push the boundaries…the boundaries of dissent, or whatever. I’m an entertainer”. And so he is. Murali is no less appealing a bowler, but is too endearing a character. Warne is the genius with a darker, villainous, mischievous streak; the smoker; the drinker; the sledger; the divorcee; the sex-romper and tabloid-headline provider. When he steps out onto the field, perhaps we half expect all these traits to burden him; maybe we will him to fall down like the villain in a pantomime.

But he never did. Murali will probably take 1000 wickets. But he’s no Warne.

Warne praises Monty’s performance

I’m sure Warne doesn’t really write his blog, he’ll surely have a ghost. But it does sound like him…so I remain sceptical! Whatever. He’s been praising Monty today:

I got to see a bit of the Test as well between England and Pakistan. Headingley can be hard work for spinners – I think only 2 wickets have been taken there in the last 10 years by England spinners or something like that so Monty Panesar deserves a lot of applause for his efforts. He spun it on a pitch that normally suits seamers, he changed pace well, bowled with discipline and importantly when things were not happening as Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan were both scoring 150′s, he kept the scoring rate slow.

In fact, he did everything that was asked of him and on a difficult pitch. Well bowled Monty. It’s great to see a left arm spinner tossing it up, turning it and taking wickets. So far – and he has only just started – he looks the real deal. This winter in Australia will be a good challenge for him, the crowds will get on him and no doubt the batsmen, especially the left handers will want to knock him out of his stride. Just the kind of challenge we spinners love!

I also like the way that he plays with a big smile. Every wicket receives a great running jumping celebration. Why not? Fast men do it and so should we. It’s spontaneous and shows how much he cares and how competitive he is. Trust me I don’t mind celebrating a wicket. That’s why I’m there – to get people out.

More at his blog

Thoughts: Eng v Pak, 2nd Test, Old Trafford, 1st day

Too knackered to offer anything of substance. However, don’t underestimate the importance of yesterday’s performance by England. The draw at Lord’s was deserved for both teams. Yesterday, England raised their game by several notches – largely thanks to Steve Harmison who bowled a quite magnificent spell. I can’t help but feel irritated, though, that our leading fast bowler can’t produce such spells on a more regular basis. He is the most natural, ridiculously gifted fast bowler England has had since…I don’t know when. He was unplayable yesterday, and even made Lord’s double centurion Mohammad Yousuf look a bit silly…jumping around like a cat on hot coals.

Well played England. Well captained Andrew Strauss. It might be a 24-hour bright-spot quickly forgotten by this time tomorrow but, at the very least, there was an intent shown by the bowlers, and latterly England’s batsmen, which vindicated Strauss’s rallying cry yesterday in which he longed for his side to rekindle the passion shown last summer.

I feel it’s important not to forget Monty Panesar’s role yesterday either. He bowled brilliantly. As a notable cricket journalist commented to me this evening, he is still “only” a left-arm spinner and thus not a matchwinner. I see more in Panesar than I saw in Phil Tufnell (incidentally Strauss, off the record, believes Tuffers was the greatest spinner he ever faced…in terms of raw natural ability). He is more attacking than Daniel Vettori, who perhaps receives more credit than he is due but who nevertheless holds the mantle of the world’s best left-arm-spinner!

Panesar has something special. Few young bowlers have an action so well oiled and natural, so lacking in awkwardness. It’s fluid and fluent, so natural and so untouched by the evil bowling coaches. This fact alone has already helped him in his brief career; instead, unlike Liam Plunkett, of worrying about how the ball is “coming out”, he simply concentrates on his line. Natch, this is how all the best bowlers perform, but it’s not necessarily an art you are born with. It is, though, for Panesar (seemingly).

When he bowls in the second innings he might get carted for 100 from 18 overs and you’ll all call me a twat. But more likely is that he’ll contain Pakistan and out-think some of the best players of spin. Not bad for a left-armer from Luton.