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.