The first instalment in our new series where we compare two legendary cricketers from the same generation. Rather than necessarily settle the debate on who is ‘better’, this series attempts to illustrate who had a greater say in dictating his country’s cricketing fortunes. Along the way, you may also find a few facets of these players that are not necessarily discussed in conventional media.
We commence the series by pitting two of the greatest spinners to have played the game.
Shane Warne vs Muttiah Muralitharan
A comparison of spin bowlers in Test cricket
|Parameter||Shane Warne||Muttiah Muralitharan||Maximum or
|Number of Tests||145||133||Shane Warne (145)|
|Number of wickets taken||708||800||Muttiah Muralitharan (800)|
|Bowling Average||25.41||22.72||Muttiah Muralitharan (22.72)|
|Percentage of team wickets||28.30||40.65||Muttiah Muralitharan
|Home Impact (min. 25 Tests)||42||70||R Ashwin|
|Impact Away (min. 20 Tests)||99||77||Richie Benaud|
|Impact in Subcontinent (min. 10 Tests)||66||72||R Ashwin|
|Impact in Eng/SA/NZ/Aus (min. 10 Tests)||61||74||Bobby Peel|
|Failure Rate (min. 50 Tests)||23%||16%||Muttiah Muralitharan (16%)|
|Number of Series Defining performances||8 (once every 18 Tests)||10 (once every 13 Tests)||Muttiah Muralitharan (10)|
|Number of high impact performances||41 (once every 3.5 Tests)||45 (once every 3 Tests)||Muttiah Muralitharan (45)|
|Most dominant period in career||July 2001 – March 2004||July 2000 – December 2006||NA|
|Number of years as highest impact bowler||2 (1997, 2002)||4 (2000, 2001, 2003, 2006)||Anil Kumble – 4
(1993, 1998, 1999, 2007),
Muttiah Muralitharan – 4
(2000, 2001, 2003, 2006)
|Highest impact bowler in a match||42||51||Muttiah Muralitharan
(51 in 133 Tests)
|Highest impact bowler in a series||15||25||Muttiah Muralitharan
(25 in 61 Test series)
1) All parameters from ‘
Example: Lance Gibbs has the highest
2) From ‘Bowling Average’ till ‘
3) Only spin bowlers have been considered for this comparison.
Shane Warne’s impact as a bowler is 87% of Muttiah Muralitharan’s.
Muralitharan is, quite emphatically, the highest impact bowler in the 139 years of Test cricket (minimum 50 Tests) – duly corroborated conventionally as well. The next highest impact bowler, Dennis Lillee, has a 9% lower
Warne comes in at number four in the all-time
Muralitharan was the only great bowler (he had Vaas for support, for a while) in the Sri Lankan side during his career. Being the lead bowler, he made the most of the opportunities he had. On the other hand, Warne was a part of an all-time great Australian team comprising Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie. He did not get as many opportunities to bowl at the top/middle-order and, consequently, had to share his impact with the other legends.
Muralitharan is also the biggest series-winner (maximum number of series-defining or
Prior to R Ashwin’s meteoric rise, no bowler had a higher impact in home conditions than Muralitharan. He was pivotal to Sri Lanka’s remarkable success at home. Again, not surprisingly, out of Muralitharan’s 10 SDs, 7 were at home.
Warne was the one the Romantics loved, a leg spinner’s natural advantage, though arguably also the tougher art. He was part of an all-great side, bowling alongside pace bowler legends, all of whom shared impact with him.
Muralitharan was, conversely, a sole bowling legend in a side that was near-unbeatable at home, with a controversial bowling action that was never quite accepted across the board. His impact was greater on Sri Lanka’s cricket results than Warne’s was for Australia’s – that is all Impact Index measures.
Illustrations: Vasim Maner