Muttiah Muralitharan, the only bowler to take 800 Test wickets, thinks that India’s Ravichandran Ashwin is the only current player who could surpass his record.
Nathan Lyon, the active spinner with the most Test wickets, is “not good enough” to threaten the Sri Lankan’s landmark, says the man himself.
“Ashwin has a chance because he is a great bowler,” Murali told The Telegraph. “Other than that I don’t think any younger bowler coming in will go to 800. Maybe Nathan Lyon is not good enough to reach it. He is close to 400 but he has had to play many, many matches to get there.”
Ashwin is 34 years old and has 377 wickets from 74 Tests, while Lyon is more than a year younger and has 396 wickets, albeit from 99 Test matches. Murali’s 800 came from 133 Tests, a rate of more than six per game.
Lyon has struggled for form in recent times, averaging 57.66 with the ball in Australia’s ongoing Test series against India. Ashwin, by contrast, has gone some way to answering the lingering questions over his potency away from home, taking 12 wickets at 28.83 so far.
Both will be helped on their quest to catch Murali by the presence of the Decision Review System. The dismissal-checking protocol has come under fire in recent times, particularly from Australia captain Tim Paine, but Murali feels it has certainly benefitted spinners, and that his own mark of 800 could have been even higher had the technology been available throughout his career.
“I would say I would have had more wickets [with DRS] because it would have been hard for batsmen to use the pad,” he explained. “If I came round the wicket to a right hander and if he missed there was a 90 per cent chance the ball would hit the wicket. But umpires were judging it was not out because it was hitting the front leg.
“Batsmen had the benefit of the doubt. Not now. Maybe runs are less now because DRS gives the advantage to the batsman. I can remember when you played us – if you hid the bat and kicked us away now, you would be out. With DRS they will say whether you played a shot or not. You will be out if the ball hits the wicket.”