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No Aussies in my top 10: Murali

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Written on Friday, 22 October 2010 11:34

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(KEN PIESSE is a senior sportswriter who has covered cricket for more than 35 years.)

Sri Lankan spin great Muthiah Muralidaran does not rate even one Australian batsman among the top 10 opponents of his record-breaking career.

Murali says it's not a reflection on the quality of some of Australia's recent greats, from the Waugh brothers through to Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, but more about the sheer quality of the likes of Brian Lara and sub-continental champions including Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin, who are all in his top three.

The 800-wicket Test champion says at times he had "no answer" to Lara's brilliance.

"Brian scored a double century against us at the Sinhaelese Sports Ground (in Colombo) once (in 2001-02)," he said. "I felt I'd been on top of him in the first two Tests in that series but in this game he played two amazing on drives through vacant mid-on. They were supreme shots. This day he won the battle. I tried to give him a single to get him off strike"

Murali, 38, starts his farewell tour of Australia with a warm-up game this weekend in Brisbane, one of the Australian grounds at which he was called for throwing in the mid-'90s.

Both he and his younger brother Sasi Daran, were born with a deformity where they are unable to straighten their right arms. Despite bowling in splints and having his action constantly examined, especially after he unleashed his controversial doosra mid-career, many still consider Murali a cheat.

His long-time teammate Mahela Jayawardene said yesterday Murali could expect some heckling again in Australia. "But he's got over that. He will enjoy this tour. We have many friends in Australia. Everyone will be enjoying seeing him play here one last time."

Murali said his rubber-wristed action and ability to extend his right shoulder further than others - rather than any elbow kink - allowed him to spin the ball each way.

In Tests against Australia he has averaged four wickets a game, but they have cost him an expensive 36 runs apiece. Only against the Indians (average 32) has he been similarly expensive.

While he refused to rank in his top 10 even the very quick-footed like Michael Slater, who made a memorable double century against Murali in Perth during his first Test Down Under in 1995-96, he was more generous when comparing himself with local legend Shane Warne, the only Australian to take 700 Test wickets.

Murali said Warne was the superior bowler as wrist spinning was a more difficult art to perfect.

"We were neck and neck on the Test table for years," he said. "But I always felt Warnie was better as leg spin is so difficult. Your shoulder has to rotate more and for Shane to survive as long as he did was a tribute not only to his ability, but his tremendous stamina and competitiveness. He's the No.1, not me!"

Murali is now retired from Test cricket but is hoping to play in the upcoming World Cup from February.

He said his most memorable game, among many was the giantkilling World Cup win against the Australians at Lahore in 1996. "It was the greatest day in our (cricket) history," he said.

MUTHIAH MURALIDARAN'S 10 TOP BATSMEN

1. Brian Lara (WI)

2. Mohammad Azharuddin (India)

3. Sachin Tendulkar (India)

4. Navjot Sidhu (India)

5. Salim Malik (Pakistan)

6. Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pakistan)

7. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)

8. Graham Thorpe (England)

9. Jon Crawley (England)

10. Hansie Cronje (South Africa)

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