21 Oct 2022 | 09:19 AM

Ashwin peerless in red-ball cricket, India have depth in white-ball: Muralitharan

The Sri Lanka legend explains why someone of the calibre of Ravichandran Ashwin struggles to make it to India's playing XI in white-ball matches

Sri Lankan bowling great Muttiah Muralitharan says the quality and depth in Indian cricket's white ball eco-system is so good that the country has created an unimaginable talent pool in T20 format.

The owner of 800 Test wickets and the greatest off-spinner of all times made his point with an observation that a bowler of the calibre of Ravichandran Ashwin struggles to make it to India's playing XI in white-ball matches.

Ashwin, who is closing in on 450 Test wickets, is back in the white ball mix after being in the wilderness in shorter formats for more than three years.

"There are too many quality options in Indian cricket system. There is very stiff competition among the top Indian spinners in white ball cricket," Murali told PTI in an interview organized by the Legends League Cricket (LLC).

"In red-ball cricket, there isn't much competition as Ashwin is on top. He is peerless. The moment we turn to T20, because of IPL, we get to see too many talented options as there are so many matches being played. That certainly speaks about depth of Indian cricket.

"So when you get an option to compare his exploits with others and the opportunities to play T20Is get shared."

One of the greatest exponents of doosra (the wrong 'un), Murali never compromised on his core strength which was a big off-break that he could turn at right angles taking the track out of equation.

So are off-spinners using too many carrom balls in white ball cricket? 

"You can't bowl just carrom balls. You have to mix it up. Even during our times, we used floaters with conventional off breaks. You can't bowl the same ball again and again as batters tend to read you well. To stay on top, you need to have enough variations in your bowling."

Off-spinners vs left handers? Murali wants flexibility

Since the advent of T20 leagues across the globe, the cricketing term that has been in vogue is the word "match-ups" -- a specific skilled player pitted against an opposition player of another skill.

Like an off-spinner up against left-handers. Murali, though, doesn't believe in that concept.

"Never believe this concept that an off spinner will only be effective when a left handed batter is in operation. That's not the kind of mindset you should have when you go out there. Even if there is a right hander batting, you should have skills to get him out. The skipper should also show a lot of belief that his off spinner could do the job."

Finger spinners will never go out of fashion in T20Is

During the Ravi Shastri-Bharat Arun era, one saw the advent of "Kul-Cha", the two wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who did enjoy a fair degree of success before both suffered a slump in form. There were talks whether finger spinners were going out of fashion. Ask Murali and he would emphatically deny such theories.

"Spinners will always remain special bowlers in T20 cricket. All these T20 leagues won't be what they are if there were no quality spinners in each team. Finger spinners, if you mean off spinners, will never go out of fashion in T20 cricket."

A good leg-spinner needs a good captain in order to blossom but does the same hold true for an off-break bowler? "I won't say a good off-spinner would always need a good captain. A captain has to think about all 11 players, including him, but primary requisite of an off spinner will always be talent."

A tournament win can't heal wound of a nation

Sri Lanka recently won a major trophy in Asia Cup after a gap of eight years. While Murali believes that Sri Lankan players have every right to celebrate the success, he doesn't believe that a sporting victory can heal the scars of what his country went through due to collapse of democracy.

"I wouldn't say a victory in a cricket tournament can heal the wounds of a nation. Sport is different and nation is different. Just like every nation goes through rough times, our cricket also went through a bad patch and is now going in right direction."

He refused a comparison between the current team with past the ones when he was an active players. "In our era, we won a lot of games and subsequently lot of tournaments like World Cup, Asia Cup and lot of trophies. For us, Asia Cup was another Cup. But I must say, for this team, pushed back by everyone, winning after 8 years is a great thing."

As far as Dasun Shanaka's captaincy is concerned, he termed him as a "good captain". But as he signed off, he didn't forget to add that "a captain is as good as his team".

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