The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Excessive pad-play amuses Murali

Kandy: Test cricket’s third-highest wickettaker Muttiah Muralidharan says he is amused to see batsmen adopting ball-kicking tactics against spinners.

“It’s amusing to see batsmen come to the middle to show their ball-kicking ability,” Muralidharan said on Thursday, lamenting the practice of pads increasingly becoming a first line of defence for batsmen facing spinners.

“One always starts with the concept of cricket being contest between bat and ball, but somehow the pads use as a form of defence is increasing,” said the spinner.

“The rules give advantage to the batsmen, they can keep kicking the ball away and still stay at the wicket,” he said. “Such negative tactics are making it tougher for spinners to claim wickets.”

Muralidharan said the influx of technology had given the batsmen the advantage of analysing spinners by repeatedly studying videos before formulating strategies to counter them.

“It’s not becoming any easier bowling to batsmen who have worked you out,” he said. “Ask any spinner like Shane Warne, it’s harder now ... The video analysis are playing a big part.

“But videos can only help you study a spinner, they can’t help you score runs. Batsmen mostly learn to tackle spinners in a negative way.”

In recent years, many batsmen had adopted the low-risk strategy of thrusting their pads out to smother Muralidharan’s prodigious spin.

Some New Zealand batsmen used the ploy during the 0-0 drawn Test series, but Muralidharan still got 13 dismissals in the series to boost his tally to 450 wickets from 80 Tests. Only West Indian pacer Courtney Walsh (519) and Australian leg-spinner Warne (491) have more wickets in Test cricket’s 125-year history.

Fleming led the New Zealand defiance against Muralidharan with unbeaten knocks of 274 and 69 in the first Test in Colombo, but the ace off-spinner said it didn’t frustrate him.

“Look at the way the New Zealand batsmen played. They managed to defend, but the approach was negative. They weren’t positive against me,” Muralidharan said.

“These tactics did not ruffle me. I knew before the tour they were preparing to block me and try scoring against other bowlers.”

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