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Clarke and Waqar salute `amazing` Murali

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-07-06 07:02:45

BIRMINGHAM: Australia`s Michael Clarke paid tribute to Muttiah Muralitharan after the prolific bowler announced on Tuesday his intention to retire from Test cricket, saying the Sri Lanka off-spinner was an "amazing player".

A Sri Lanka Cricket statement issued earlier Tuesday said the 38-year-old, affectionately known as Murali, had decided to quit Tests after the home series opener against India in Galle starting on July 18.

Muralitharan is the most successful bowler in international cricket history with record hauls in both Tests (792 wickets) and one-day formats (515).

Clarke, speaking after Australia`s 2-0 series losing 11-run defeat by Pakistan in the second Twenty20 international here at Edgbaston on Tuesday, joked Muralitharan`s decision was a reflection of the bowler`s belief in his ability to take the eight Tests wickets he needed for 800 in a single match.

"How many wickets has he got? 792. He`s confident then, one more Test.

"I think he is an amazing player," Australia`s Twenty20 captain added.

"Over a long period of time, statistics don`t lie," the top-order batsman insisted. "I think a lot of batters around the world will be very happy they don`t have to face him anymore.

"I guess on behalf of all Australia cricketers, and all Australian fans who`ve had the opportunity to watch him, congratulations are well and truly deserved. He`s been an amazing ambassador for Sri Lankan cricket and what a talent, what a career. I really hope he gets those eight wickets."

Murali has had an uneasy relationship with Australian cricket.

His unorthodox action has been a repeated source of controversy, especially in Australia where former prime minister John Howard once agreed Murali was a "chucker" when asked about the spinner`s bowling style.

It was a comment many believe played a part in Howard`s rejection last week by the International Cricket Council (ICC) board for the vice-presidency of the global governing body.

Murali`s action first came under the microscope when Australian umpire Darrell Hair called him for throwing during Sri Lanka`s tour Down Under in 1995-96, leading to repeated taunts of `no-ball` by Aussie fans every time he let go a delivery.

But it was bio-mechanical analysis at the University of Western Australia, requested by the ICC, which concluded Murali`s action created the "optical illusion of throwing".

Australian attitudes towards Muralitharan appear to have softened recently and Clarke said: "I think a lot of people have the utmost respect for him. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion but as an ambassador for Sri Lankan cricket he`s been amazing."

Clarke added the only bowler to compare with Murali, in his experience, was now retired Australia leg-spin great Shane Warne.

"His performances are as good as anybody, apart in my eyes from Warnie, who I think is the greatest bowler of my time.

"But he (Murali) is right up there and having the opportunity to face him has been great for my career, he`s been very tough. I`m `pleased` I guess I won`t have to face him in Test cricket again."

Pakistan coach Waqar Younis, who played against Muralitharan, said: "I don`t know how many wickets he`s got. Is it a million?

"He was a sheer talent and he is a smart cricketer," added Waqar, one of the best fast bowlers of his generation.

"The world is going to miss him. He`s been superb over the past two decades and unplayable -- it doesn`t matter where he plays."

"I really congratulate him for his superb career and wish him luck in life."

Although Murali`s Test career may be drawing to a close, he could still be playing one-dayers at next year`s World Cup, where Sri Lanka are one of three Asian co-hosts along with India and Bangladesh.

But Clarke said: "As long as I don`t have to face him again in Test cricket again, that`s a good start."

BDST: 0354hrs, July 7, 2010

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