Muralitharan’s Rise To The Top Of The World

On the occasion of the 48th birthday of the legendary Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, we are repeating his rise to the top of the international wicket taker charts using an animated graphic.

Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan made his international debut in August 1992. At that time, Indian all-rounder Kapil Dev was the most productive wicket-taker in the world, while Wasim Akram made rapid progress at the top of the table.


Interestingly, at that time there was not a single spinner among the ten best international wicket-takers. Between 1995 and 1997 major changes began, with fast-paced bowling titans like Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Waqar Younis rising in the ranks. In the meantime, Akram rose to number 1.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first spinner with the legendary Australian leg spinner Shane Warne broke into the top 10, marking a new era of spin dominance. At the end of 1999, the Indian leggie Anil Kumble reached the top 10 and in early 2000 Muttiah Muralitharan also started.

Until 2004, just a year after Akram’s resignation from international cricket, Muralitharan climbed to number 1 and overtook the Pakistani quick record of 916 wickets. In the seven years between then and his retirement, Muralitharan strengthened his place at the top and ended with astronomical 1,347 international wickets, 346 seconds before Warne.

Muralitharan’s Stats

  • Muralitharan holds the record for most wickets in Tests with around 800
  • He also remains the most prolific wicket-taker in ODIs with 534 scalps
  • He is the leading spin bowling wicket-taker in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cups and second overall with 68 wickets

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