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🧡🔶SRH Fans Thread | Orange Army | IPL17 | 2024🔶🧡


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In Hyderabad, Hemant Brar can't walk away from an enthralling scene unfolding in the nets. He recounts:

Sunrisers Hyderabad's practice session is almost over. I'm about to leave when I see Muttiah Muralitharan tossing the ball from his one hand to the other.

Murali bowls to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and beats him. He responds by clutching his head as though he'd missed a chance to add to his 1347 international wickets.

Rashid Khan (standing near the bowler's run-up) to Murali: "You're getting slower every year. Last year you were quicker than this."

Murali smiles.

From my position parallel to the bowling crease, I've noticed all the bowlers - including the net bowlers - have been overstepping regularly, sometimes even by a foot. Murali? Every delivery has his heel behind the crease.

Murali comes to bowl again. My eyes are fixed on him, trying to decipher if he has actually slowed down.

Murali: "Gottim!"

I've completely missed what happened at the other end, but apparently Murali has his man.

Now it's Rashid facing Murali. Shahbaz Nadeem stands next to Murali, watching this masterclass but it's too close. "Macha, side please," Murali says. "That's my angle."

Murali bowls. It's a tossed up offbreak; the batsman defends. The next delivery looks like a doosra. Rashid goes back and punches it uppishly towards point.

Murali: "That's a four."

It looked like as if Rashid didn't middle this so I ask Murali. "Yes, he hit it well," he says.

Murali (to Nadeem? "I will try to get him lbw. (Announcing loudly? "Around the wicket."

It's a quicker one, pitching on middle and leg. Rashid just manages to get his bat down in time. Ten years ago, this would have fetched Murali a wicket but he is almost 47 now. And Rashid turned 20 last September.

Murali (to Nadeem? "It's difficult to bowl quick now."

The next delivery is a doosra, once again bowled from around the wicket. Rashid has picked it, he goes back and defends on the off side.

I cannot help asking Murali what pace he thinks he is bowling at. "Very slow," he replies with his trademark smile.

It's now almost 6.00pm. Tom Moody asks Murali how long they plan to continue.

"Four-five minutes more and then we wrap up."

Now they are playing out scenarios.

Murali: "Two runs needed off one ball."

Rashid: "What's your field?"

Murali (gestures towards short third man, point, covers and long-off? "Four on the off side, five on the leg side."

He bowls a quicker one from around the wicket. Rashid goes for a reverse sweep; he's late on the shot but gets a top edge that would have gone over the wicketkeeper's head.

Murali: "That's a four, you win."

Chorus from onlookers: "He [Rashid] got lucky! One more time."

Murali: "Okay, once more. How many now?"

Rashid: "Six off one."

Murali: "That's easy for me. I can walk to the crease and bowl."

He goes over the wicket and bowls a fuller one on the stumps. Rashid attempts a slog sweep but gets an inside edge on to the pads and the ball rolls on the off side.

Murali: "Okay, last one. How many?"

Nadeem: "Two."

Murali switches to around the wicket once again. A length ball on the stumps, maybe a doosra as well. Rashid looks to go aerial, in the direction of midwicket but ends up skying it straight. The ball hits the roof of the nets.

Murali: "That was a simple catch for me."

Rashid signals a six. Everyone knows no way it was going that far, but Murali is happy to concede. "Okay, six for you, macha," he says.

The nets are over. Everyone is walking back. I've just observed the master from as close quarters as possible. And I'm thinking, five years after his last competitive match, at the age of 47, it's still not easy to score against Murali.


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