Curtains on the Class of 90s

A glance at the list of all time leading wicket takers in the Test match arena will thoroughly substantiate the point that I will be making in this piece.

Updated: January 31, 2011 20:00 IST
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A glance at the list of all time leading wicket takers in the Test match arena will thoroughly substantiate the point that I will be making in this piece.

The list that has grown longer over the years, showcases the fact that the quickies have always had an upper hand over their 'spinning' counterparts and hence have been the dominant force in world cricket.

Barring a few mavericks who defied the norms (Underwood, Lance Gibbs et al), fast bowling was the preferred mode of annihilating the opponent for the English, Australians and West Indians, who were the major Test forces at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century.

And for the continuous cultivation of these 'hurling meteorites', what really was required was a conducive culture for fast bowling. And that came in the shape of the 22 yards marked on the cricket field as the pitch, which supported pacers all across the globe.

Spinners, especially the ones from the sub-continent though, were forever regarded as the skilled 'others', who were capable of springing surprises once in a while but not the all conquering greats.

Enter the last decade of the century and three men changed this perception forever.

Let it be Shane Keith Warne's ball of the century that made its way through the 'Gateway of Gatting', Anil Kumble's 'Perfect 10' at Kotla or Muttiah Muralitharan's towering records, the time had come for the tweakers to be taken seriously.

These three men ruled the roost for two decades and achieved what no other bowler had achieved before in their own unique way for their countries. And they along with Saqlain Mushtaq (who was never given the chance to do statistical justice to his talent), form The Class of 90s, who not only took the art of spin bowling to its pinnacle but also broke new barriers.

And their domination was not just restricted to spin friendly environs. Muttiah Muralitharan's exploits in England and West Indies are known to all, and the smiling assassin's ability to face every obstacle (read the chucking issue) with relative ease made his rise to greatness almost inevitable.

Kumble's relentless efforts formed the backbone of India's success at home and abroad in the late 90s and 2000s. Let it be limited overs cricket or the longer format, Kumble reinvented himself over and over again to render unmatched service to his team and was ready to take the backseat in the popularity charts behind his other illustrious colleagues.

Shane Warne has been hailed as the greatest spinner of all time and his all-encompassing genius has been acknowledged by his adversaries too. (This list may exclude a certain Daryl Cullinan though).

With Warne and Kumble already out of the international scene and Muralitharan also making his exit from Tests, the curtains have finally come down on the Class of 90s.

With a combined tally of 2127 wickets in Test matches, these three men own the top three slots of the revered list and it will take a humungous effort to outshine these greats.

But more than their records, what these men will be remembered for in the years to come will be the legacy they leave behind. A legacy that will ensure that even in this age of slam bang cricket, spinners will forever have a space of their own.

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