The leading wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket has scoffed at suggestions Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon will get anywhere near his impressive record.
Retired Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan sits atop of the all-time Test wicket list with a staggering 800 scalps - a record that may never be eclipsed.
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To put Muralitharan's astonishing feat into perspective, the second best wicket-taker in Test history, Shane Warne, retired with 708 dismissals.
When asked whether he thinks any of the established crop of spinners, or the younger brigade coming through can surpass the 700-wicket barrier, Muralitharan said he thought India's Ravichandran Ashwin had a chance.
However, the Sri Lankan great was brutally dismissive of Nathan Lyon's chances.
“Ashwin has a chance because he is a great bowler,” Muralitharan told the UK Telegraph.
“Other than that, I don’t think any younger bowler coming in will go to 800.
“Maybe Nathan Lyon is not good enough to reach it. He is close to 400 but he has had to play many, many matches to get there.”
Heading into Friday’s fourth Test at the Gabba, 33-year-old Lyon has 396 wickets compared to 34-year-old Ashwin’s 377.
Muralitharan's comments are curious considering Lyon, at 33, is younger than the 34-year-old Ashwin but still has 19 more Tests wickets to his name.
Ashwin’s 377 Test scalps have come at an average of 25.53 runs and a strike rate of 54 balls, whereas Lyon's figures are slightly higher, with the Aussie averaging 31.98 and a strike rate of 63.9.
Warne backs Lyon to challenge Murali
While Muralitharan might not think Lyon is good enough to get close to the 700-wicket mark, Warne wrote in the Herald Sun recently that he believes the off-spinner could one day even challenge the Sri Lankan great.
“If he keeps himself injury free, I think he could easily go on and play for another five years,” Warne wrote.
“That’s approximately another 50 Tests, and if he continues to take four wickets per game, then that is another 200 – or maybe 250 if he has a golden five years – Test wickets.
“You put that on top of his 400 and he’s in the 600-650 wicket club at 38 years of age.
“And if he’s still going well then he might have a crack at me and Murali, which would be awesome to see.”
With no standout spinning candidate banging down the door to replace Lyon in Australia's Test side, Sydney Sixers spinner Steve O’Keefe slammed Muralitharan's analysis.
“Bull***t, Gaz will get 700 for sure”, he said on SEN radio.
“If you look at it, he’s going to have to work pretty hard to get there. But he’ll probably play 10-12 Tests a year, if he takes five a Test.
“A lot of those tours are going to the subcontinent where he’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting, he could do more.
“Is anyone close to him? Maybe some of the young leggies coming through (could take his spot in the Test team), but he could play for another four or five years and I reckon he’ll give it a real shake.”
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