Muttiah Muralitharan being the highest impact Sri Lankan ODI bowler is a ho-hum fact, of course. Muralitharan also makes it to the list of the top ten highest impact bowlers (10th place) in the history of ODI cricket. His consistency is unparalleled by any Sri Lankan bowler (lowest failure rate) and is also the third most consistent ODI bowler in the world (after Garner and McGrath). His Partnership Breaking IMPACT is also the second highest in the world (after Martin Snedden). Talking of his big match abilities, he has 5 SDs as a bowler which is also the highest for any spinner in the ODI format and the 5th best for any bowler, overall.
Although many would have expected Vaas to come in at the second place, Lasith Malinga pips him to the 2nd spot on the basis of his wicket taking ability (Wickets Tally IMPACT) for which he is well-known for. Malinga's role as a finisher in the ODI format can also be understood from the fact that he has the second-highest Lower Order Wickets IMPACT (dismissing batsmen from nos. 8-11) in the world (after Saqlain Mushtaq). It is also interesting to note that even though many consider Malinga as a highly restrictive bowler, his Economy IMPACT in the ODI format is actually in the negative zone.
Chaminda Vaas' popular image of being a highly consistent bowler is well brought out from the fact that he is actually the second most consistent bowler for Sri Lanka in the ODI format (after Muralitharan). His tally of 3 SDs as a bowler is also the highest by any Sri Lankan pacer and proves his legacy in the ODI format.
The emergence of Nuwan Kulasekara onto the international scene has been highly impressive and with the passage of time he has transformed himself into a genuine wicket-taking bowler for Sri Lanka during the opening overs. His new ball partnership with Malinga is one of the things to look out for in the near future and even though he has had a brief career of only 118 ODIs, he already has 2 SDs in his account which also shows his ability to perform in big-match situations.
Kumar Dharmasena is best remembered as a lanky off-spinner supporting Muttiah Muralitharan during Sri Lanka's '96 World Cup campaign and was one of the four spinners deployed by Sri Lanka during that phase. Dharmasena's crucial contributions often got camouflaged under Muralitharan's brilliance but his restrictive abilities along with his ability to break partnerships during the middle-overs made him the target-man for Ranatunga to go to. Even though his ODI career was limited to only 142 matches, he still has 2 SDs to his name which just goes on to show the value of his performances to the Lankan national team.
Even though players like Dilhara Fernando, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Zoysa and Upul Chandana have given performances from time to time for the Lankan national team, it is their inconsistency (relatively poor failure rates) as a bowler which has more often than not cost their place in the team. The four of them combined have only 2 SDs and even though they were always a part of the bigger picture (supporting Muralitharan, Vaas) they failed to step up individually as strike bowlers when required.
NOTE: If the cut-off is lowered to 50 matches (from 75), Ajantha Mendis (2.19) becomes the second-highest impact bowler for Sri Lanka in their history of ODI cricket. It is also baffling to see the selectors ignore him consistently for the national team despite his high impact performances.
The highest impact players in all bowling parameters are quite revealing.
When it comes to Top/Middle-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (wickets taken from nos. 1-7 in most cases), the highest impact bowlers are Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas.
Lower-order Wickets Tally IMPACT (batsmen nos. 8-11) - highest impact bowlers are Lasith Malinga, Muttiah Muralitharan and Upul Chandana.
The highest Economy IMPACT bowlers (lowest economy rates relative to all the matches in their careers) are Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Dharmasena.
The highest impact Partnership-breaking bowlers are Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena and Sanath Jayasuriya.
The bowlers with the highest Pressure Building IMPACT (taking quick wickets to put opposition under pressure) are Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof.
The bowlers with the lowest failure rate (a failure is seen in this system as an inability to register an IMPACT of even 1 in a match) are Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and Lasith Malinga.
Top 3 Bowling Innings (Series/tournament context):
1. BAW Mendis - 6 for 13 in 8 overs v India, Karachi, 2008 - Bowling IMPACT 8.71
After Jayasuriya had initially played a breathtaking knock of 125 runs to boost the Sri Lankan total to 275 runs, Mendis drove in all the final nails in the coffin to wrest away the initiative Sehwag had generated for India. With Sehwag going blitzkrieg at one end (60 off 36 balls) and India at 76-1 after 9 overs, Sri Lanka needed a break-through which was duly provided by Ajantha Mendis. He prised open the entire Indian middle-order alongwith the wicket of Sehwag and by the time he had finished India were tottering at 154-8 off 32 overs with their chances of winning the Asia Cup gone.
2. WPUJC Vaas - 5 for 14 in 9.3 overs v India, Sharjah, 2000 - Bowling IMPACT 7.73
Chasing 300, India had earlier been tormented by a Jayasuriya classic and to their misery and dismay had to endure the brilliance of Chaminda Vaas' bowling display in the second half. Vaas took out the Indian top four in his first spell of 4 overs to reduce them to 18-4 before coming back to finish off the match to give a thumping 245 runs victory to Sri Lanka.
3. M Muralitharan - 5 for 34 in 10 overs v England, London, 1998 - Bowling IMPACT 7.19
With England getting off to a solid start, thanks to their opening partnership of 132 runs between Nick Knight and Michael Atherton, Muttiah Muralitharan was brought into the attack to stifle the English batting line-up. He did more than that as he picked out 5 of the top 6 English batsmen and eventually restricted them to a total of 256 runs. In reply, Sri Lanka chased down the target with 5 wickets in hand and in the process sealed the Emirates Triangular Tournament in their favour.
The above performances are all within the series/tournament context. When it comes to a match context, Farveez Maharoof's 6-14 v West Indies (Mumbai, 2006) registers as the highest impact bowling performance in the history of Sri Lankan ODI cricket. Muttiah Muralitharan's 7-30 v India (Sharjah, 2000) and his 5-9 v New Zealand (Sharjah, 2002) are the second and the third highest impact bowling performances in a match context, respectively.
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