For those ignorant of cricket (here's looking at you, Yankees!), Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidaran (sometimes spelt Muralitharan) are generally considered to be the two best spinners of all time. But who's better?
On the Roar, an Australian sports website, there was an article about this. It pointed out Murali's superior statistics. He had more wickets (800 V 708) (from less games), more 5 wicket hauls (67 V 37), more 10 wickets in a match (22 V 10), a better average (22 V 25) and a better strike rate (55 V 57). The article asked why then is Warne always picked in the best ever teams?
Then came the comments. The largely Australian readership were naturally picking their man Warne.
Consistently they pointed out Murali's dodgy bowling action. Apparently he's a chucker. When testing was done, it found that he sometimes chucked the ball. But guess what? That study revealed that most bowlers chucked the ball (though to a lot less degree that Murali). So if that's enough to disqualify Muralidaran from the 'all time greats' discussions, then most other bowlers would have to be ignored too. So their first argument is invalid.
Another key anti-Murali point was that many of his matches were against "minnows" Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Again, this is silly. In all but one series during Warne's career, the English cricket side were hopeless. Just as bad as Zimbabwe. Yet Warnie doesn't get his statistics questioned.
Apparently Murali could only perform on the dustbowls of Asia. But stats reveal that the duo have very similar averages in New Zealand, South Africa and England. Murali's stats get bloated in Australia, but Warne's are bloated in the West Indies. So outside of Asia, Warne is not better.
The next point is tricky. It's the lone wolf V wolf pack theory. Murali was very much the "lone wolf." Apart from Vaas, he had no quality bowlers to work with. He had to create all the pressure. He had to create the wickets. Warne was in the wolf pack. He was constantly surrounded by quality bowlers - Lee, McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz... When he came on the opposition was under pressure. There would be a bowler at the other end keeping the stress on. No one is sure how to judge the star player from each approach. The lone wolf should capture more wickets, but have a higher strike rate and average. In the pack, the players should get less wickets, but at better strike rates and averages.
The Australian public were somehow trying to use this to claim Warne's superiority. Due to the quality surrounding him, he got less wickets than he could have had. If Murali was in that Australian team, they claimed, he would not have the record for most test wickets. But, if he was in that team, then his average and strike rate would improve so much that it Murali's superiority would be confirmed.
All in all, the quality of the players are very similar, though Murali just edges in front. The clincher is that Warne is a convicted drugs cheat. So Muralidaran wins. He's the greatest spinner of all time!