For a man who has over 1,000 international wickets in his kitty, a mediocre IPL is hardly something to be worried about. Muttiah Muralitharan’s wicket-taking spree might have diminished in the tournament, but what really defines the man is his competitive outlook towards each game and, of course, the smile at the end of every delivery.
His eight wickets in the competition have come at an unusual 43.92, but something the stats won’t reveal is that his bowling, especially in the post-powerplay, has been difficult to get away with.
So, does the high average mean a loss of form? “How can you say I have lost form?” Muralitharan reacted angrily when asked about his diminishing influence in the competition. “I cannot take wickets in four overs, no.”
Shane Warne might have gone on record saying that IPL T20 is as good an international format as any other form of cricket, but Muralitharan disagrees. “Its fun. Nothing more than that. Do you think you can call it proper cricket?” he asked. When reminded of the competitive nature of cricket played in the tournament, Muralitharan said, “I think we have to wait for two to three years and see. Maybe then, people might just take it seriously. Till then, I think it’s made for the crowd.”
After his national captain, Mahela Jayawardene told HT that he didn’t mind playing two IPL tournaments in a season, Murali echoed his views on the issue. “I am not averse to playing two IPLs in a season. It’s a great phenomenon and it’s fantastic to play in front of packed crowds. The public loves this format.”
Sri Lanka rested Murali in their recent trip to the West Indies. But, one man’s loss turned out to be another man’s gain. His absence gave promising youngster Ajantha Mendis a good opportunity. On his possible successor, Muralitharan said, “He seems to be a good bowler. I haven’t seen much of him, but with time, I am sure he can develop into a fine bowler.”
On his impending retirement, Muralitharan reiterated his desire to take it season by season. “I do not want to rush into anything, I will evaluate myself after every season and take it from there,” he said. The last time India toured Sri Lanka for a full Test tour in 2001, Murali topped the bowling charts with 23 wickets in three Tests. He wrecked the Indian batting-order regularly. This time though, the Indian Test team looks in great order after their exploits in Australia, and Murali believes that the hosts will be up for it. “We will give them a good fight. They have a good batting order and I am looking forward to a keen contest between bat and ball,” he said.
The interview is courtesy Reebok. Muralitharan, Jayawardene and Sanath Jayasuriya are Brand Ambassadors of Reebok in Sri Lanka.