Australia have struggled to fill the void left by Shane Warne, India doesn’t have a replacement for Anil Kumble and Sri Lanka is bracing itself for the time Muttiah Muralitharan calls it a day.
The trio formed a trinity of modern spinners and the 2011 World Cup will be the Lankan off-spinner’s last roll of the dice in international cricket. While the island nation has thrown up names like Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv, there’s no doubt Murali’s departure will leave a vacuum.
“I don’t think my retirement should be a concern for Sri Lanka because our conditions assist in producing spinners. But it’s difficult to get one like me because of the sheer number of wickets I have taken in comparison to others,” Muralitharan told the HT.
It’s not as though Murali is gloating about his achievements, but certainly the clock is ticking for the offie. “I have played enough and have nothing more to achieve. I already have records in both one-day and Test cricket. It’s just that I want eight more scalps to make it 800 wickets in Tests. It’s a personal target,” Muralitharan said.
While Murali’s days with Lankan cricket are numbered, the offie plans to be in action elsewhere for some time yet. “I have quite a few offers from county cricket and next year I will definitely go and play somewhere. I am also planning to play in the T20 leagues abroad after retirement,” he said.
A groin injury forced the 38-year-old to return mid-way through the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean and he was rested for the tri-series in Zimbabwe. But Murali didn’t sit idle. “I utilised the time to keep myself in shape for the Asia Cup. I will treat it as a preparatory tournament before the World Cup,” he said.
The offie is a fighter to the core and even in the sunset of his career he has set a target for himself. “Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996. I will be the happiest if I can end my international career with another Cup win under my belt. My effort will be to take Sri Lanka to the finals at least. Anything short will rankle forever.”
The spinner ruled out full-time coaching, for the moment at least. “I want to play some more cricket in other countries. Maybe a few years later I will think about it, but not in permanent capacity.”