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At 38, he could have played on

The truth is that despite being 38, he could easily have played on successfully at the highest level for another couple of years. However, I am not surprised he has called time on his career, writes Mahela Jayawardene.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2010 23:25 IST
Mahela Jayawardene

All good things have to come to an end and, sadly for cricket lovers, today marks the beginning of the end for a true champion: Muttiah Muralitharan.

During the last 19 years, Murali has dominated the game and, through the last decade, I have watched him first-hand, standing at first-slip for hundreds of overs.

His record is astonishing. There have been other bowlers who have been as prolific as him, but none have been so consistent and lasted such a long time. It's hard to imagine life without him.

Murali is a winner. No matter whether playing a Test match, a warm-up game of football or snooker at the end of the day, he is fiercely competitive.

That unrelenting desire to win drove him to where he is today and it also dragged the Sri Lanka team upwards. Under his guidance, we also learnt to be winners.

His competitive instinct made him evolve as a bowler over the years. You have to work hard in international cricket and he kept learning new tricks. The doosra, painstakingly developed, was the most dramatic, but there were several other refinements in his game, include the art of drifting the ball, better use of the crease and mastering an attack from around the wicket.

However, all the variations, both subtle and dramatic, only worked because he was phenomenally accurate.

It may seem boring but that was perhaps his most valuable asset: the ability to land the ball exactly where he wants nine times out of ten.

It is a skill he learnt from thousands of hours of spot bowling. Even this week, 19 years on, his preparation has been the same with him bowling to an imaginary batsman.

The truth is that despite being 38, he could easily have played on successfully at the highest level for another couple of years. However, I am not surprised he has called time on his career.

He has been talking about it for a while and he was determined to leave at the right time. So, it hasn’t come as any surprise to me.