Soon after his record-breaking feat, Muttiah Muralitharan took time off to interact with the media, and HT was there on the phone. He answered questions on the moment, life and beyond. Excerpts:
How do you feel after setting the world record? When did you feel you had it in the bag?
It was a special moment for me. I am glad it came before my home crowd. I always believed that whoever will wait longer (between him and Shane Warne) will have the record. It was not until 2-3 years ago, till this race started. But, the day Warne stopped, I thought I would cross him. So if he was still playing, it would have been difficult.
Who do you think among the current bowlers has the chance of breaking it?
If Anil Kumble plays for a longer time, he can get the record.
Which batsman played you the best? Which one in particular?
I enjoyed bowling to some of the best batsmen to have ever played the game. Of the lot, Brian Lara was a tough batsman to bowl against. And we also played regularly during the period. Australia played me well and so did the Indians and the Pakistanis. Apart from them, I thought Andy Flower was one of the most difficult batsmen to bowl against. He was exceptional against me and other spinners.
You broke your own record you set in Harare. Which one is more special?
Every wicket is very good for me. I just love taking wickets and I enjoy each one of those 710 wickets. Yes, I got the record for the first time in Harare in 2004, when I got the 520th wicket and it is indeed another special moment for me.
How does it feel to get the record before your home crowd?
This was a very, very special moment for me. I broke the record in front of my wife, my family, my cousins and old school friends. This ground has always given me special memories, right from the time I started playing cricket at the age of 15. We used to have the Kandyan rivalry between my school (St. Anthony College) and the Trinity College. I was not bothered about it not happening in Australia. This had to happen here.
Any retirement plans just yet?
Not really. I love bowling a lot for Sri Lanka. I want to take one season at a time and look forward to the next season. But when you don't enjoy the game anymore, you feel like quitting. But, nothing of that as of now.
How much do you owe to Ranatunga?
Arjuna was my first Test captain. I owe a lot to him. He defended me through difficult times in Australia after the Boxing Day affair, protected me a lot. And of course, he did a great job by winning the World Cup. That's bigger than this record. And if you ask me, he is my favourite captain.
What do you think about the present match status ?
We are leading by 80 runs, with 8 wickets in hand. We have two of our set batsmen at the wicket and if we can set a 300-run target, I am sure it will be easy to defend.
What do you think about the nature of the wicket in this Test match?
The wicket has just got slower and slower. It is not easy to bat freely. The cracks are opening up and batting last will be tough.