The number 800 on the Sri Lanka Premier League jersey says it all. After all, only spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan can boast of being the highest wicket-taker in both Tests (800) and one-day Internationals (534). The Uthura Rudras' icon player in the ongoing SLPL, in a lazy Wednesday morning interview, has his say on the tournament, friends Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, and life after 20 years of international cricket. Excerpts:
The SLPL has finally taken off. What is your take on it in comparison with the Indian Premier League?
The IPL is strong, but the SLPL has had a good start. We have good players participating here. The only disappointment is that there hasn't been much of a crowd. With the World T20 starting soon after the league, the fans are probably saving money for those matches. Sri Lanka is not a big money country. People can't afford to pay for the SLPL as well as the World T20.
How have your preparations been for the league?
SLPL happened suddenly. So I trained at Gloucestershire for a while to be able to play here. But for the IPL, I was prepared. If Royal Challengers Bangalore retain me for the next year, I will go to Australia to train. I've been playing less since retirement. One needs to keep the motivation level high to be able to get the form back. I'm 40 years old! (smiles)
After you retired, Sri Lankan cricket has been undergoing a transition…
It takes time to rebuild. The transition is never a quick dash to the finish. The team has been rebuilding keeping the 2015 World Cup in mind.
Who is the current best spinner in the world?
Saeed Ajmal of Pakistan.
His famous teesra?
(Laughs) I really don't know. Ask him! I believe in bowling only two ways.
Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Your take.
Sachin's one of the best cricketers in the world. Whatever his mind says, he should do. He's playing well, so let him play! After all, India will be demoralised when he's gone. Lara was a very good player of off-spin. In 2001, I remember he made over 600 runs, though we won the home series 3-0.
The difference between the two?
When Sachin was younger, he was more of an attacker. But as he matured, he became more consistent. He learnt how to stand up and play. Lara, on the other hand, is a dangerous opponent. He won't allow you to bowl; he'll always attack and take his chances.
The WT20 to be held in September, don't you secretly wish you were playing in front of your home crowd?
Mahela (Jayawardene) had asked me, but for me, if you're retired, you've retired. Youngsters pin their hopes on these tournaments to shine. I don't play domestic cricket anymore. So, it will be selfish on my part to go and play. I don't want to spoil the image I have by going back to international cricket. I have the memories and a satisfying end to my career. What else could I ask for?
The writer's trip has been sponsored by Uthura Rudras