World’s top wicket-taker Muraitharan to quit
Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muraitharan, the world's leading wicket taker and one of the finest exponents of spin bowling, today announced his retirement from Test cricket, bringing an end to a glittering career spanning 18 years. Amol Karhadkar reports.Updated: Jul 07, 2010 01:48 IST
Last month, Muttiah Muralitharan (38), gentleman cricketer, spinner extraordinaire, a player who divided the cricketing world like none other, but who also united Sinhala and Tamil Sri Lanka like none other, made a simple wish.
He wanted to add eight more wickets to his Test tally. It was a casually made remark, but in cricketing terms, it gave the world notice — a mindboggling statistic might be around the corner. After all, Murali already had 792 Test wickets.
Unfortunately, both for the stats-gurus and the legions of Muralitharan fans who have marvelled through the years as he left bowling record after record by the wayside, that 800 Test wicket milestone might be one cricketing frontier that will never be reached.
On Tuesday, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) announced that the ever-smiling Muralitharan, who beguiled master batsman and rookie alike with his extraordinary craft, would retire from Test cricket at the end of the first Test against India next week.
“The world’s leading wicket-taker and champion spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has decided to retire from Test cricket after the first Test in Galle versus India commencing 18th July, 2010,” SLC said on its website.
“Muralitharan has had discussions with the national selectors, SLC officials and has had the blessings of His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Minister of Sports, Hon C B Ratnayake.”
Muralitharan’s decision was surprising, what with him being so close to the 800-wicket mark. “We really didn’t expect it so soon, but one has to respect his decision,” an SLC official told the Hindustan Times from Colombo.
While Muralitharan remained unavailable for comment, a source close to him said that Murali made his mind up hours before talking it out with chairman of selectors Aravinda de Silva.
“He realised that his body could not manage a full series of three Tests,” said the source. “Plus, he desperately wants to play next year’s World Cup, so he thought this was the right time to bid farewell to Tests. And most importantly, he does not ever want to be dropped from the side. He wants to go out like a true champion -— with his head held high.”
Muralitharan, who has gracefully kept his counsel and let his off-break do the talking while vicious accusations of cheating because of his bent-arm action threatened a race divide in cricket, has not had a happy last 12 months on the field.
His bowling average in this period has dipped to well over 41 from the incredible 22.17 it is overall, while his strike rate is an ordinary 75, down from the career 55 that makes him part of an elite international club.
In fact, it is learnt that the catalyst behind Muralitharan’s decision to quit Test cricket was the strident criticism of former Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga.
Ranatunga, who stood behind Murali like a rock during the mid-1990s, when the off-spinner was accused of chucking, made his displeasure about the selectors’ persistence with Muralitharan known on a television show on Sunday night.
Murali, who has always respected his former captain, then apparently decided it was time to go.