by Amarnath Paul
"Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records" – William A. Ward
From the moment Muralitharan entered the arena of cricket he has been an awesome competitor. He worked tirelessly to get to the top and put his heart and soul into the game he so loved. Unexpectedly, he then had to battle the unjust and vitriolic accusations of umpires and other great pundits and some retired players who accused him of chucking, followed by the ugly chants of Australian crowds.
This kind of unforeseen combat to prove his credibility for a prolonged period, made the little master of spin even more resilient and strong. His endurance and courage to stand up to international criticism and suspicion of his bowling action is truly amazing. Finally with the help of Australian specialists themselves and their technical expertise the legitimacy of his bowling was proved to the Australian critics and the rest of the world. Thereafter, the modest Murali super charged with more confidence than before, enjoyed the glory and plaudits that came his way with the icing on the cake being the crowning achievement of becoming the spinner who took the most number of wickets in the world, in Test cricket.
Being the best in the world instantly attracts contract deals and other lucrative offers to a man who deserves it all. But, when I read the sports page of The Island two days ago, it took me by complete surprise that Australia of all countries had wanted him as coach to Brisbane’s prestigious centre of excellence! Indeed the wheel has come one circle, and what a slow, gruelling circle it has been for the Smiling Assailant!
After Arjuna Ranatunga retired in 2001, Sri Lanka were again scheduled to play Australia in Australia and the former captain who stood by Murali in times of adversity, advised his ex team mate, Murali, (with good intentions of course) not to go on that particular tour, fearing the aggressive taunt of the Australian spectators, although his bowling action was cleared by ICC in 1996. As a non professional cricket enthusiast I was of the opinion he must go to allay any further rumblings from his detractors, especially the antagonistic Aussie crowds. Finally, he did go, and came back, smarter, taller, grittier and happier than ever before! And, if I am not mistaken some of the banners carried by Australian crowds, read, "We Love You Murali" !
Whether Murali takes the Australian assignment or not, I wish this unassuming gentleman of cricket the very best in everything he does, especially at the forthcoming world cup which would be his swan song. May he have a happy and satisfying closing chapter to his international game of cricket. Whether he walks out of this World Cup with roses and jasmines strewn around him or not, he will remain a legend. A Sri Lankan Icon loved by people of all walks of life, here and abroad. We will not see the likes of him for a long, long time on the world arena of cricket, I am sure.
My present thinking is that the Ministry of Sports should set up a school of excellence for spin bowling and entice the great master to be in charge, before someone else grabs his expertise and above all his honorable and graceful approach to playing the game of cricket in an era where too many players around the world rubbish the game by their pathetic display of hooliganism.