So, Murali announced his retirement. To write about him in a short column would be doing disservice to somebody who was everything to Sri Lankan cricket. He was everything in his career. We talk about a world beater, he started as a fast bowler, can be a nightmare to coach, is a nuisance to batsmen of your own team and was a great spinner. he simply is an unparelleled character.. Its not often you find all this embodied in one person.
Murali was fantastic with young players. He welcomed them and made them feel comfortable. He was a great team man. A man for all seasons. Oh and you ask him anything or even if he eavesdrop on a conversation he would have plenty to say. As we call it here amongst us he had his two cents to contribute….always. We are talking of a cricketer who has taken 792 test wickets and 600 plus ODI wickets. Need i say more?
Consider the number of overs, balls he has bowled for Sti Lanka. Willingly too. Not many around would do such with committment. He is a perfect role model for youngsters and those just entering the national team. A fantastic example.
I recall the tour to England in 91. Ara was captain and we got a solitary test at Lords.It was Murali’s first tour and my second. We were room mates. Murali brought with him a six inch thick brief case which had one cricket ball and his passport as his luggage. Someone had told him that England was going to be cold and he would not be able to spin. Sometime later in the night whilst i lay sleeping in the room (second floor) i felt a cold gush of wind and noticed that Murali had opened a window and was twirling the ball he had brought with his arm outside and grinning like a cheshire cat.” I am getting used to the cold” was all he said.
It was Mumtaz Yousuf who was the Manager on that tour who was also an off spinner but relied on line and length but not a turner. He took Murali to the ground and tried to get him to bowl “on a spot” Mumtaz also bowled along with him. Murali turned but Mumtaz didnt. So Murali asked Mumtaz, his Manager why he didnt turn the ball. He also said that when he turned the ball made a whizzing noise. Mumtaz too was a past master at his game and challenged Murali to bowl straight…”on a spot”. He couldnt!!
At the early stages Murali could only bowl off spin. he then developed the doosra. he bowled a leg spin and had one straight on much like a flipper. he could not bat but thought he could. he was a great trier.I recall in 2002 playing England in Galle. We had put up a big score and Murali was required to bat too. He hit Flitoff over the wicket keepers head for four a couple of times. Nasser Hussain the captain resorted to unusual field placings and placed a long bye to prevent the four over the keppers head. The very next ball Murali tried to block and was bowled. In the dressing room he was asked why he tried to block. His answer was hilarious. he said, that a fielder was placed to prevent his fours and he blocked!! he also threw barbs at the batsmen when they returned to the pavillion after dismissal.
Murali would be the first to thank Arjuna Ranatunge and the Board of that time for the support extended to him during the controversy. He had another side to him which most were not aware of. He helped people financially. His charities were mainly in the villages. He supported other cricketers financially and showed that one does not need to be in politics to do social work.he should be emulated.
Now that he would retire from Test cricket what happens to ODI’s. he has said he is available. Selectors would try youngsters against New Zealand, Australia, India and the West Indies before the World Cup. Some of these teams can handle spin and the youngsters need to impress early if not Murali would be needed again. To be on call he would have to play in the Provincial Tournament to be in good nick.
Heres a man who holds a world record and I was a bit surprised why he should get the blessings from anyone to retire. Murali was one of a kind and my best wishes go to him and also a big thank you for the entertainment .