Muralitharan targets Tendulkar in Tests
"Sachin is the best batsman in the world along with Brian Lara and it is always a big task when you play against them," Muralitharan, who has 568 wickets in 96 matches since his debut in 1992, said before the team's departure for the three-match series. "I enjoyed the battle in the recent one-dayers but the Tests are the ultimate challenge."
Sri Lanka were thrashed 6-1 by India in the one-day series earlier this month with Muralitharan missing the last two matches because of a hamstring injury. "It is unfortunate that we have not played a Test series in India since 1997 and I have not bowled to Sachin in a five-day match since then," said Muralitharan. "I was looking forward to bowling to him when India toured Sri Lanka in 2001, but Sachin couldn't make the trip due to injury. I am really pumped up for the series ahead."
Muralitharan, Test cricket's second most successful bowler behind Australian Shane Warne, is one of only three players in the squad to have played a Test in India before. Chaminda Vaas, the left-arm fast bowler and Marvan Atapattu, Sri Lanka's captain, are the other two. "India used to depend a lot on Sachin but now there are others like Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman who have a proven record and it is going to be a tough series for us," he said. "We have never won a Test in India so our focus is on setting the record straight. Our side has a lot of experience and if we play to potential we can win this time."
The spinner cautioned it would not be easy to dominate Indian batsmen, who are good players of spin bowling. "It is funny to notice that most spinners like to go to India but many of them don't perform well there. We will really need to work hard and learn to be patient," he said.
The Sri Lankan squad includes two other slow bowlers in the uncapped left-arm spinner Sajeeva Weerakoon and leg-spinner Malinga Bandara. The first Test will be played at Chennai from December 2-6, followed by the second in New Delhi (Dec 10-14) and the third in Kanpur (Dec 18-22).