July 17, 2010

A captain's dream, a coach's nightmare

Murali's ability to take on the largest workloads and produce results, and his desire to constantly improve himself were fundamental to the sort of bowler he was

When I first came into the national side, Muttiah Muralitharan was the player I was closest to, because he was the youngest of the lot, along with Chaminda Vaas.

My first memory of Murali is of this man who made it comfortable for new players. Even today, when new players come into the team he is the first one to take them out for meals when on tour, and makes sure that they settle quickly. Murali has many qualities, but this is what I admire the most. He has been consistent with it throughout his career.

Murali will speak to anybody, even in the opposition. Ask any cricketer around the world, and they will say Murali is a very friendly cricketer. When you are playing a big game against some team, you just say hello to the opposition players, but not Murali. He makes sure he has a decent chat with them.

Only when it comes to bowling does he get serious. Before he goes onto the field to bowl, he is a bit quiet. That's about the only time he's not talking. When he is batting, when he is relaxed, he can't stop talking. A lot of guys try and stay away from him when travelling because if you get Murali sitting next to you, you won't be able to sleep. He is one of the guys you have to have in the dressing room to keep the buzz going, to keep it lively. He sometimes talks nonsense, but he is one of the players you need to have. We will definitely miss the lively character who always had everyone smiling, laughing.

It has not always been easy for him to keep smiling. I remember he had been called in Australia for the second time, hours before I played my first major innings in international cricket. He was really disappointed, but he came back well - he was the one who scored the winning runs. After the game he was happy, but I know for a fact that underneath he was disappointed that he had been called again. But that's Murali: he will be down for a little while but not for long. He has tremendous will power to overcome that kind of situation.

Murali put out of his mind things he couldn't control and just went about doing his job. He never said he wouldn't get another test done on his action. Everywhere the ICC wanted him to go and test himself, he went and tested himself. He proved that he had a slight disability, and subsequently a unique action. It has nothing to do with him cheating. He was born like that and he became a bowler like that.

Murali didn't have anything to hide, he knew he wasn't doing anything wrong. That's why he wasn't angry with anybody, that's why he hasn't been bitter, that's why he has always enjoyed his cricket.

A lot of guys try and stay away from him when travelling because if you get Murali sitting next to you, you won't be able to sleep

It is the desire to win that has kept him going through the toughest of times. He loves to win matches, he loves to perform well. He doesn't want to take five or 10 wickets and lose a match. He wants to win that match and every match. He is a winner.

For a captain, Murali has been an absolute dream. We are fortunate to have had him with us for so many years. He has been our main bowler; he has taken that pressure on himself and won matches for us single-handedly. He has never complained; he would bowl his heart out for an astonishing number of overs - 35-40 or more - in a Test match innings, and just keep going. And it wasn't just about the workload he shouldered. You knew you just had to throw the ball to Murali and he was going to create something for you: he had that ability to always pick up the wickets.

For a coach, he was an absolute nightmare. He is one of the hardest workers I have seen, not only in the nets but in terms of extra bowling sessions. He calls coaches up at odd hours and wants them to come out and help with bowling. When he is with the coaches, he bowls a lot, but when he is not with them, he can be a real handful.

He worked hard on his doosra with Bruce Yardley when Bruce was our coach. Murali found out that because he had to use the wrist rather than the finger, he didn't have as much control as he would have liked. He couldn't use it in a match for at least six months. Over a period of time he even managed to get it to go the other way as well, which is phenomenal.

Murali will be remembered as a cricketer who came from off the beaten track, did something really special with a lot of humility and hard work, went through a lot of turbulent situations and emerged stronger. He just didn't get rattled, didn't do anything crazy, and he had the discipline to get through. He will be an inspiration for future players who are out of the ordinary - born with a similar deformity or whatever you call it.

Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene is the country's leading Test run-scorer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Colin on July 20, 2010, 9:40 GMT

    I don't want to enter into the debate as to whether he did or he didn't, the authorities declared his action lawful so accept that fact. For many years he has been a great player and entertainer who many of us have enjoyed watching. He has been a character who has shown a tremendous passion for the game and the game has benefited by his presence. Murili, have a happy retirement, I have enjoyed you.

  • Kasun on July 20, 2010, 4:59 GMT

    For all the Aussies who cry out saying the 15 degrees rule was brought into accommodate Murali's Doosra, you better know that Macgrath,Gillespie and Lee also has a bend more than 10 degrees.The rule was brought in because many of your so called perfectionists were like that.Read your facts before opening your mouths just to cry out stupid arguments.And thing about Shane,he had great talent, but he will never be the great cricketer Murali is because,Murali didn't take any drug from his mother to help him play cricket.IF you know what I mean.Guys get a life.No matter how hard you cry,you cannot deny the truth.Aussies are the people who introduced sledging to International Cricket.SO what else can we expect from people like them...

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 14:20 GMT

    A chucker is nightmare for game

  • Moiz on July 19, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    I dont understand what problem do ppl have with Murali. He is the best. I dont care whether he chucked or not, but he was allowed to play...he bowled within the rules of cricket. And if ppl have problem with him taking wicket while chucking then they should understand that bowling is an art. No matter how you throw the ball, its the variety you bowl with, the fear you create in the batsmen and the respect you receive from them at the end of the day. If people have prblem with Murali they should have problem with all the batsmen who go out in the middle and simply slog. If this were to happen, only Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Steve Waugh, Ponting, Brian Lara, Inzi, Border, Viv Richards and a few other would be called the real batsmen and others like Sehwag, Dhoni, Hayden, Symonds would simply be disregarded. But its the sheer power hitting and scoring runs that have earned them respect.

  • Irfan on July 19, 2010, 5:53 GMT


  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 4:30 GMT

    @ maddy - never heard aussies saying anything about Kumble or Bedi or Chandra or Quadir or Mushtaq or any other SL spinner with a clean action...so get real! The arm ext was allowed upto 15 degree under BCCI pressure to accommodate Murali. Murali could do that under test conditions but in a real match he easily went over that limit but the umpires were not allowed to call him.

    @Chamal - I'm not playing the sport at international level, Murali is. So comparing him with me is ridiculous. My 5 year old son bowls many different deliveries and, yaa, with a perfect action.

    @ others - Racism was not the reason. Murali actually CHUCKED. It is clear from naked eyes, such bowlers are not allowed even in club cricket. Warne's maybe bowling with a different trajectory like Malinga...but he never chucked. SL greatest cricketer remains Aravinda De Silva who won his beautiful country a world cup and made them word class. Never heard anything racial against him when he was taking bowlers to cleaners

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 4:05 GMT

    Lankans are not in the mind set to agree that he is chucking. But that's the fact.. need to admit. Shane warne is the real spin revolution.

  • V.L on July 18, 2010, 15:38 GMT

    @Rachna It is surprising that you don't know this whole chucking thing is just a controversy. Since Aussies can't play spin they try to do everything possible to undermine spinners. If you are not aware of this ICC has revised the angle of arm from 5-> 15 degrees!

  • Gihan on July 18, 2010, 13:35 GMT

    A fantastic account of the real Murali, I agree with Mahela that Murali never got angry with the remarks made by a few disgruntled persons who have not performed anywhere near Murali's level, Bishen Bedi comes to mins as a bowler who was never star class he got all his wickets due to the excellent close in fielding of Solkar, that is why he has joined the Aussies and carried out a mud campaign, the Aussies of course should be treated with sympathy, they need to project Warne asthe best, they will never allow an Asian to get this tag. on the otrher hand such great cricketers like Gavaskar, Ravi Shartri, Ian Chappel,Richie Benaud, Ian Botham, Wassim Akram etc: have rightly stood by Murali. how can the other stupids compare with these gentlemen who are accepted as the authorities on all forms of cricket. All right thinking fans should condemn theses jealous stupids who are still after Murali. Afterall the recent scientific findings is that Warne bowls with a bigger bent arm than Murali

  • Rakesh on July 18, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    Murali is a person wid a lot of character. One can c him smiling even wen he gets out regardless in what position the team is in. I hav never seen him keeping his mouth shut while batting.... with d opponent bowlers, umpires, fielders and even with d keeper behind the wicket. Apart from that senseless controversy about his action, he hasnt involved in any o the oder controversies or miss behaving wid oder players, sledging..etc. Probably he is the most talkitiv cricketr(on n off the field) 2 hav d career span of 18-19yrs(widout sledging or anythng similar 2 tht)!!!!!!!!!!! His eyes and spinning wrist was more than enough 2 create terror on the batsman's mind!!!!!!!! Your name vil stay on top till d game ends on dis planet.... Hatss off to u, Murali!!!!!!!!!! But we really miss you in test matches!!!!!!!

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