Muttiah Muralitharan interview December 3, 2007

'No spinner has Warne's thinking power'

Charlie Austin caught up with Muttiah Muralitharan after the spin wizard reclaimed the record for most Test wickets from Shane Warne

On top of the world: Muttiah Muralitharan is ecstatic at reclaiming the record from Shane Warne © AFP

How special was it to break the record in Kandy?
Very special, and a big relief as I didn't expect to get it in the first innings. I bowled pretty well on the first day and today they put up a hard fight. Finally I achieved it. It could not have worked out better for me really. This is my hometown and a place I really love. My family was here and lots of friends. The people of Kandy have always been really supportive of me and they really appreciate their cricket. Over the years there have several special memories at Asgiriya but this is definitely the sweetest.

Tell us about the delivery - was it the doosra or top spinner?
Actually, it was the off break and was supposed to turn into his pads. But the ball was newer and it skidded straight on. I guess I was lucky.

How does this compare to breaking the record the first time in Zimbabwe in 2004, when you overhauled Courtney Walsh?
Breaking the world record a second time is more important to me than the first time. I always said whoever plays longer will have the record. He [Shane Warne] stopped after the Ashes in 2006-07, I continued to play. This one will be there for some time ... unless, of course, Anil Kumble can break it, if he plays more than me. Otherwise it will be there for a long time.

Who is the best batsman you have bowled against in your career?
I have bowled against a lot of batsmen worldwide but Brian Lara played me better than anyone else. Other than that Australians have played well, especially in their conditions. Various Indian and Pakistani batsmen have played me well over the years. Andy Flower and Graham Thorpe were difficult to bowl to at times.

How much longer do you think you will be playing?
I am not sure but right now I would like to see if I can play until the 2011 World Cup which will be held in Sri Lanka. I am still really enjoying my cricket and as long as that continues and I am fit then I'd like to continue. There are still plenty of things I'd like to achieve, including another World Cup win, a win against Australia in Australia and a series win against England in England.

So how many wickets are you aiming for now?
I don't have a target as such. I just want to get as many as I can and help win as many matches as possible for Sri Lanka - after all, these records are meaningless unless they help the team to win. I sometimes think I might be able to get to 1000, but that would be very hard as I am 35 and bowling a lot of overs for Sri Lanka now. And I want to play both Tests and ODIs as we play only 8-10 Tests per year and playing just Test cricket might lead to me losing interest. I think I'll be taking it season by season. You have to enjoy the game and your body should also be fit to survive a long time.

People are always comparing you to Warne - how do you compare yourself with him?
You can't compare us. We are totally different bowlers. But Warne was a very special bowler. Abdul Qadir may have had a better googly but Warne introduced new tricks with his flipper and slider. He had drift and was unbelievably accurate. I can get the ball to drop, but Shane got the ball to drift and drop in the air and that was very dangerous. He is also a very intelligent bowler. I have spoken to many spinners over the years and no one has the same knowledge or thinking power.

There are still plenty of things I'd like to achieve, including another World Cup win, a win against Australia in Australia and a series win against England in England

How is your relationship with Warne? A few weeks ago you called him a "miserable man" after he wrote that your action should be tested under match conditions.
That was all a bit of a misunderstanding. I did get annoyed when someone told me what he had said and I thought it was unfair. I did not read what he wrote but he told me that he was making a general point. So that's history now. In general we have been friendly with each other and I appreciate his support for Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the tsunami. He sent a message through Ian Botham this morning congratulating me, which was nice.

What was your most memorable performance?
I think the 16 wickets I took against England at The Oval in 1998 was the most special performance for me. At that time I was relatively unknown in England - it was my first Test in England - so I was really keen to make a mark. We were also desperate to win out first Test in England. We were in good form having already won the one-day tri-nation tournament and the fact that the Test match was played in the latter part of the summer helped us. When Arjuna [Ranatunga] won the toss and put them in, he was criticised and the criticism mounted when they put on something like 450 with Graeme Hick and John Crawley making hundreds. But Arjuna had a plan. The victory was made possible with Aravinda [de Silva] and Sanath [Jayasuriya] batting so well. I remember adding over 50 runs for the last wicket with Suresh Perera, who was making his debut. Then England struggled on a crumbling wicket and it was a memorable win.

Who was the most influential person in your cricket career?
Arjuna as my first captain and he did a lot of things for me. During the difficult times in Australia he protected me a lot. If he had not been as strong as he was I may not have broken the record today.

Charlie Austin is Sri Lanka editor of Cricinfo