'I am happy people are not asking me to go'
Murali the Magician. The Greatest Ever Bowler in the World. One and Only Murali. Spin Wizard. Thank you Murali. Another Milestone. I can bat too! A Glorious Cricketing Career.
All the stands, temporary and permanent, at the Galle International Stadium, bear an imprint of Sri Lanka's greatest cricketer. Simple hoardings with Murali on them and a message saying thank you and goodbye. There are, of course, small advertisements on these hoardings, but that is the reality of modern cricket.
"Everything will be like Murali," said Jayananda Warnaweera, the chief groundsman in Galle, on what was in store for the farewell.
Muttiah Muralitharan is not overwhelmed. Not much has overwhelmed him in his career, but he likes what he sees. "I would like to thank the cricket board and the groundsman, [Jayananda] Warnaweera, for arranging such a great thing in Galle," a not-overly-emotional Murali said. "It is a great honour for me to retire like this."
The last week must have been an interesting time for the offspinner, who is approaching the end of something special, something satisfying - a journey that brought trials as much as it did joy; brickbats as much as applause. Murali, though, said he hasn't been thinking about all that. "I never dreamt I would be finishing like this," he said. "I think I had a great finish because I have done very well in Test cricket. You can't get the record easily; so many people have tried and I am the best at the moment. Because of that, I have no regrets.
"God has given me everything, I am fulfilled with that. I am not sad, I am very happy with what I have achieved and I am glad I am going out in a good manner because people are not asking me to go. They are asking me to stay. Still I want to go because this is the manner I want to go out in. I am not dreaming about any past performance or anything. I am thinking only about the next match, finish well and retire properly.
Starting the match eight wickets from the 800-mark, Murali, who has almost every aggregate record to his name, is not worried about numbers. Enjoying this last game, he said, was more important. "If I could take eight in the first innings, Sri Lanka will win easily. It is not going to be easy, they have such a good batting line-up.
I will try all my tricks in the middle for the last time. Let's see if it works or not. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I am going to really enjoy the game rather than thinking about how many wickets I am going to need. Just enjoy the game and not put much pressure on myself. If I didn't get a single wicket or if I take five wickets, I will be very happy."
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo