Sri Lanka news July 30, 2009

Murali sets Test retirement date

Sri Lankan offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan has said he will retire from Test cricket next year. Murali, who is the highest wicket-taker in Tests with 770 wickets in 127 Tests, announced that the two-Test home series against West Indies in November 2010 would be his last.

Speaking at the end of the first ODI against Pakistan, in which he won the Man-of-the-Match award, the 37-year-old Murali said he would focus on playing one-day cricket until the 2011 World Cup, to be held in the subcontinent, and would thereafter stick to Twenty20 cricket.

"I am not going to play for a long time. Next year's West Indies series will be the last two Test matches I will be playing," Muralitharan said. "That's the right time for me because I will be 38 years old. The 2011 World Cup is my aim, but I will enjoy playing Twenty20 cricket for a few more years. "The hardest game in cricket is Tests. The hardest part is you have to take wickets and get batsmen out and sometimes you have to spend two days on the field. You have to mentally prepare yourself for every game. In Twenty20, you look to contain the batsmen and he tries some shots and gets out. Fifty-over cricket is also the same. In Test cricket you have to read the batsmen, set the fields properly and get the wickets."

Muralitharan missed Sri Lanka's 2-0 win in the recent three-Test series against Pakistan due to a torn tendon in his right knee, which could be one of the factors in his decision.

"I put in a lot of effort in the last one month to be fit," said Muralitharan. "I trained very hard with the physio Tommy [Simsek] and trainers Jade [Roberts] and Mario [Villavarayan] who helped me to get through the difficult period. I also enjoyed the rest. I trained hard although I knew my knee was not right.

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Murali's milestones
  • August, 1992 - Murali made his Test debut against Australia at the Khettarama Stadium and took 3 for 141.
  • December, 1995 - No-balled by Darrell Hair seven times for a suspect action during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
  • March, 1997 - Became the first Sri Lankan to reach 100 Test wickets.
  • January, 2002 - Became the fastest to reach the 400-wicket landmark. It took him only 72 Tests.
  • May, 2004: Went past Courtney Walsh's record for the most Test wickets when he claims his 520th wicket.
  • July, 2007 Reached the 700-wicket milestone in his 113th Test. The last 100 wickets came in 12 Tests.
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"The doctors said that I have to go through with it and train harder. I can't go for an operation because I will be out for six to seven months. That will mean my career is almost over and that I am not going to play for a long time.

"A torn tendon is a very big injury and it will take a long time to heal. The best suggestion was for me to rest for two to three weeks, train hard and play with a little pain. I was prepared to go through with it. The doctors said that I can definitely play with the injury for about one to two years but in the end when I finish I will have to operate on it."

Muralitharan, who once harboured hopes of becoming the first bowler in Test history to take 1000 wickets, said the lack of Test cricket for Sri Lanka had made it difficult for him to achieve the milestone.

"If I am to get 1000 Test wickets we have to play Test matches regularly," Muralitharan said. "These days we play fewer Test matches."

In 2010, Sri Lanka have only the two-Test series at home against West Indies to look forward to. However, Muralitharan said 800 wickets would be a more realistic target as Sri Lanka are due to play two home Tests against New Zealand starting next month, followed by three Tests in India at the end of the year.

Muralitharan made his Test debut against Australia in 1992, and became Test cricket's leading wicket-taker when he went past Shane Warne's record of 708 wickets against England in December 2007, fittingly on his home ground in Kandy. He achieved the grand double of being the highest wicket-taker in ODIs as well when he went past Wasim Akram's record of 502 wickets in 2009.

He currently has 507 ODI wickets from the 330 ODIs played, at an average of 22.74. He has also featured in eight Twenty20 internationals, picking up 11 wickets at 16.81.