Galle Test to be Muralitharan's last
Muttiah Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker in Tests and ODIs, will retire from Test cricket after the first Test against India in Galle, which begins on July 18. While he will not play the subsequent tri-series, and will pick and choose which ODIs to play in, Murali will be available for selection if the team needs him for the 2011 World Cup, which Sri Lanka is co-hosting.
Cricinfo has learnt that Murali met Aravinda de Silva, the chairman of selectors, and captain Kumar Sangakkara over the weekend to discuss his future. He was asked to consider playing the full series against India, but he was unsure about being at his best if bowled heavily throughout the series.
"Murali has been thinking for some time about the right time to go," a source close to the offspinner told Cricinfo. "All along he has been determined to go while he is still performing rather than just hanging on. He made the decision last week after the Asia Cup and met with the selectors and captain over the weekend to explain to them his position. He is really keen to play on to the World Cup but at the same time he does not want to stand in the way of younger talent. So he will see how things go over the next few months."
Kushil Gunasekara, Murali's manager, said the unscheduled Test series against India had made Murali fast track his decision to retire. "The selectors want Murali to be around just in case they don't find a suitable replacement for him for the 2011 World Cup," he said. "They probably want the spinners to work around Murali."
Murali also considered a stint in county cricket, playing for Surrey, but that is unlikely because Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) doesn't want him to play too much cricket before the World Cup. Cricinfo also learnt that the selectors and management have privately communicated their desire for him to play on until the World Cup, counting on his experience in the big tournament.
About a year ago, Murali had announced he would retire after the home series against West Indies late this year, but in last November he said he could advance the Test retirement. "I am 37 years old and I can't bowl as much as those days because I get tired after 15-16 overs," he had told Cricinfo then. "But I will try and play a little bit of one-day cricket - that's only 10 overs to bowl. If I find everything is not going well I might retire from both forms of the game before the World Cup."
Murali has taken 792 wickets in 132 Tests and 515 wickets in 337 ODIs. Galle will be an interesting shot at retiring with 800 Test wickets.