Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has revealed that one of the biggest challenges he faced during his tenure as captain was to convince Muttiah Muralitharan to overcome his "defensive mindset" as a bowler. Jayawardene made the comments on the second episode of ESPNcricinfo Talking Cricket, to be aired on SONY ESPN on Friday night. According to Jayawardene, Murali, who is the highest wicket-taker in Test history with 800 scalps, tended to be "a bit stubborn" about his methods and needed cajoling from captains to employ more aggressive tactics.
"Murali was a defensive bowler, but the thing is, they couldn't take him down because he had everything covered," Jayawardene said. "But I was a different captain. I wanted to attack with Murali more, and Murali only attacked when he felt he was in control of the situation, then he'll go all out on attack. But for me it was different, I wanted to use him in a different way. I wanted to create opportunities for him rather than us sitting and waiting for an opening to happen. I think Arjuna (Ranatunga) probably had the same battles with Murali, but with Arjuna, because Murali was young and he was just coming through, he probably didn't have a choice with Arjuna. But with Sanath (Jayasuriya) afterwards as well, it was quite tough for Sanath to tell Murali, 'let's have a bit of attacking mindset'. But that's something that I've always encouraged Murali to do, but we've always found a way to come to a middle ground."
Among the other challenges Jayawardene reflected on during the course of the interview were the difficulties he faced in handling senior pros such as Marvan Atapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya during his time as captain. Dropping Atapattu from the XI during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, where Sri Lanka made the final, was particularly trying, Jayawardene said; he revealed how that ruptured their relationship, leading to a long period where they didn't even converse despite being team-mates.
"Knowing Marvan, I think he is a very honest player, he played really hard but he didn't take it in the right spirit," Jayawardene said. "So, throughout the World Cup, his contribution wasn't very good as a member of the team, but we had a great campaign. No one gave us any opportunity, everyone thought we'll probably go out of the group stages, but we topped the group. Then, we went as a second best team in the Super Six stages before going all the way to the finals. And when we got back, obviously, Marvan played a few more Test matches before retiring. He probably didn't speak to me for a good four to five years after that, and our first conversation probably was when he was appointed as a batting coach to the national team."
Watch ESPNcricinfo Talking Cricket at 9.30pm IST on Fridays, and the repeat at 12pm on Sundays, on SONY ESPN