MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN – “the smiling assassin” – aged 38 – bade farewell to Australia – for just one more time – in the Commonwealth Bank Series.
His final appearance at the MCG saw him score the winning runs with a deft leg glance that took the ball to the boundary when Sri Lanka required just one run to nail Australia in the first ODI. In the second ODI in Sydney he took a brilliant outfield catch that saw Michael Clarke walk back to the pavilion shaking his head in absolute amazement. The writing was then on the scoreboard that Sri Lanka would go on to win it’s first ever series on Australian soil. And to think that this 800+ wicket taker would make his contribution with bat and with both his hands just above the ground as he rolled over taking one of the catches of the season.
MURALI has been a a man of many talents although his bowling has attracted the most comment. Batting and fielding were never the highlights of his career but he left the cricket ovals in Melbourne and Sydney with memorable batting and fielding performances that showed his all round contribution to Sri Lankan cricket.
His flexible wrists and fixed elbow flexion made him the object of many a nasty insinuation until the ICC realised that many other cricketers employed similar actions to achieve their best effort. Darrell Hair could not watch last Friday’s match in Sydney where he is now resident but said that he was only doing his “job” when he called Murali. John Howard of Bennelong fame, also resident in Sydney, was not present at either match due to the pain of ICC rejection.
Murali bears no ill feeling towards either man – he has after all moved on in his cricketing career – and Australia will be the poorer when he retires after the World Cup.
Murali is shown here when he visited Melbourne for surgery on his shoulder some years ago. His compassion and encouragement towards the younger generation of cricket fanatics is shown here when he signed a lemon! He was a guest of Mentone Grammar School that year when he had young aspiring cricketers spellbound with his simplicity and kindness..
Sri Lanka would do well to use Murali’s talents at coaching camps across the island – especially in Jaffna and the East Coast – which he visited with emergency supplies and the Australia Sri Lanka Medical Aid Team ( AuSLMAT) soon after the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.