Sujith Silva, reproduced from the QUADRANGLE where the title of this article reads “Up Close & Personal with Murali”
Affectionately called as ‘Murali,’ he is by far the greatest Sportsperson Sri Lanka ever produced in the modern era. Truly a Legend, an icon and an Ambassador. Not only to his alma mater St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota but also to his country, Sri Lanka and for the game of Cricket. A World beater across all formats of the game, holder of many World Records and he has won many hearts around the world with his trade mark smile and for his fighting skills. He was recently hired as a Spin Bowling Consultant by the Australian Cricket Board. Almost 20 years ago, Murali was publicly humiliated at the MCG and widely despised by the Australian cricketing public. It was in Australia he faced his worst challenges both on and off the field. His Cricketing career almost came to an abrupt end before it even blossomed. Who would have thought it likely that Australian Cricket would ever pay Murali the ultimate compliment, almost an apology of sorts, by inviting him to be their spin guru? He was much feared and respected on the field and he was accused by his critics, challenged by those who didn’t like his success, heckled by those who feared him and tested and cleared by the governing body. Irrespective of all that, he came out as a Champion. Murali mobbed by fans in Jaffna town
Murali after capturing more than 100 wickets in two consecutive schools cricket seasons (1990 and 1991 seasons) he became the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year in 1991. He also won the Best Bowler award. At the same award ceremony Murali’s fellow team mates from St. Anthony’s swept the board at the awards ceremony; Sajith Fernando as the Best Batsman, Nuwan Kalpage their captain as Best Captain and he was also chosen as runner-up in the Best Allrounder’s category and Best Fielder’s contests. Then St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota was also picked as the Best Team in the whole island and quite naturally, the Antonians were also chosen as the Best Team in the Central province in 1991.
After some fine bowling performances against the Australian Academy team and England ‘A’ early in the year 1992 when representing Sri Lanka ‘A’ team, Muralitharan made his Test debut against touring Australians. In 2002, Muralitharan had the honour of being branded alongside Sir Donald Bradman of Australia as the top Test players in history of cricket by the cricket bible – Wisden. He retired from all formats of International Cricket in 2011 after the ICC Cricket World Cup Finals and by then he has set many World Records some of which are probably never to be broken.
An unassuming personality on and off the field, leading a happy family life while engaging in noble charity works with Foundation of Goodness Murali spends time professionally with his IPL Franchise.
Muttiah Muralitharan, a name that brings plenty of wonderful and sweet memories to Sri Lankans. The story starts from St. Anthony’s College, Katugastota.
Your memories from school days: I was boarded at the St. Anthony’s College Hostel and most of my best memories are from there. I was at the Hostel from an early age till I left College. It was a wonderful experience and had my best time. We had to follow certain rules but still we enjoyed the hostel life, it was all good and memorable. Fr. Stephen was the Principal back then and we had a lot of respect to him and the wardens who were in charge of Hostel. I had many friends in the hostel. Basically all Hosteliers become friends. Then I had many school friends (including class mates) too and we are still in touch. I have three brothers and one went to St. Anthony’s and he was boarded with me at the Hostel while the other two went to Trinity.
Entry into Cricket: I started playing cricket while I was in the Hostel as we do that during free time. Then at the age of 9 (under 9 and under 11 age Groups) I attended Cricket practices as we (Hosteliers) are being encouraged. Mr. Sunil Fernando was my first coach and from there onwards I continued to play cricket. However I played bit of Rugger too. I played for College 2nd XV and then the Principal Fr. Stephen didn’t like me playing Rugger as he was worried that I might get injured and that will hamper my Cricket. So I was asked to give up Rugger and concentrate on Cricket.
Playing for 1st XI at St. Anthony’s College Katugastota: I played for 3 years (1989-1991 under Ruwan Kalpage, Suresh De Alwis and Nuwan Kalpage) and I was really excited when I was selected to the 1st XI squad in 1989 but do not remember my first match now. My memorable match was winning the Trinity – Antho (Hill Capital Battle of the Blues) big match in 1991 where we won it early on the 2nd day.
Picking up spin bowling ‘Off Spin’ at School level and becoming a mystery spinner setting couple of School Records: Everyone has certain abilities, you inherit some skills and you need to find out in what areas you are good at and then develop on those areas. My bowling skills were developed over a period of time and the coaches helped me and gave advice (he started as a Medium pace Bowler and his mentor Mr. Sunil Fernando asked him to change his bowling style and he became an Off Spin bowler). I never thought of achieving records or even dreamt of playing for the 1st XI. I just grabbed the opportunities whenever it was opened and wanted to do well.
Growing up in a family of four brothers: I’m sure our parents would have felt that managing four boys in one house will not be an easy task, so they sent us to two schools in Kandy (St. Anthony’s College and Trinity College) and kept us in the hostel. We would only meet up (at home) during holidays as we spent most of our lives at Hostels. Though I was playing for St. Anthony’s, my two brothers who were in Trinity used to support their College during the big match time.
The first Test debut for Sri Lanka: It was in 1992 (28th of August) against Australia in Colombo at the R. Premadasa Stadium that I debuted. I was surprised and nervous a lot when called up to play for the Sri Lanka team. Test Cricket is the highest format one can play in Cricket. I was very nervous when bowling the first few balls and then I settled down as I progressed (Murali captured his first Test wicket – Craig McDermott LBW for 09 runs and ended the first innings with figures of 17 overs, 2 maidens, 01 wicket for 32 runs and took 02 wickets for 109 runs in the 2nd innings, the wickets of Tom Moody and Mark Waugh in consecutive balls(Mark Waugh was out for a first ball duck).
The approach to bowling: Every time before I bowl, I plan each ball by studying the batsman. At times it works and at times it doesn’t. The batsman takes control of you. But you need to keep on trying different things and pursue.
Your reaction when you were called for throwing for the first time during the 1995 Australian Tour by umpire Darrel Hair: On that tour (Boxing Day Test at MCG, 1995) when I was called for throwing, Arjuna Ranatunga as the Captain and Aravinda de Silva as the Vice Captain were with me and encouraged me and also the team mates. Also the Cricket Board helped me a lot to get through the process and the public was behind me right throughout. So I was confident and was not worried. This helped me to face the situation.
We were not professionals during the early 90’s (when I started playing) but that 1995 tour and then winning the 1996 World Cup changed a lot of things, especially the future of Cricket in Sri Lanka. We became much stronger and a professional team too. We all did well, as individuals and as teams. Since then we came to two World Cup Finals (2007 & 2011), semifinals (2003) and also won the T20 World Cup (2014). So I believe as a country Sri Lanka is doing well and we are just second behind to Australia in terms of our performances at World Cup.
Memorable wickets at International level: Well, all wickets are important and then again I have taken more than 1000 international wickets. So it is not easy to recall the best ones. I think the wicket of Martin Crowe which I took in 1992 (at S.S.C Colombo) will top my list. My personal best performance was 16 for 220 runs against England in 1998. It was a one off Test match at The Oval (England) and we wanted to do well and win it somehow.
Murali’s first five wicket haul was 5 for 104 in South Africa’s first innings in Moratuwa, 1993. His wickets include Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes. The best performance in Tests was 7 for 155 and 9 for 65 v England, at the Oval in 1998. This was in Sri Lanka’s first Test victory in England and comes solely due to an inspirational performance by Muralitharan. His 16 for 220 is the fifth-best analysis in Tests at the time; his 9 for 65 in England’s second innings is seventh best on the all-time list. Only Alec Stewart’s run-out prevented Murali from picking up all 10 wickets in that innings
You have played almost two decades of International Cricket from the times of Arjuna Ranathunga to Kumar Sangakkara (in total 07 Test Captains). How would you rate them and how did you adapt? I played under Arjuna & Aravinda. Personally I can say the Best Captain was Arjuna purely for his leadership qualities and his style of captaincy. We also did well under him but all others have different styles. You have to adapt to their styles and play your game. In fact, I have played under various overseas franchisees and 7 years of County Cricket. There too I adapted to their styles and cultures and played my natural game.
You are an icon for Sri Lanka, you were promoting peace and harmony when the country was in trouble. What made you to do that? My school taught me about life. I learned this at the Hostel. To live in harmony with each other.,especially when friends come from different communities, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Our hostel was accommodating Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Tamils all equally. We respected each other and we had a wonderful time. So I continue to practice this.
Also we grew up in this country. We all are passionate about our country. We have our likes and dislikes. You were brought up here. Rather than complaining every time, we should do our part for the country. Irrespective of whether you are a Sri Lankan player or a spectator you need to support and stand by your Country. That’s our duty. We will face good times as well as bad times. So we need to be united and stand for the country, always.
You engage with lots of charity work specially with the Foundation of Goodness:
Yes. We started these charity works through Foundation of Goodness, initiated by Kushil Gunasekera about 14 to 15 years ago and so many people have joined us now. Actually we’ve done a lot to communities. We have sustainable community models designed to assist rural communities and to empower the disadvantaged communities. It’s very difficult to say how much we’ve done. Kushil is in the forefront of these works and I support him. We provide assistance to about 25,000 families in South and another ten to fifteen thousands in North each year. We have many sectors that are being covered which include sports too. We’ve done rural community development works from Seenigama in South to Maankulam in North. I really enjoy these works and achieve deep satisfaction.
Are you planning to engage in Cricket Administration too, especially with Sri Lanka Cricket: I’m not interested in engaging in Cricket Administration or commentating but I’m engaged as Spin Coach for Sunrisers Hyderabad. I spent most of my time with my family and also on charity works.
Any message you’d like to share with the present generation?: You need to do whatever you do with your best effort and with your best conscious
Favourite food: Chinese
Favourite Drink: Mango Juice
Favourite Cricket venue: Newlands, South Africa
Favourite place to spend time: Kandy
Favourite past time: following sports, especially rugby
Role model: None, I want to be my self
What you dislike: People not being punctual, wasting time and failing to work on time.
Full name: Muttiah Muralitharan
Born: April 17, 1972, Kandy
Major teams Sri Lanka (1992-2011), ICC World XI, Asia XI, Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, Melbourne Renegades, Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, Wellington, Jamaica Tallawahs
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm offbreak
Education St Anthony’s College, Kandy
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VISIT: site of QUADRANGLE MAGAZINE ….. http://quadrangle.lk/sports/that-1957-school-cricket-season/
ALSO SEE “Muralitharan as Teacher: Overcoming Strife in Life, Cricket and Politics,” 10 July 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/muralitharan-as-teacher-overcoming-strife-in-life-cricket-and-politics/#more-17027