Ishara Jayawardane, in Daily News, 22 December 2016, with the title “A spin with the spin master”
Modest yet amazing, and humble yet incredible. A man of very few words but mighty deeds. Outstanding Personalities features spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan who is regarded as the greatest bowler in the history of test cricket. Muralitharan holds the world record for the most number of wickets in both test and one-day cricket.
Q. Murali, you are the greatest bowler in test cricket and one day internationals claiming the highest number of wickets; 800 in test cricket and 534 in one-day international cricket. How do you evaluate your career?
A. I had a great career. I am very happy about what I have achieved. And I became the highest wicket taker in both forms of the game. So I am very happy about it.
Q. To what do you attribute your success? How did you become so great? How can one man set so many extraordinary records?
A. It is all hard work and dedication to the game. And I played for a long time. I kept on enjoying the game, which is the most important thing. Whatever came my way, I wanted to transform it into a victory for Sri Lanka. So I played very hard.
Q. You are one of only six bowlers who have dismissed all the eleven batsmen in a test match. Jim Laker, Venkataraghavan, Geoff Dymock, Abdul Qadir and Waqar Younis are some. You are the only player to take 10 wickets in a test in four consecutive matches. You achieved this feat twice. You and Jim Laker are the only bowlers to have taken nine wickets in a test innings twice. Your records go on and on. There is a great mystery as to how you have managed to achieve such feats. Can you explain?
A. So it is all about experience. The first 10 years was the learning curve; 1991 – 2000. I had so many hurdles to go through and got experience from that. And I was guided by great players when I was young. So I understood how to work out batsmen.
Q. Amongst your achievements, which are closest to you heart? Which do you treasure the most?
A. As a team, it was the 1996 World Cup. That was the most important thing. Personally, it was the 16 wickets I took in England in the Oval test match in 1998. It was a great win because England did not give us three test matches at all. It was always one match. After we beat them we got three test matches. So I am very happy about how we performed.
Cricket is a game. You can achieve records. That record can be broken by someone else as well. In the same way, someone might break my records. It happens. There are always barriers to surmount, the game is constantly improving. This is not only in cricket but other sports too.
Q. You had a tough time in Australia. Would you like to talk about that?
A. It was a decision made by the umpire. At the time, captain Arjuna Ranatunga, the cricket board, my team mates and the whole country were all very supportive of me. I went through all the necessary tests and got through and I kept on bowling. So I did not give up. I did not do anything wrong.
Q. You surpassed Courtney Walsh’s record of 519 test wickets. What was it like taking your 709th wicket overtaking Shane Warne? There was talk that you would go on to claim 1000 wickets?
A. 1000 is a number. I wanted to perform to the best of my ability. When I thought of retiring I thought it was enough. So there were other players trying to come in. They were waiting in line trying to get the opportunity since I was playing the main role. I thought about it and I felt that playing for 20 years was enough. I could have achieved it, if I played for another three or four years, but even though it was 200 wickets, in the end it is just a number. I was very happy when I broke Walsh’s and Warne’s records. When I was young I never thought I would be able to break these records.
Q. What is your most memorable moment in Test and One Day Cricket?
A. In Test, it is winning the match I mentioned before where I took 16 wickets in one test match. And ODIs, it is definitely winning the World Cup.
Q. What is your greatest milestone and achievement in cricket? And what do you consider your greatest achievement in life?
A. Cricket is a sport that I love. It is a professional game and it was a job. Life is what cricket has given me because cricket has given me everything. So I treasure these past memories. In my cricket, I just wanted to serve my country and was passionate about taking wickets. And it has built throughout the years. So it is difficult to target a milestone. I am married with two kids; one girl and one boy. I got married 10 -15 years ago. In life there is a long way to go!
Q. What strengthens you and sustains you in life?
A. I try hard and try to do the best I can. And I don’t give up. Those are my policies.
Q. Who has been your greatest inspiration in cricket?
A. I would say my coach. His name is Sunil Fernando. He trained me during my younger days. The person who trained you during your younger days is most important to you.
Q. Who was the batsman you found toughest to bowl at and which team did you find toughest to play against? Which captain did you most connect with?
A. The batsman was Brian Lara because he played against us a lot. When it comes to a team, it was Australia. When it comes to Captains, it would be Arjuna Ranatunga. When I was young, he inspired me. The best Sri Lankan XI team I played with was the 1996 World Cup team. As a captain Arjuna got the best out of me.
Q. What is your opinion on the current Sri Lankan Test and ODI teams?
A. They are quite young. They are going through a learning process. It takes a little time because great players have retired over the years. It is not easy to replace those players who had such great calibre. So these youngsters have to be given a chance. You can’t become a great player in one day. In another three or four years’, they will mature into good players.
Q. What is your message to the youth?
A. Try hard and don’t give up. And just keep on doing good things and it will happen.
Q. What do you think of day and night test matches and the use of the pink ball?
A. I think it is both good and bad. These days the crowd cannot come and watch due to work. With day and night matches, the audience will be there after work. So still you can carry on test cricket. Also there is the dew factor that you won’t get in day matches. So there are pluses and minuses. Also with the pink ball, the colour wears off. So many things will happen in years to come. It will take some time.