In 18 years and 133 matches he won the hearts of many, the admiration of most and the respect of all. His road to glory wasn’t an easy one. Along the way he was made to face many a difficulty and many a hardship, by friends and foes alike. And yet his grit, determination and courage never let him give up and he bids adieu today to the game he devoted so much of himself to. He bids farewell to the game that brought him so much pain and yet so much more glory and joy, having tread on ground no man has ever tread on before, and that no man will for a long time to come, as the undisputed King of Spin.
Muttiah Muralitharan , whose wide-eyed smile lit up a nation and brought a war-torn country together, retired from Test cricket yesterday having reached the colossal, one time unimaginable figure of 800 Test wickets. With the wicket of Pragyan Ojha, his last wicket ever in Test cricket he broke the 800 mark, which took his lead, in the highest wicket-taker stakes to 92. Murali’s phenomenal career only bears testament to this great man’s courage and determination in the face of each and every obstacle that was thrown his way over the years.
Controversy was an ever-present companion to Murali through-out his career. From Darrell Hair in 1995 to Ross Emerson in 1998 to Chris Broad in 2004, doubts about his action were raised and he was made to feel a chucker and a cheat. When questions about his action still remained despite the repeated tests and clearances by the ICC, Murali even subjected himself to intensive, and sometimes unheard of, experiments in vain attempts to prove the sceptics wrong, even bowling with his arm in a brace at one time.
Yet, the critics remained and questions were still raised. So Murali answered them all in the next best way possible by doggedly continuing to play, and bowling over after tedious over, while at the same time both making and breaking a host of records along the way. He is, as of now at his retirement, the highest wicket-taker in the history of the game, the player with the most number of five wicket hauls with a tally of 67 and the only bowler to have taken more than 100 wickets against 3 test playing nations, India, England and South Africa.
Through-out the years, through all the controversies, Murali’s smile never faded, the glint in his eyes never died and even now as he hangs up his boots and makes way for a youngster to take his place, we still see the same twinkly-eyed smile on his face that we have become so accustomed to seeing and grown to love so much over the years.
He still hopes to play in the shorter forms of the game, his ultimate goal being to help Sri Lanka to another World Cup victory, that he gets the opportunity to fulfil this is probably a dream shared by many a Sri Lankan.
That he will be missed within the team is undeniable, but that we too will miss him immensely cannot be doubted. Be it the pride we feel whenever he plays, the anticipation and excitement in the air whenever he bowls or the amusement he offers whenever he bats…..are all things that will sorely be missed….but Murali, what we will miss most of all is that smile of yours…..that smile….the one we hope to see at the end of the 2011 World Cup with the cup held aloft in your hands!!!