Very little has been written about Muttiah Muralitharan’s omission from the upcoming triangular series starting later this week in Sri Lanka.
Muralitharan retired from Test cricket in July, but made it known that he would like to continue playing ODIs and T20s till the ICC World Cup next year. He even featured in Sri Lanka’s last ODI series, the Asia Cup 2010.
Rumours were rife that Murali would be dropped for the Asia Cup 2010 final. But his inclusion in the playing eleven for the final, squashed rumours that suggested the selectors and captain Sangakkara would drop him.
Then there were those rumours that suggested Murali only played in the final after Sri Lankan president Rajapaksa’s intervention.
Below, I am quoting myself from a post I wrote back in July,
The night before the Asia Cup final there were rumours all over Dambulla that the selectors and the skipper chose to drop Muralitharan for the final. In response, it is rumoured that Muralitharan had threatened to retire from all forms of the game. Let us not forget, Muralitharan was the squad’s vice captain.
Enter Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rumour has it that the Sri Lankan president then ordered an emergency meeting with the selectors and asked them to include Muralitharan for the final.
Sangakkara was confronted with the issue during the post match press conference after losing the Asia Cup to India.
“There was no such thing like that. Muralitharan will have to play a changed role in the Sri Lanka team in keeping with its requirements”, the skipper said quickly dismissing the rumour and reaffirming his own views on how a player should only be selected on merit, not reputation.
But there is no denying it. Barely two weeks after all this, Muralitharan fast tracked his Test retirement from November to July. It makes you wonder why Muralitharan didn’t announce his retirement earlier when it was known as early as February that India would tour the island for a three Test series.
Barely a month later, Muralitharan hasn’t been just dropped for one match. He hasn’t been selected at all in the squad! It surprises me that the mass media hasn’t questioned his omission. The headlines spoke of Chamara Silva’s return to the squad and Kandamby’s axing, but the axing of the highest ODI wicket taker from a side that is ranked low in the ODI Rankings flew under the radar.
After an embarrassing defeat in the third Test against India where Sri Lanka looked a weak unit without Muralitharan, captain Sangakkara cannot afford his opinions and his philosophy to take prominence over the ultimate goal of winning matches. Can the skipper and the selection panel led by de Silva afford to leave out Murali? After all it was thanks to Murali that Sri Lanka managed to win the first Test in Galle which was the only win in the series for the islanders.
Without Muralitharan, Sri Lanka struggled to bowl out India in the last two Test of the recently concluded series. How then can they leave him out?
Muralitharan, along with seniors like Vaas and Jayasuriya, have all humbly requested that they be given a chance to bid farewell to the game in next year’s World Cup. The captain Sangakkara, and now this selection panel that dances to his every tune, appear to be doing everything they can to ensure that does not happen. It’s not like they are winning without seniors, so why discard them in such an unappealing manner?