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What was the real reason behind Muralitharan’s Test retirement?


In my last post I mentioned that TV stations in Sri Lanka were reporting that Muttiah Muralitharan would be dropped for the Asia Cup final against India on 24 June 2010.

Generally the media in Sri Lanka aren’t always that far off when it comes to selection matters. Somehow the news always leaks out about changes to squad selections yet to be announced by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). Even the release of breaking news stories is heavily monopolised. The news outlets who are on the good side of SLC always get the breaking news ahead of others and ahead of media releases on the SLC website.

I hear that there is some truth to reports claiming Muralitharan would be dropped for the Asia Cup 2010 final; his form in previous games also justified his omission. But it never happened. Muralitharan played.

Read what veteran cricket writer S. R. Pathiravithana wrote on his column in the Sunday Times,

Finally by any standard the right arm unorthodox off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan is a legend and there may not be another like him even in the distant horizon. He is unique and his legend will live on as long as cricket lives. He is the highest wicket taker in both forms of the game and the record is going to remain the same for a long time more.

However even Murali is not Dorian Gray. At the age of thirty eight he is wiser but not younger. Yes, we too would like to see him going on till the next world cup. But it has to happen by the high standards that he has embedded against his name and not an aging fake struggling at the middle.

What happened on the eve of the Asia Cup final is still a worrying one. There is no point in sending in public statements denying about something that has happened. Those insiders will know exactly what happened that evening and what transpired later on. But the end result was Sri Lanka fell by the wayside in the final.

We like to ask if there was any link between that incident and the final result of the Asia Cup 2010.
Evidently even at the Asia Cup final he played, the opposition still respected him. But, yet there was a huge void that was very noticeable. Still, one does not drop a person with the curriculum vitae of Muralitharan just like that.

The story goes a little something like this.

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.

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