Murali looks to turn it right

Bangalores batting strength impresses Sri Lankan legend

After having grabbed forty two wickets from five fairly successful seasons in the Indian Premier League, Muttiah Muralitharan, who is one of the oldest cricketers to feature in the fifth edition of the T20 carnival, is still eager to test his wears in the youngest format of the game.

champions forever: Legendary spinners Muttiah Muralitharan (left) and Anil Kumble share a light moment during Royal Challengers’ training session on Wednesday. dh photo

The Sri Lankan spin wizard, who retired with a combined tally of 1347 international wickets, was signed by last year’s runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore in the last auction here, and the off-spinner is sure to play a key role in the side, which will be led by New Zealand’s left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori.

“After I retired from international cricket, I played a little bit of cricket in the last IPL with Kochi,” said Muralitharan as he took a break from his training at the M Chinnaswamy stadium here on Wednesday. “I went back to Gloucestershire, played about 16 Twenty20 matches and traveled to New Zealand (Wellington) to play five matches, and then went to Bangladesh for the BPL (Bangladesh Premier League) where I could not play many games. I played five and then I fell sick. I have played a bit of cricket but not as many matches as the other international cricketers,” he pointed out when asked about his preparedness for the gruelling league. 
 
“No! No injuries at all. There are a few niggles but I have played with niggles for twenty years in international cricket. Every cricketer always has a niggle. That is part and parcel of the sport,” he added.

Murali, pushing 40, said the thrill of competition kept him going when many thought he will slip into full retirement after his contract with Super Kings ended. “When I retired, I got a contract for three years in the IPL (with CSK), so I thought I would play for three years and then retire. I did well for CSK but I did not get much opportunity with Kochi (fourth eidition) as I played only four games, and that too on and off. But when I played in other parts of the world, I played really well. With Kochi (becoming defunct), I put myself in the auction and got a two-year contract with RCB. So I thought it was great opportunity for me to play for a good side. A challenging side I could say.”

The Sri Lankan was also impressed with the batting might of RCB. “I think it will be a memorable experience as RCB have some very good players, and they have two players who have been performing very well... (Virat) Kohli and (Chris) Gayle. And Gayle ... I have seen him bat and I don’t think anyone plays like him in the T20 format. Kohli has been in amazing form, and hopefully, he carries some of that into the IPL so that RCB could win.”

With subtle variations in flight, speed and line, spinners such as Ravichandran Ashwin, Daniel Vettori, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha have done exceedingly well in the IPL, and Muralitharan, who has enjoyed his share of the success with his best season coming in 2010, when he grabbed fifteen wickets in 12 matches, said spinners will continue to play an important role.

“In any given condition, spinners have a chance of picking up wickets and controlling the flow of runs. So it is very important to have spinners in T20, and every team should have two or three good spinners. At least two good spinners and one part-time spinner are a must,” said the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.

Gayle, who had arrived early on Wednesday morning, could not join his team-mates at training and instead preferred to rest after a long flight. The West Indian is expected to take part in Thursday’s practice. Australian all-rounder Andrew McDonald too joined the camp on Wednesday.

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