Murali geared up for one last go against India in Tests

SL offie wants to end his last Test tour to India on a winning note

Muttiah Muralitharan

The 37-year-old off-spinner, a bundle of wit and mischief, is determined to make his Indian swansong a memorable one, for himself and his team, as he said during the course of an exhaustive chat on Saturday evening. Excerpts:

On his goals this series: It’s a special moment for me because I am playing my last series overseas. It’s going to be interesting because if we win this series, we will be number one in the world. That’s one goal. The other is to win a Test match in India, we have never done it before. We are not going to put extra pressure, just try hard and give 100 percent. If it happens, lovely for us. If it doesn’t, no regrets. If the other team plays better, you have to accept it.

On why Sri Lankans haven’t done well in India: I have played three Test series in India. In 1994, India outplayed us. In 1997-98, all three Tests were high-scoring draws and in 2005, we had a chance to win in Delhi and Ahmedabad, but failed in our batting. We were proud to restrict India to less than 400 every innings but batted badly and missed out. India was always the better team. India is the toughest opponent to beat at home. In the last four years, no team has beaten them here. It’s is going to be tough for us, we have to play really well.

On how he expects his team to fare this time: We are a balanced side. In the last 3-4 years, we have hardly lost at home. Our confidence levels in Test cricket are really high, our batsmen are getting more runs and our bowlers are getting wickets. That may be a plus point. We have a good spin attack, Herath and Mendis are bowling well. We have a stronger spin attack than our opponents.

On whether there is a psychological edge over India after beating them 2-1 at home last year: In that last series, Mendis got 26 wickets and I got 23. The Mendis factor was big because they didn’t know him, they didn’t know how to play him. If our spinners bowl really well again, we can put them under pressure. There might be an edge, their batsmen might be thinking about Mendis and how to play him. Last time, they didn’t handle him properly. This time, maybe it will be different.

On the referral system: I think it is a very good system. Batsmen are always complaining, sometimes bowlers too. So why not use technology? You have the option of referring if you think a mistake has been made. The best thing to have happened to cricket in recent times is the referral system. Had the referral system been in place, the controversies on India’s tour of Australia last year would not have happened. I don’t know why the system is not being implemented in this series. I thought ICC decided that from October 1, it will become compulsory. My opinion is that in future, to avoid what happened to India in Australia, we must have the referral system in every series.

On the changing face of cricket: Times have changed. Spinners dominated the show for the last 20 years, now the batsmen are dominating. The pitches favour batsmen because sponsors want to see five days of cricket, so they make flat wickets. There are no big spinning wickets, there are no seaming wickets, only batting paradises.

On whether T20 is a curse for bowlers: Not at all. You bowl four overs, sometimes you get hit, sometimes you get four wickets. The curse for bowlers is Test cricket. You have to take wickets. That’s why I always say that the bowlers’ job is a labour job – you have to work, work, work, work. It’s a dirty job. Batting is a high-class job. Cricket is a batsman’s game. People want to see sixes and fours, runs scored. That’s why I said bowlers are labour class, batsman are high class. And when it comes to sponsorship also, it is the same! That’s the way it has been, you can’t change that. The rules are created to score runs, not to take wickets.

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