Struggling Murali gets skipper's support

Struggling Murali gets skipper's support

As if figures of five for 396 from two Tests aren’t bad enough, the 37-year-old is also battling a side strain, but Sangakkara refused to write off the world’s highest Test wicket-taker. “Murali too can sometimes have an off-day, that’s the way cricket goes,” the skipper said. “That doesn’t mean he is any worse a bowler. He is still our best spinner, still the best spinner in the world. When you have that quality in the side, you have to back that quality and that ability. Murali is still the spearhead of our attack and we are backing him a hundred percent to turn it around and win a match for us.”

Just a couple of days back, Muralitharan had hinted at retiring before the 2011 World Cup if his body didn’t hold up. “Murali has been talking about retirement for about two years now,” Sangakkara countered. “He is very realistic about himself and his career, and that’s one of the things we respect about him. But I think there is a lot more left in him to help us win Test matches and he realises that too.

“We want him to enjoy himself in the side, feel that he is a valued member for as long as he wants to be with us. We really respect and enjoy the fact that he is with us in the dressing room and on the playing field.”

Mahendra Singh Dhoni said Muralitharan’s reduced efficacy had something to do with frequency with which the two teams play each other these days. “He has not got much assistance from the wickets, and our batsmen also have played him well,” the Indian skipper observed. “Our openers and middle order have faced Murali quite a few times. In the last few years, every year either we go there or they come here. Our batsmen know what his strengths are and they plan their innings accordingly. He need to work hard to get those wickets. But he has not lost anything, he is still a great bowler. He is always a dangerous candidate to deal with.”

Sangakkara begged to differ. “The fact that many of the Indian batsmen have played against Murali for about four years continuously does help, but even if you know how to play a bowler, you still have to play him on match day,” he said. “That motivation to try and do better than the opposition is still there for Murali. He is still hungry.”