'You don't need magic in T20'

'You don't need magic in T20'

Muralitharan stresses on the role of captain in spinners' success

'You don't need magic in T20'

It’s been over three years since Muttiah Muralitharan played his last international but the wily off-spinner has been barely out of action, appearing in the myriad Twenty20 leagues that have sprung up across the cricketing world. 

With a ready smile and a dry humour, the veteran Sri Lankan is easily the most popular player not just in the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s set-up but across the IPL teams. The Test cricket’s highest wicket-taker (800 scalps in 133 ties), who counts Anil Kumble among his best friends, talks in length about his desire to continue, the importance of spinners and the role of captains in spinners’ growth. 


You have played just two games this season, how does it feel sitting out?

I was enjoying it. At this age, to get to play is something... It’s an honour to play. At 42 years of age, not many have played. I think in England, a few players play in the county circuit but in world cricket, not many people play. I have got this opportunity and I just like to play and be part of it. I have been playing in Australian league and Caribbean league. I’d say I didn’t bowl well (in the first match against Kings XI Punjab)... Two big expensive overs. So with our combination, it is not possible to have a spinner and two overseas fast bowlers because we are short on an Indian batsman. IPL is not all about playing, (it’s about) to be in the team, helping them. Sometimes you play and sometimes you don’t. But there is no disappointment.

Has spinners’ role in T20 cricket changed?

It hasn’t changed at all. Just go and bowl and have a big heart. Some days you win, some days you don’t. That’s the way it is. It’s all about not over confusing yourself. Just go and play because in T20, you can’t plan a great deal. Just go and on the day if you do well, definitely you have a chance. Sometimes, batsmen come and hit you. You can’t come back because you have only four overs. It’s a harder game for bowlers especially. But in one-day cricket or Test cricket, you can come back. You get hit and you have another few overs to come back.

We have also seen spinners becoming more important in T20s...

In T20 cricket, if you bowl spin, people try to hit you. Sometimes you get a wicket, you put pressure on the batsman in that over. Sometimes you get hit but it is easier to hit the faster bowlers if they don’t have much change of pace. Whoever has the change of pace, yorkers, varieties, then you will be successful. Even an ordinary spinner can be a good bowler in T20 because it is the game where you don’t have to buy wickets. You will get wickets if you bowl tight. You don’t have to be a big spinner, you don’t have to have magic in T20s but you have to have magic in Test cricket to take wickets; to some extent even in one-day cricket.

Do you see that kind of magic?

There are bowlers, a lot of good bowlers. But the problem is Test cricket is not played much as before. That’s why you can’t see the bowlers adjusting to Test cricket much. They like T20s and one-dayers more. Because people don’t want to do that. If they want to do well in Test cricket, the bowlers can do that. But sometimes, they take the easy way.

Do bowlers carry T20 mindset into Tests?

Your mindset has to change. In Test cricket you have to buy wickets. You can’t keep on bowling maiden overs and waiting because you won’t be successful. You have to have some tricks; you have to flight the ball, have variations. Test cricket teaches you so many things.

How much of that is happening?
People adjust, I have seen. R Ashwin has bowled well in India. Amit Mishra has bowled well, sometimes (Ravindra) Jadeja has bowled well; and someone like (Graeme) Swann as well. So people do bowl well in Test cricket. Sometimes, a little T20 or one-day mindset comes in, they forget it (Test skills). That’s what happens. If the management or the captain reminds the bowlers, people will adjust. There are talented bowlers in every country.

What is the role of captain in spinners’ performance?

A captain has to believe in you. If he believes in you and gives you the ball then more things will happen. So a captain is more important in any cricket. I’ve played under a lot of different captains. I played a little T20 cricket under MS Dhoni (for CS). He’s one of the stand-out captains because he takes it very cool. He’s the one captain I have seen, who, if you bowl a good ball and get hit for six, will still say ‘well bowled’. Not many people say that.