'I just wanted to win the tie'

Sri Lanka and Test cricket’s most prolific wicket-taker is a proud team-man, and while he had an eye on the 800-mark, it was the team’s cause that drove him on at the Galle International stadium on Thursday.

“800 is only a number,” Muralitharan told newsmen. “We wanted to get the wickets quickly. You never know in Galle, given the unpredictable weather. Winning the match was the most important thing. The 800th wicket came right at the end, but I wouldn’t have minded if it didn’t come. The most important thing was winning the match. “The only scare we had was when Lasith Malinga went in to the dressing room to get treated for an injury,” Murali replied when asked if he had feared at any stage that he might end up on 799. “I just wanted to win, I told the other bowlers, somehow get this wicket. If I am good enough, I will get the wicket. We know the situation in Galle; had the match been drawn, it would have been very sad.”

Muralitharan’s first test of character came in 1995, when he was called on the field by Darrell Hair and Ross Emerson during the Boxing Day Test. “Life is all about forgiving and forgetting,” he said, showing great grace. “You can’t say they did a wrong thing. In their minds, they thought what I did was wrong. There’s a fair trial. The ICC will use technology to determine if the action is fair or not. That’s how it goes.”

Sidestepping a question on whether he would have opted to retire after the first Test even if Galle wasn’t the venue, Muralitharan went on, “In Galle, bowlers have a good chance. Over the years, it has been a result-oriented wicket. I thought we had a good chance with Malinga playing in the side. He’s different and unique. With the batting, we had no worries. As bowlers, we had to take 20 wickes and Malinga came to the scene. That’s when I thought we could do it and that’s why I chose this one.

“This was an opportunity I was waiting for -- perform well, win the match and finish it nicely. My knee is not good enough to bowl 50-60 overs for three Tests,” pointed out Murali, who is to fly to Australia for work on his knee not long from now. “There are good young spin bowlers, you won’t miss me much! There is nothing left for me to achieve in Test cricket, you should understand that. I am very happy I am going this way.”

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