Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said he did not want Muttiah Muralitharan to finish his Test career without taking 800 wickets after the legendary off-spinner told him he wanted to retire after the Galle Test against India in 2010.
Kumar Sangakkara recalled the discussion he had with Muralitharan before the start of his farewell Test against India in July 2010. The batting great said Muralitharan was at 792 wickets but that he had said he doesn’t want to play beyond the first Test against India.
Sangakkara revealed he and the selectors offered Murathiran 2 or more matches but the legendary off-spinner declined it and told them that he would get to 800 in the Galle Test and help the team win the series opener.
Muralitharan lived up to his promise as he picked up a 5-wicket haul in his first innings and 3 in the second to help Sri Lanka clinch a 10-wicket win. Murali reached the magic number as well.
“I will tell you the measure of the man, Ravi. He was 8 wickets away from 800. 800 Test wickets, as we all know is an incredible amount. He said he wanted to retire in the India series and I was the captain. I sat with the selectors and said, he wants to retire after the 1st Test. It’s not going to happen. We got to get him to get those 8 wickets and retire. So we called Murali into a meeting,” Sangakkara told R Ashwin during the latest installement of Reminisce with Ash Instagram series.
“I said ‘Murali, we know you like taking up challenges. But think of it this way. It’s a tragic if you come so close and don’t get your 800. So you can play the 1st Test, and then if you are too tire or have a niggle, take the 2nd Test off and you come back for the 3rd Test. Or you can take 2 Tests off and come back for the next series.
“Murali look at us and said ‘you know what? That is not going to work for you or for me. I have always loved challenges and if I am supposed to be the best spinner, I should be able to take 8 wickets at Galle against any side.
“‘And If I take 8 wickets, I am not just going to get my 800, we are going to win this Test match as well. If I can’t get it, I can’t get it. So this is my last Test. Thank You very much, I am going to take 8 wickets.’
“I was seated then and I was thinking, that’s the kind of champion the guy was.”
‘Muralitharan was annoying as hell in the dressing room’
Meanwhile, Sangakkara also shed light on how Muttiah Muralitharan helped youngsters in the team throughout his career. The Marylebone Cricket Committee president said Muralitharan was a guy with ‘no ego’ but was ‘annoying’ in the dressing room.
Sangakkara said the entire Sri Lankan team had a rule wherein the batsman who was going to go out next would never sit next to Muralitharan.
“He is an exceptional human being. Annoying as hell in the dressing room because he bloody talks all the time. He is always critical and always saying things that annoy you. We had a rule that if you are going to bat next, you never sat next to Muralitharan because he will come and tell you how good the opposition is and how bad you are,” Sangakkara said.
“But the guy has an absolute heart of gold. He had no ego. He always spent his time with the youngsters in the team.
“He would in the back of the bus, playing jokes with them and talking to them as equal. And that nearly helped build the confidence of the youngsters much more than Mahela or I ever did
“Because you had this one guy who would go to a hotel and call up youngsters and say ‘listen I am going for dinner. What do you guys want for dinner, I will bring it back’. He will go out and bring all the dinner and would the guys to come and eat with him.
“He answered questions with them. That really helped to break the barriers.”