SL bid bye to Murali

March 30, 2011

Sri Lankan bade an emotional farewell to Muttiah Muralitharan who played his last international match on home soil with the first World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at the Premadasa Stadium on Tuesday.
A journey that began 18 years ago at this very ground against India, came to a fitting end with Muralitharan striking with his last ball at home when he had Scott Styris out for an lbw.
Playing with an injury, his contribution in the game, however, was noting more than average with a low-key return of 2-42 in 10 overs.
Muralitharan aggravated his hamstring injury during the group game against the same opponents and hurt his knee in the quarter-final against England which made him uncertain for the semi-final at one stage.
The magnitude of the game coupled with the emotional attachment took him onto the field, but Muralitharan was not at his very best in the game, which was evident in his every step.
And still a half-fit Muralitharan was a big threat for New Zealand, who never had any good names for handling spin bowling. And they showed it again when they struggled against him, losing two key wickets at key moments.
Muralitharan’s scalp included Jesse Ryder, New Zealand’s top-scorer in the quarter-final against South Africa, and Scott Styris, who gave his best shot for them on Tuesday with highest 57 runs.
With their wickets Muralitharan signed off his campaign at home, taking his tally in the World Cup to 68 in 39 appearances. Muralitharan, who was playing his fifth World Cup, is now three wickets away from equalling the all-time World Cup record of 71.
It is, however, immaterial for the Sri Lankans if he had another record to his name or not and it doesn’t matter how he has performed in his last home game. He will remain forever a hero to them as he always was.
Born in a Tamil family, Muralitharan is probably the most adored cricketer in Sri Lanka and, needless to say, also the most respected as well. The entire country backed him when the Australian umpires called him ‘a chucker’ in 1995 and 1998 and he had got support from his every captain during his career spanning nearly two decades.
He could have easily continued to play for a few more years if he wanted, said the Sri Lankans, whom he amused year after year even on the placid pitches.
Commentators once argued if could turn the ball on a glass, but Muralitharan decided he has already done enough. Like many other great players he decided to quit when he is still close to his peak, which only increased his popularity as a cricketer.
His plan to dedicate his time for charity work in the war-hit Tamil area after retirement also took his popularity to a new height.
In Sri Lanka, the ruling Sinhalese people always hate the Tamils, but they never hated Muralitharan as he was beyond any race, cast and culture.
World Cup or no World Cup, it will not bring any changes in his popularity.


Courtesy of New Age

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