Former Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan’s record of 800 Test wickets might remain unbreached as long as the game is played. Muralitharan reached the elusive milestone in his 133rd Test match in 2010, which was also the last of his illustrious career. While the entire nation was vying for him to get to the landmark, Kumar Sangakkara played a unique part in it.
Having made his Test debut in 1992, Muttiah Muralitharan went on to play for the next 18 years, rapidly piling up wickets. Leading up to his final hurrah in Galle against India, the finger spinner was only eight wickets shy of reaching 800 scalps. While Murali wasn’t fixed on breaching the 800-mark, his captain Kumar Sangakkara wasn’t going to let him retire without doing it.
In an Instagram live session with Ravichandran Ashwin, Sangakkara revealed that Muttiah Muralitharan intended to retire after the first Test. On hearing this, the flamboyant left-handed batsman called a meeting with the selectors and included Murali too.
Sangakkara was firm on the off-spinner to get the remaining eight wickets before calling it a day since it would be tragic if he retires before that. The captain also gave Muralitharan an option to play intermittently but wanted him to bag 800 wickets to end his glorious career on a fitting note.
“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 said as quoted by India Today.
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,” Sangakkara added.
Muttiah Muralitharan’s response to Kumar Sangakkara’s words:
On listening to Sangakkara’s comments, the 48-year old remarked that he was confident of taking eight wickets against any team in Galle. At the same time, Murali refused to extend his career if he fails to reach 800 wickets in the series opener against India. Muttiah Muralitharan also said that in case he claims those eight victims, the hosts would win the Test match as well. Sri Lanka would go on to win the game by ten wickets with Pragyan Ojha being Muralitharan’s 800th Test victim.
“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.” Sangakkara quoted as said by Muttiah Muralitharan.
Sadly, Muralitharan’s ODI career didn’t have a happy ending. His final ODI came in Mumbai at the final of the 2011 World Cup, which India won by six wickets. The off-spinner went wicketless in eight overs, conceding 39 runs.