Muttiah Muralitharan finished his Test career with exactly 800 wickets, highest ever by any bowler. However, Very few might be aware of the fact that when the legendary off-spinner decided to announce his retirement, he had 792 wickets. It was back in 2010 when India was touring Sri Lanka for a three-match Test series. Murali decided that he will retire after playing the first Test in Galle.
Kumar Sangakkara, who was the captain of the Sri Lankan team back then, decided to try and pursue Murali to play two more Tests. In his head, he thought if the spinner didn’t take eight wickets and reach the magic-800 mark, it will be a tragedy. Ten years after Murali’s retirement, Sangakkara opened up regarding what went through the dressing room during that phase in an interaction with Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin.
During the latest episode of Reminisce with Ash on Instagram, the former wicket-keeper talked about the match and what happened leading up to it. Sangakkara recalled the options which he and the selectors gave to Murali.
That’s the kind of champion the guy was: Kumar Sangakkara on Muralitharan
“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.
“I said ‘Murali, we know you like taking up challenges. But think of it this way. It will be a tragedy 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,” Kumar Sangakkara said.
However, Muralitharan declined the offer. According to the ex-captain, the legendary off-spinner was sure that he would pick eight wickets in that match and retire with 800 Test wickets. “Murali looked 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”, Sangakkara further added. As it turned out, Murali got a five-wicket haul in the first innings and got three more wickets in the second innings to reach the magical figure.
Interestingly, Sri Lanka won the match by 10 wickets. It actually got a bit tense out in the middle, when Murali was stranded at 799 wickets with India nine down. However, it was a fairy tale ending for the spinner.
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