During the Indian tour of Sri Lanka in 2010, spin wizard, Muttiah Muralitharan, was at the cusp of calling it quits from the game of cricket, despite being eight short of the magical 800-Test wicket feat.
Apparently, Murali decided to retire after the 1st Test at Galle. The then Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara recently opened up on how he managed to convince Murali to play the entire series, in order to complete his milestone.
“I will tell you the measure of the man, Ravi. He was eight 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 gotta get him to get those 8 wickets and retire. So we called Murali into a meeting,” Sangakkara told Ravichandran Ashwin, on his Instagram Live show ‘Reminisce with Ash’.
Further, Sanga advised Murali to take rest during the second Test, if he did not complete the magical milestone, and come back in the third to pick the remainder of wickets.
“I said ‘Murali, we know you like taking up challenges. But think of it this way. It’s 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 tired 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,” added the legendary wicket-keeper batsman.
In reply, Murali displayed his champion DNA, being confident of achieving the milestone in the Galle Test itself, and then hanging up his boots.
“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,” Sanga revealed.
“‘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.” he concluded.
Murali did exactly what he claimed and ended up picking eight wickets in the match, including a five-wicket haul in the first innings and three in the second. His 800th scalp was the wicket of Pragyan Ojha. Sri Lanka also ended up winning the match by ten wickets.
With 1347 international wickets in his career, Murali remains head and shoulders ahead of the rest. It would take a herculean effort for any bowler to reach anywhere close to his tally.