Colombo: History-making Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan says mental toughness and hard work are the keys to his success in international cricket.
"It's not all that sweet. It's not easy to go on for such a long time because you have your ups and downs," said Muralitharan, 36, after becoming the highest wicket-taker in one-day internationals with 503. "The main point is how strong you are and how you make a comeback."
The Sri Lankan spinner completed a record bowling double here on Thursday when he dismissed Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir in his 10th and last over in the fourth match here, surpassing former Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram's one-day mark of 502.
He also holds the record in Test cricket with 769 wickets. Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar is the only other player to hold two major world records -- highest scorer in Tests (12,429) and one-dayers (16,440).
"It (the record double) is a great achievement because the only other person to have achieved the feat is Tendulkar, so playing for Sri Lanka and achieving this feat is great for me and the country," said Muralitharan late Thursday.
"Everybody wants to perform well in both forms of the game, so holding records in both forms of the game means I've done really well for a long period. You have to be physically and mentally fit."
Muralitharan, who made his Test debut in 1992 and played his first one-dayer the following year, said there was more competition for the Test bowling mark.
"Three bowlers were in content_cnion for Test record -- Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and myself. They were a little bit older than me. I thought they would retire before me and then I would have a chance of overcoming them," he said.
"That's what happened. I didn't think much about the one-day record as no-one was closer to it. The nearest among playing cricketers was (compatriot) Chaminda Vaas (400 wickets), so I thought it could be achieved easily."
When asked why the celebrations in the middle were muted after he had reached the landmark, the spinner said winning was always more important than records.
"It's not all about breaking records. It's all about winning matches and series. Unfortunately, it (the record) happened in a lost series and we also lost the match," said Muralitharan.
India had already gained a winning a 3-0 lead in the five-match series before Muralitharan's record and then won the fourth match by 67 runs. The Sri Lankan said he planned to play international cricket until the 2011 World Cup, to be held in the sub-continent.
"It (cricket) is the only thing I know, so I want to play as much as I can. I am thinking about playing till the next World Cup. There will be nothing more to achieve after that," he said.
Muralitharan admitted Mahendra Singh Dhoni's India had played better cricket in the ongoing series, saying confidence was the key to their success.
"Their confidence was high after beating England 5-0 (at home last year) and their batsmen played well here also," said Muralitharan, who could grab just three wickets in four matches against the tourists.
"There is a period when all the batsmen are set and getting runs. Then they are not scared of getting out. The batsmen struggle only when the confidence is low. At the moment their confidence is very high.
"It's all about confidence in this game," he added.