Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan is arguably the best spinner the world has seen and his feat of 800 Test wickets remains to be untouched by any bowler. In a chat with R Ashwin, then Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara revealed a story during 2010 series against India, where the spinner decided to hang up his boots after the first Test.
Back then he was still eight wickets shy of the 800-mark, but even after a lot of coaxing he decided to just play the first Test only. It looked like a tough task to complete the milestone against Team India, who played spin well, but Muralitharan took up the challenge.
“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 told Ashwin during the latest episode of Reminisce with Ash.
“I said ‘Murali, we know you like taking up challenges. But think of it this way. It’s 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.
“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,” Sangakkara recalled.
“'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 said.
With a fifer in the first innings and a three wicket haul in the second, Murali not only achieved the milestone but also ensured that Sri Lanka won the match by 10 wickets.