There’s hardly any doubt that Muttiah Muralitharan, who retired with 800 Test wickets, is one of the best spinners, the world has ever seen. But he feels that apart from a few, there aren’t many decent off-spinners in the world currently, and pace bowling in ruling the roost.
“The problem in Test cricket is that Twenty20s and one-day internationals have changed the dynamics," says Murali, talking from his home in Colombo. “When I played, the batsmen were technically so good and wickets were flat; now, they try to finish matches in three days," he to;d The Sydney Morning Herald.
“The bowlers in my day had to do extra work to get spin and do something magic to get results. Nowadays, if you bowl line and length over a period of time, you will get five wickets. It is guaranteed because batsmen cannot stay for long without attacking.
“You have a better chance of taking wickets, which is why spinners only have to set the field properly, bowl line and length and let the pitches and batsmen do the rest. Spinners used to have to work hard for wickets, which is why they worked hard on developing other deliveries.
“Now they do that in T20 cricket instead. They bowl different variations because batsmen are coming after them. But in Test cricket you don’t need to do it."
WIll anyone reach to 800 wickets? “Ashwin [who has 377 Test wickets] has a chance because he is a great bowler," says Murali. “Other than that, I don’t think any younger bowler coming in will go to 800. Maybe Nathan Lyon is not good enough to reach it. He is close to 400  but he has had to play many, many matches to get there."
Talking about Sri Lankan cricket, he said, “You know the politics of the cricket board and recently we have had too many players and too many captains. I remember when I started, Arjuna [Ranatunga] captained for about 10 years, then after that Sanath [Jayasuriya] for four years, then Mahela and Sanga.
“In my career, I had four or five captains in a 20-year period, but these days we have a captain for six months and then they change. If you want to be successful, you have to have a leader players respect. It is not because of the [lack of] talent, but because we have no leaders and do not play together as a team.
“We are like Pakistan. We have so much talent but after one bad innings we fight each other. This is the most difficult time for Sri Lanka cricket.
“They have not been together for five or six years. Everyone pulls in different directions. It is a shame because, if we did pull together, we have a lot of talented cricketers.
“We need a leader for at least four years: one coach from World Cup to World Cup. They are changing coaches every two years, so there is no clear message to the younger players. Those are the mistakes and why our cricket is on a different plane.
“We should have done better in South Africa recently, but Sri Lanka will put up a good fight [against England]. As a team, England is better than Sri Lanka, but home advantage and spin-friendly wickets help. England have their noses in front but that might change."