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Muralitharan’s last hurrah at home

By Avishek Roy,IANS,

Colombo : Muttiah Muralitharan could not have hoped for a better way to end his final One-day International at home. He claimed a wicket Tuesday with the last delivery he bowled on his home soil in the World Cup semifianl against New Zealand.

Incidentally, Murali ended his Test career in similar fashion, getting the wicket of India’s Pragyan Ojha last year.

Murali has lived his cricketing life fully and with a record tally of wickets.

The roar of the entire nation seem to echo through the R. Premadasa stadium when it was announced on the public address system that Muralitharan was going to roll his arm over for one last time here. Muralitharan did not disappoint the home fans who enjoyed every success of his in the last two decades.

It was not a tail-ender’s wicket, it was the scalp of key New Zealand batsman Scott Styris, who scored a fighting 55. Murali’s off-break turned exactly the way he would have wanted and Styris missed and he was ruled leg before by umpire Steve Davis. The New Zealander went for a review and captain Kumar Sangakkara and his teammates turned to Murali to inquire what he thought of it. A gentle nod said he has got his man.

The referral was rejected and when it flashed on the big screen, everyone in the stadium stood up to salute the hero. A moment that finally comes in every cricketer’s life was past Muralitharan — he is through with his career as a player at home. He took his cap and acknowledged the cheers.

Perhaps, even the cricketing gods did not have the heart to deny him his last hurrah at home. His final figures read 10-1-42-2.

For the last two days there was an intense speculation whether Muralitharan would play in the semi-final, having strained his thigh in the quarterfinal against England. The fans had the faith in the king and he did not disappoint them.

When he played against New Zealand at Mumbai, captain Kumar Sangakkara said: “Murali bowled on one leg.”

At 38, and after 800 Test wickets and 534 ODI wickets, injuries cannot be wished away. But it is the strength of his mind that stood him apart from the crowd. Even when aspersions were cast on his bowling action and he was looked down upon as a mere chucker. Even when the cricketing world stood divided on his bowling, he carried on and on unmindful.

He answered all his critics with wickets, wickets and more wickets.