Vol. 5 Num 623 Tue. February 28, 2006  

Sri Lanka Tour of Bangladesh 2006

'My name is Muralidaran'

Champion Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has one wish going into his 100th Test today.

"Please know me as Muttiah Muralidaran, not Muralitharan," said the smiling assassin who is now involved in a two-way race with Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne for the bragging rights to become Test cricket's highest wicket-taker.

The Lankan all-time great was at the centre of all attraction not because that he would once again be producing devastating spells, but the occasion itself.

However, the islanders' favourite Tamil son appeared modest as he has always been at a crowded press conference on Monday. With his trademark smile on his simple reply was: "It is good to play 100 Test matches."

One of the most successful bowlers of the game, who needs just five wickets to bag 1,000 international victims, would only be the second player in Sri Lanka to reach the hundred-Test mark after dashing opener Sanath Jayasuriya, who also achieved it at home against Bangladesh during the August-September series.

"I didn't think about it when I started playing," he took time to add the second sentence.

The spinner is just 16 scalps away from six hundred Test wickets behind Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, who has 659, and when asked whether he wanted to complete it against his happy-hunting team here, Muralitharan said, "I never know because I always try to bowl to see my team winning. If it comes, let it be, otherwise it will take another series."

His typical aggressive look flashed for while on his face when his attention was drawn to the remarks made by Shane Warne that he was only a good bowler against the minnows.

"You should ask the question to Warne, not me," said an enraged Murali, whose career has always been snowed with controversies, adding that he was also not ready to comment on ugly Australian campaigns against him.

"Hauling 16 wickets at The Oval in 1998 was the special moment in my career. We also won the Test against England," he informed.

About his future, Murali said that he was looking forward to the next World Cup in West Indies.

"I will definitely play the World Cup and then I will see what happens," said the proud father of a two-month-old son, Naren.

Captain Mahela Jayawardene, however, was excited. "Murali is a great ambassador of Sri Lanka cricket. He is a very humble guy and easy-going player. When I came to the squad he was the simple guy and after all the achievements, he is the same one. It is amazing to play hundred Test matches and I think Murali is really happy about that. We will definitely celebrate it when we go back home," said Jayawardene.

Sri Lanka's spin-wizard Muttiah Muralidaran talks to journalists on the eve of his hundredth Test at the team hotel in Chittagong on Monday. PHOTO: STAR