De Silva wary of life without Murali
Sri Lanka selector Aravinda De Silva says the national side will have to “live with reality” after the retirement of history-making spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.
The 38-year-old wrapped up his Test career in the perfect way yesterday, becoming the first - and perhaps last - man in history to claim 800 wickets with his final ball in the format.
Murali has routinely forced players in his own team and opposition ranks to reappraise the realms of possibility for an off-spin bowler, and jotting down his name on the team-sheet has been one of the simplest selection tasks in international cricket.
The considerably harder task now facing De Silva and his fellow selectors is how to best balance the team in the future.
Murali’s shadow will loom large over the second Test against Sri Lanka on Monday and De Silva, who himself left a huge whole in the Sri Lanka side when he retired in 2002, accepts how tough that challenge is.
“I think it’s a big void which needs to be filled because Murali is a guy who will come maybe once in a generation,” he said.
“It is very different to any other guy when it comes to replacing him so we have to live with the reality and look for the next generation of spinners who are going to see us through.
“On the field he gave it 100% always and as a person he was a tremendous guy to have as a friend.
“But most of all the thing I admired the most in him was the way he supported his team-mates and helped them.
“That is something all senior players should take a leaf from because that sort of thing is very, very important.”
De Silva was a key part of the Sri Lanka side during the most difficult period in Muralitharan’s career, when he was called for throwing by Australian umpires Darrell Hair and Ross Emerson on separate occasions in the mid-to-late nineties.
That led to a seemingly endless bout of biomechanical analysis, ICC testing and murmured debate about the legality of his action but De Silva does not feel that fraught period should define Muralitharan’s gargantuan achievements in the game.
“For any cricketers it must be traumatic and I’m sure it was for him, but I think he came through that pretty well,” he said.
“He was much better than I anticipated that he would be. But all in all that is something that is in the past and it is just nice to see him get through that phase to become one of the greatest spinners ever.”