Galle: Veteran Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan does not consider his swansong Test against India a "big match" and says he would not feel sad if he retires without touching the unprecedented 800-wicket mark.
The off-spinner needs eight more wickets in his final Test, beginning here tomorrow at Galle International stadium, to touch the 800 mark.
"I can`t say it`s a big match. Just another match and it is going to be the last match for me. I have been happy with the way I have played in the last 18-19 years. Hopefully, I will do well and get a good result for Sri Lanka and retire very well. That`s the whole plan," Muralitharan said at the pre-match press conference.
"If I do not get a single wicket or if I get five wickets, I will (still) be very happy. I will try all my tricks in the middle for the last time. Let`s see if it works or not. I am going to really enjoy the game rather than
think about how many wickets I am going to need. Just enjoy the game and not put much pressure on myself," he added.
Muralitharan said looking back, he is extremely satisfied with the way his career shaped up.
"I never dreamt I would be finishing like this. I think I had a great finish because I have done very well in Test cricket. You can`t get the record easily.”
"Because of that, I have no regrets. I am not sad, I am very happy with what I have achieved and I am glad I am going out in a good manner because people are not asking me to go."
The spin wizard justified his decision to retire in the middle of the series, saying it was in the interest of the team and youngsters.
"I had planned to retire after the West Indies series at home because this tour was not on. India and Sri Lanka put on a tour in between. I thought this is the right time to retire because I thought one match was enough.”
"There are other bowlers, who can have a go and play five more Tests at home. I thought that was in the best interests of me and the country, I thought it was the right time," he reasoned.
Muralitharan also said he had nothing more to achieve in his career and is even ready to give his place to a youngster in Sri Lanka`s 2011 ODI World Cup campaign.
"If they really want me and if I fit in, I will play. Otherwise, I will be happy to give my place to a youngster because I have nothing more to achieve. I have played four World Cups and won one and runners-up once. If the youngsters are doing well, they can carry on," he said.
Muralitharan said his side had a good chance against India in the series due to the visitors` bowling concerns and also refused to believe the hosts` batting was weak compared to India.
"I don`t think our batting is weak. It is one of the best line-ups in the world, it has scored a lot of runs. (Tillakaratne) Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene have scored more runs in the last one year than most others.
"Maybe the Indian bowling is lacking a little bit because of injuries. But when you go in on the day whoever performs comes good. It is difficult to judge because past is past, what is important is the present."
The retiring legend lauded Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s leadership.
"He is a fabulous captain, that`s why we (the Chennai Super Kings) won the last IPL. I enjoyed playing under him. But when in the middle, we play hard because friendship is only outside the boundary. In the middle, we all fight hard, take wickets and score runs," he said.
Talking about Sri Lanka`s next generation of spinners, he said, "Ajantha Mendis is number one. Other two are Rangana Herath and Suraj Randiv. These spinners can go a long way because two of them are very young, the other is about 30. So they have a lot of time in their careers."
The outgoing cricketer did not hide his admiration for two batting legends he played against frequently in his career.
"I will say in world cricket, I admire two people. Sachin and Brian Lara because they are the most consistent batsmen of my generation," he said.
Muralithran said he will continue playing IPL.
"As for IPL, everyone wants to be involved. I love to play for another 2-3 years, go around and enjoy myself playing in England, New Zealand and other countries," he said.