Colombo: "We were gutted", Muttiah Muralitharan said on Wednesday about Sri Lanka`s defeat by India in the World Cup final, a match he had hoped to be the grand finale of his career during which he has collected 1334 international wickets.
The Lankan team thought that 274 was a good total but "God does not give everything", the off-spinner recalled about last Saturday`s final at the Wankhede stadium.
The match had been billed as a contest between two of the game`s greatest, Sachin Tendulkar and Muralitharan. The Indian fulfilled his dream of a World Cup win but the Sri Lankan went wicketless.
Muralitharan had ended his Test career last year on a sensational note taking his 800th wicket with his last ball against India. There was no such fairytale ending to his ODI career during which he took 534 wickets.
"It simply wasn`t our day", he told PTI adding," what we didn`t expect was the dew to come in. From the 25th over onwards the dew was there it was difficult to bowl and the ball started to come onto the bat nicely".
Looking back at his 20-year career which had its share of controversies with regard to his bowling action, Muralitharan said that the 1996 World Cup win remained the greatest moment in his cricketing career.
Asked if he believed that his record of 800 Test wickets would be broken, he replied, "you never know. For a long time 300 wickets in Test cricket used to be the benchmark.
"It took a long time to take it to 400 and that remained for a long time. Now it’s 800. If someone has a long career and is able to keep out of injuries it could happen", he said.
Tendulkar and Brian Lara are the two best batsmen he has bowled to, said the veteran, adding that it was very difficult to single out one.
"Both of them have excellent records. Lara scored over 600 runs during a series held here in 2001. Sachin has had his moments against me and I have enjoyed some success against them as well. It all depends on form, situation and things".
He was full of praise for Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni under whom he played in IPL for Chennai Superkings. "MS is sharp and does not lose his cool when things are tough.
"He remains calm and takes decisions. When tension is high, it is very important to remain calm. It is not easy, but MS has been able to do that. And that is one reason for his success", he said.
Muralitharan also liked the way Anil Kumble led India "from a bowler`s perspective". Not too may bowlers captain in Test cricket these days, he pointed out.
Muralitharan is unfazed by controversies surrounding his bowling action, starting with Australian umpire Darrell Hair calling him for throwing in 1995. The controversy has refused to die down and Indian spinner Bishen Singh Bedi called him a javelin thrower.
"There have been so many tests done on me. I have voluntarily gone for some tests and it has been proved my action is clean", he said.
The off-spinner disclosed that when he was initially called for chucking, "I thought of giving it all away.”
"I wanted to get back home and look after the family business and then at another stage I thought should I bowl leg-spin.”
"But guys like Arjuna (Ranatunga), Aravinda (de Silva) and the entire team in 1995 backed me. That strength helped me", he recalled.
Muralitharan, who will turn 39 in a fortnight, will be involved in T-20 cricket for various clubs and counties. In IPL, he’s contracted with Kochi.
After IPL, he will travel to England to play for Hampshire in the shortest format of the game. He also has a contract with Wellington in New Zealand and will turn up for Tamil Union in Sri Lanka to play T-20 cricket.
"I just want to play T-20 cricket for two years and then just take it easy after that," Muralitharan said when asked about his plans.
He also feels retirement from international cricket will give him more time to spend time expanding his charity. Muralitharan has planned a sports complex in Mankulam, in north of the country in the former LTTE controlled area.
The sports complex will be built on a 50 acre land gifted by the Sri Lankan government for Muralitharan’s charity. He recently visited the site of construction and was joined by former England captains Sir Ian Botham and Michael Vaughan and both pledged their support after the visit.