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If Rohit has the desire, he will play T20 World Cup: Muttiah Muralitharan | Cricket


If Rohit has the desire, he will play T20 World Cup: Muttiah Muralitharan | Cricket


Come big finals, put runs on the board! It’s a time-tested tactic in cricket; but Pat Cummins showed zero regard to it as he scripted Australia’s stunning takedown of India for the ODI World Cup final. It’s been five nights since – meanwhile, India is already leading Australia 1-0 in a T20I bilateral series – but the hosts being caught in their own web has left fans with an aching soul.

Muttiah Muralitharan said that the strike rate debate in T20 is overplayed.(PTI)
Muttiah Muralitharan said that the strike rate debate in T20 is overplayed.(PTI)

Muttiah Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker among spinners in World Cup history, stirs the debate further. “I think in a final in the sub-continent, I would always bat second because of the dew,” he said in an interview to mark ‘800’ – his biopic’s OTT release on Jio Cinema. “Australia gauged the conditions right. We did the same thing in the 1996 World Cup final. It was a similar score we were chasing (242). We had seen the dew on the previous day. Arjuna and Aravinda chased it down with 7 wickets to spare. Sometimes, you just have to go back to history.”

Rohit Sharma said at the toss, India would have batted first anyway if he called the coin right. “In the 2011 World Cup final, we made the same mistake. Kumara Sangakkara wanted to bat first and we struggled. We got a decent score. We got two early wickets, even the third wicket on time before the dew came and we couldn’t control the ball. It was one way traffic after that. Gambhir and Dhoni finished the match,” he said.

To fellow off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin left to play only one match in the tournament, Muralitharan felt, he ‘would not have fit in the team combinations’ except for pitches which turned. “Even if Ashwin played the final, the result would not have changed. When dew comes and the ball doesn’t turn, it goes straight through…it’s easy for batters. I experienced that in 2011 (final).”

Although, the word from the Indian camp has been, it wasn’t excessive dew but Ahmedabad’s black soil pitch easing up for the batters in the second innings that made the difference.

The Sri Lankan comfortably sits on the top of Test wicket-taking charts; his record unlikely to be broken. “No, no. James Anderson is some 100 wickets or so away. If he continues playing, who knows,” he smiles in reply.


Muralitharan had a fulfilling end to his career with his 800th victim in the Galle Test against India being his final wicket. Will Indian skipper Rohit Sharma get an opportunity to script a fairytale end in T20I cricket? Does he merit a place?

“You look at his ODI World Cup performance. The starts he gave, the kind of strike rates he batted at. He never failed in the tournament. And he’s only 36, that’s young. He can play another World Cup if he pushes his fitness like Virat,” he says.

The spin great is of the opinion, the strike rate debate in T20 is overplayed. “Why are people taking such harsh calls that it is the right time to go and bring youngsters. Until they are fit and performing, let them play,” he says. “Rohit batted with a strike rate of 130 in ODIs, which is not bad for T20. He’s an experienced player. You just have to work harder on your fitness after 35. If the desire is there, he’ll play. I think he’ll definitely play another World Cup. It’s on his mind.”

Much the same way, Muralitharan, SRH’s long-time spin bowling coach simplifies what a spinner needs to do to succeed in T20. Talk about Ashwin’s theory of each of the 24 balls being an event. “It’s Ashwin’s opinion,” he says. “If you ask me, T20 hasn’t changed that much. You have to be good enough to bowl one side and the other (spin both ways). That’s it. Other variations are bowling fast, slow or the variations you get from the pitch. You just have to be confident that you can do the job. If you are, the rest will happen.”

Pained to see the state of affairs in Sri Lankan cricket – cricket board suspended, U19 World Cup taken away and the national team failing to qualify for the next Champions trophy, Murali says ‘the players still have to take responsibility’ for their own cricket. “If the board is in disarray, there are people to take action,” he said.


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