Friday, January 21, 2011

Muttiah Muralitharan plans to retire after World Cup

Legendary Sri Lanka off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan has confirmed that he will retire from international cricket after the forthcoming World Cup in Asia.

The 38-year-old quit Test cricket last July after taking a record 800 wickets.

But he has remained in his country's limited-overs side and will bow out after the World Cup, co-hosted by Sri Lanka, which begins on 19 February.

However, he will continue to play in the lucrative Indian Premier League after signing for new franchise Kochi.

Muralitharan, who helped Sri Lanka win the 1996 World Cup and was a losing finalist in 2007, has taken 517 wickets in 339 one-day internationals in a career which has spanned nearly two decades at the top level and left him as the world's leading wicket-taker in both the major formats of the game.

"I'm going to retire from international cricket, totally, after this World Cup," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Sri Lanka host West Indies in three one-day internationals before the World Cup, when they will face Canada, Pakistan, Kenya, Australia, Zimbabwe and New Zealand in Group A.

"Our preparation has been good, but I think we have a good chance because we're playing in Sri Lanka," said Muralitharan.

"There won't be a huge [home] advantage, but it will have a little bit of impact

"It's very difficult to compare the 1996 team to this team, as it's two different generations.

"We have experienced players and young players, and our side has done very well for the last two years in one-day cricket.

"England are a very good side, but it depends on how they play in sub-continent conditions, which are very different to Australia or England as it favours spin bowling.

"Graeme Swann has done really well for England, I think he's one of the best spinners in the world."

Meanwhile, he told reporters at a training session in Colombo that as well as signing to play in the IPL for the next two years, he was "also looking at similar work in New Zealand and perhaps England."

But he ruled out an immediate move into coaching, adding: "There are plenty of coaches and lots of talented people out there.

"I will take things as they come. For the moment, no coaching stints."

Born in Kandy, Muralitharan's unique bent-arm bowling action, caused by a deformity from birth, has meant that he has courted controversy at times during his career.

Some umpires and former players have questioned his action's legality - notably in Australia, where umpires Darrell Hair and Ross Emerson no-balled him for throwing.

The mechanics of his bowling action have been investigated and cleared on more than one occasion by the International Cricket Council, although in 2005 the ICC amended its rules to allow bowlers to straighten their arms by up to 15 degrees.

Throughout much of his career, he battled with Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne for the title of the world's leading wicket-taker, but Warne retired from internationals in 2007 with 708 wickets from 145 Tests, and 293 victims from 194 ODIs - although he, too, continues to play in the IPL.

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