Many a Lankan supporter had the romantic hope of seeing Muttiah Muralitharan, Murali as is more commonly known, lifting the World Cup trophy in Mumbai, signing off in style after grabbing the last and decisive Indian wicket, preferrably Sachin Tendulkar's. However, as things panned out, it was India who lifted the trophy and Sachin who was raised and sat on shoulders and paraded around the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday night.
Murali, as he has been since he made his debut against Australia in 1992, was quick to congratulate the winners.The match as such did not witness one of his better performances. Betraying a lack of fitness, he trudged onto bowl though his deliveries lacked the sharpness which terrified batsmen when he was at his prime. His skipper Sangakkara did not look to him in the decisive final over, and all in all, it was far from the dream finale he deserved.
Sadly, he wasn't given a chance to speak for one last time. He received a loud cheer when he collected the runners-up medal, but that was as far as his finale went. Sangakkara admitted it wasn't Murali's day but rued losing out on the chance to give him the perfect send off.
He said, It's one of those rare days when he hasn't really done the job for us, but it happens maybe once in a 100 games. We're going to miss him terribly. Unfortunately we couldn't give him a great send-off but that's the way it goes. We were outplayed and we have to accept that.
He then summed up Murali best - As a champion on the field and off the field. As a human being and a cricketer, I don't think there is anyone to match him.
In the years to go by, he will be remembered as the greatest spin-bowler of all time. But more than his cricket, it will be his down-to-Earth, genuine-friendliness that will be remembered most. His best friend and Srilanka teammate Mahele Jayawardene said, Everyone can see what Murali has achieved on the field. But I would like to admire the person off the field. When I joined the team, he was the first one who took me out for a meal. I didn't know him at all but he was so friendly.
He has always done that. He is the first to take out a new player for a meal and a chat. That's Murali for you. And the annoying part is that he is probably the friendliest guy with opponents, too. Ask the English boys, the Indian boys, he will be the first to have a chat with them.
So it has come to pass that Murali will not have that dream ending. However, one can reflect on a great career. On a personal note, what i'll miss most about him is the childlike exuberance with which he played the game and the trademark laugh that would light up his face after a wicket and the skip and jump into a teammates'