Legendary Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan said that Indian cricket is in good shape because of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has given the country a lot of cricketing talent. Muralitharan in an exclusive conversation with ANI talked about cricket, Sri Lanka, the movie ‘800’, an upcoming Indian Tamil language biopic on him etc. “It (IPL) has given players something to look forward to. It has given them a lot of money and opportunities. IPL has given a lot of talent to India as well. There are so many talented players. Now, like the IPL, many leagues like the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) have started. Players from here get selected to play IPL as well. Indian cricket is in good shape because of IPL,” said Muralitharan.
Talking about the fitness standards of the Sri Lankan side, Muralitharan said that the players did not get a proper physio till the mid-1990s.
“When we were an unbeatable side, the fitness levels were really good. But before this, we did not have trainers. Cricketers played an amateur game back then. On a tour, we had to buy almost everything by ourselves and had just our manager and physio. We could not afford it (trainers),” said the spinner.
“I had not even heard of a gym when I started playing. We used to run five rounds in the ground after eating all sorts of things in the morning. It was only in 1995 that we got a proper physio. We got our first sponsor in 1995 as well. Even the match fee for my first-ever Test was Rs 2,000. Even the Indian team faced such issues back then, but they were relatively okay because they had sponsors.”
“Money came into cricket in 1996 because of Dalmiya (Jagmohan Dalmiya, former BCCI president and ICC president). He brought in Wills as a sponsor and there was a TV rights deal too. He made everything possible and whatever we are enjoying is because of his professionalism,” he said.
A master of realpolitik and a genius with money, Jagmohan Dalmiya is the man most responsible for turning the gentleman’s game into a global sport of big money and a reach well beyond its traditional bastions. His commercial skills and flair for striking deals turned round the cash-strapped ICC’s fortunes.
Muralitharan pointed out that it was only in the mid to late 1990s that Asian teams like Sri Lanka, and India started building various facilities, stadiums and gyms.
“After 1996, India and Sri Lanka started building stadiums, gyms etc. Australia, New Zealand, England, and South Africa had facilities earlier, which is why they were so dominating. Now, we are dominating because we have the right facilities. We have the IPL, the richest board is India and India is the powerhouse,” he added.
Talking about the organisation of the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, during a season of heavy rains and criticism from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) about hosting the tournament in SL, Muralitharan said, “One thing that they could done was play in Bangladesh. The weather over there is good I think. Or else, they could have played in Dubai.”
Notably, Sri Lanka will play Pakistan in Colombo on Thursday. The winner will join India in the final on September 17 in Colombo.
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