Sri Lanka face up to life without Muralitharan

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Sri Lanka entered a new cricketing era on Friday, facing an uncertain future without the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan.

Updated: July 23, 2010 06:59 IST
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Sri Lanka entered a new cricketing era on Friday, facing an uncertain future without the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, the world's leading wicket-taker.

Muralitharan, 38, quit Test cricket on Thursday after reaching the unprecedented 800-wicket landmark, having played a major role in a 10-wicket victory over India in Galle.

The off-spinner finished with more Test (800) and one-day (515) wickets than any bowler in history, a record that is unlikely to be surpassed in the foreseeable future.

Among bowlers still playing Tests, India's Harbhajan Singh leads the pack with 355 wickets and New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori has 325.

Muralitharan was the kingpin of the Sri Lankan attack for the past 18 years, and skipper Kumar Sangakkara admitted his inspiring presence will be missed - besides the bagful of wickets each time he came on to bowl.

"My theory is that I am not going to look for another Murali because you are not going to find one," said Sangakkara. "There will be no one like him.

"For me, leading out the side without Murali will be a huge loss. But it gives us an opportunity to see how really the other bowlers will be able to give us Test wins.

"I don't think anyone is going to take eight or nine wickets for us. We'll share the wickets out, do the hard work necessary and win games by bowling the unique way."

Before Muralitharan made his debut against Australia at home in 1992, Sri Lanka had won just two of their past 40 Tests.

Since then, he figured in 54 of Sri Lanka's 59 Tests wins, claiming 438 wickets in the success.

Muralitharan was so dominant that former team-mate Chaminda Vaas, with 355 scalps, is the only other Sri Lankan to touch the 100-wicket mark.

Sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who destroyed India's batting with a five-wicket haul in the first Test, comes a distant third with 98 wickets.

Muralitharan was, however, confident that Sri Lanka had a bright future with many upcoming bowlers in the ranks.

"Kumar said other bowlers will struggle to take eight or nine wickets in a Test, but cricket has changed and I am sure they will do a good job," the 133-Test veteran said.

"But I assure you, you won't miss me much, because there are some very talented bowlers in our country and they will serve the team well."

Leading the spin pack after Muralitharan will be left-armer Rangana Herath and the unorthodox Ajantha Mendis, while off-spinner Suraj Randiv waits in the wings.

Herath, 32, has 71 wickets from 22 Tests, while Mendis, 25, is a wicket-taker in the Muralitharan mould with 44 wickets so far in 10 matches.

Both are expected to feature in the second Test against India starting at the Sinhalese sports club ground on Monday.

"The door is open for those willing to step in," said Sangakkara. "All I can tell them is that they should be ready for a lot of hard work."

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