India has been a second home for Muttiah Muralitharan. He is married to a Chennai girl, has been an Indian Premier League regular and now he has been drafted by the Cricket Association of Bengal as spin coach. Ahead of his visit to Kolkata, he spoke to The Indian Express about his new assignment, the upcoming World T20 event in Bangladesh and Ravichandran Ashwin’s slump. Excerpts. (FULL COVERAGE: ICC World T20)
Who approached you for Bengal job?
Sourav Ganguly. He contacted me and asked me if I was interested. He said CAB was keen to nurture young talents. I’m excited to be a part of the programme.
What is the nature of your role here?
My role will be to help young kids grow into their job. I will guide them and will oversee their progress. The idea will be to train the youngsters in a way that at least one or two of them play for India.
As one of the greatest spinners to have played the game, will it be tough for you to come down to the level of a young spinner and teach the complex art of spinning the ball?
I didn’t become great in a year. It took me 20 years. This is exactly what I will tell the kids. I, too, was like them once. More than the technical side, I will try to make them believe in themselves. I will put more emphasis on the mental side of their game.
Let’s move to World T20. Who start as favourites?
Sri Lanka. They’ve done well in these conditions. They’ve just returned home from Bangladesh after playing a bilateral series and the Asia Cup. They know the conditions inside out and have the belief after winning the Asia Cup. Most importantly, they’ve the team to win. They have wicket-taking options upfront, bowling at the death, spinners for middle overs and batters who know how to play when. There are other title contenders as well but my pick is Sri Lanka.
Why is there a scarcity of spin-bowling talent in Sri Lanka after you?
You can’t get a Muralitharan or a Shane Warne everyday. You’ve to support the young players. They will learn from their mistakes and will get better with experience. Ajantha Mendis is a very good bowler. He has had been unlucky with his injuries. Now that he has returned to the national team, I expect him to step up to the plate.
The situation is pretty similar in India. There’s a void after Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
Like Mendis, (Ravichandran) Ashwin too had a promising start to his (international) career. Then there was a slide, and it can happen. It would be unfair to compare him with Kumble and Harbhajan because both are great bowlers and Ashwin still is learning the ropes. If he’s going through a form slump then he must be supported during this difficult period. There would be ups and downs in cricket. We just have to be a little patient. (FULL COVERAGE: ICC World T20)