'WC win was more special'
Test cricket's leading wicket-taker Muttiah Muralidaran said on Tuesday he rated Sri Lanka's World Cup triumph in 1996 as more memorable than his own individual world record.
The 35-year-old became the most successful bowler in Test history on Monday when he surpassed fellow spin great Shane Warne's record tally of 708 wickets during the first Test against England here.
Even as the entire nation celebrated his feat, Muralidaran said his feat did not rate as high as the win over Australia in the World Cup final in the Pakistani city of Lahore under former captain Arjuna Ranatunga.
"The record is nothing much compared to the World Cup win," the off-spinner told local reporters. "The win in 1996 is something unique and I will remember that forever."
Sri Lanka regarded that lone World Cup title as the ideal way to avenge Australia's refusal to travel to Colombo for that tournament opener due to security concerns following a deadly bomb blast.
Australia forfeited that match, but were pitted against Sri Lanka in the final where Ranatunga's men won by seven wickets.
"It was very special," Muralidaran said. "You have to give a lot of credit to Arjuna for helping us achieve that. He is my favourite captain and he was my first captain too."
The off-spinner said he will always be grateful to Ranatunga for standing by him when he was no-balled for throwing by Australian umpires in 1995 and 1997.
"Arjuna did a lot of things for me and for the whole team," said Muralidaran. "I will never forget that he protected me during difficult times."
Murali, as he is affectionately called, had previously held the world record briefly in 2004 when he overtook West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh's 519-wicket mark, before Warne surpassed him.
The Sri Lankan bowler agreed with Warne that the record could stay with him for a long time -- especially since the next man in line, 37-year-old Indian Anil Kumble -- has 576 wickets.
"The record will stay with me for a while unless someone like Anil continues to play for a long time," he said.
"If he plays long enough he will probably get the record. Otherwise it will be there for a while."
Muralidaran rated West Indian Brian Lara, Andy Flower of Zimbabwe and Graham Thorpe of England as the most difficult batsmen to bowl to.
"I rate Brian Lara pretty high," he said "We had a battle going on and I thought Brian played me really well. Flower was another who was difficult to bowl to and so was Thorpe."
Murali would not commit on setting himself a 1,000-Test wicket target, saying a lot would depend on how far he was willing to stretch himself.
"I am going to be 36 next year and I am bowling a lot of overs," he said.
"I want to play both forms of the game. We only play seven to eight Tests a year and if we don't play you can lose interest.
"So I'll play one more season and reassess things. I can't say I will take 1,000 wickets or whatever. If you don't enjoy the game it will be difficult."