Murali promotes cricket in Singapore

by Reemus Fernando


It was rather odd. A retired Test cricketer is standing on the astroturf of a futsal court and the Sri Lankan star is surrounded by a group of young cricketers. Yet Muttiah Muralitharan doesn’t look a bit out of place in Singapore as he enthusiastically conducts a mini coaching camp to some dozen youngsters two months after his Test retirement. It seems the retirement from the longer version of the game has given time for him to be a cricketing ambassador at places where the game is still developing.

A heavy down pour has shifted the coaching clinic, which was earlier scheduled to be held at an outdoor venue, to a futsal court called ‘Cage’ but that hardly bothered Muralitharan, who was keen to give back from his massive store of experience.

"If you want to be a good spinner you must have your basics right," says Murali as youngsters flock around to get tips to master the art of spin bowling.

"This", says Murali pointing to probably the youngest of the crowd "is the ideal age to start learning the basics. What you need is to learn the correct method at this age. If you learn the wrong thing then it will be difficult to rectify it when you get older."

After briefing the young spinners Murali gets everyone to bowl at stumps. He gets the attention of bowlers to their run up and the strides while also giving a tip to those aspiring to go for big number of wickets. "Keep in mind that you have to impress your captain. You may be a good bowler but if you can’t impress your captain you will not get many opportunities to bowl," says the legend who remained seven Sri Lankan Test cricket captains’ dream bowler and went onto become the highest wicket taker in Test cricket

It was not text book coaching as Murali shared his experiences and let the youngsters get a glimpse of his spinning finger which has a prominently visible callus developed on it. "You can’t get it overnight. You have to bowl for years. Even when you are not playing keep a cricket ball with you. Keep on spinning it in your hand while watching TV or at every possible time."

It was not only the youngsters who benefited by his coaching as several Singapore national team members too participated in it.

"You rarely get opportunities like this. We have had reputed coaches coming here and conducting camps like this. But this is special as Murali is a legend and he has immense experiences to share with us. We get good coaching but it is a blessing to have someone like Murali with us," says Singapore national team member Riaz Altaff Hussein,27, who too joined with kids to take part in the one hour long program.

While kids attended the program dozens of passionate parents watched from the sidelines. "This is a massive boost for the youngsters here," says Aloise Price, a British, whose two children Halcmon (14) and Horatio (12) attended the program.

It was one of a series of activities that Muralitharan took part on Thursday apart from signing autographs and posting for photographs with dozens of his followers here in Singapore.

"From the time Murali set his foot in Singapore, enthusiasts have been mobbing him. When I went to pick him up at the airport some dozens were surrounding him. When he came to the hotel a group of Indians suddenly descended on him. That shows how popular he is even at places cricket is not so popular," an agent who accompanied Murali during his stay said.

Murali has been sharing his experiences with youngsters of remote places like in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna and Trincomalee and now has extended his warm helping hand to places overseas. Probably Murali has shown to those who were curious about what he would do in his retirement a glimpse of it.

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