'I think only Harbhajan can achieve this feat in Tests'
Retiring Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan on Wednesday said among the current crop of slow bowlers, only Harbhajan Singh can match his record of scalping nearly 800 Test wickets.
Muralitharan, who will quit the longer version of the game after the first Test against India beginning on July 18 at Galle, said the Indian off-spinner stood the best chance of emulating his feat.
"I think only Harbhajan can do this. I don't know how old is he and how long he will continue. But he is the only one who can achieve this feat in Test Cricket," Muralitharan said from Colombo.
With 792 Test wickets under his belt from 132 matches, Muralitharan needs eight scalps in his final Test match to reach the 800-mark.
In comparison, 30-year-old Harbhajan has 355 scalps from the 83 Test matches he has played so far.
With Twenty20 cricket taking precedence over other formats of the game, Muralitharan feared slow bowlers might struggle to survive and get where he has reached.
"In the current scenario Test Cricket is dying. One day Cricket does not have a bright future. Only Twenty20 is going to survive. So it will be difficult for any slow bowler to survive so long," he said.
The wily off-spinner is just eight wickets away from the 800-mark but Muralitharan, who scalped 515 wickets from 337 ODIs, insisted he was not chasing any record.
"I don't run after records. I have the world record in my name. But if I could get eight more wickets, it will be a good way to end my career. I am sure I will be able to do that in one match. If not, no worries," said the ace spinner.
Looking back at his illustrious career, Muralitharan identified batting greats Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara as his toughest opponents.
"If we talk about the consistency, then no other batman can match Sachin and Lara. They are the best against whom I have bowled.
"I had to do extra effort against them. I am happy that I will be able to bowl to Sachin in my last Test," he said.
Image: Muttiah Muralitharan
'I will continue playing in the IPL'
Besides being the most successful bowler in the history of international cricket, Muralitharan has been part of Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup winning team but the off-spinner does have some regrets.
"I have achieved everything that an international cricketer can dream of. I have only one regret that I could not win (series) in India, South Africa and Australia. But one cannot get everything in life," he said.
Meanwhile, the immensely popular Sri Lankan cricketer is yet to make up his mind about the ODI World Cup to be held in subcontinent next year.
"I have not given it a thought yet. I cannot say that it is off my radar but I will think about this. After that I will be able to say something about participating in the tournament," he said.
In contrast, he remains very clear that he plans to play in the Indian Premier League, where he represents Chennai Super Kings, as long as possible.
"I want to continue playing in the IPL till the franchise needs me. It is quite exciting and I wish to be a part of that excitement," he said.
Another thing he has made up his mind about is not joining politics, like former colleagues Arjun Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya.
"Neither politics nor coaching; I am not going to do either of these. I will travel around the world and enjoy life. I have been playing since two decades and could not spend time with my family. Now I will compensate for that," he said.
Even though his decision to quit came as a surprise, Muralitharan said he thought a lot before deciding to quit.
"I was thinking about it for a long period. I just thought that it is the right time to do so, nothing else," he added.
He also took the opportunity to congratulate his Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who got married this week.
"I knew he just got engaged but didn't know he got married as well. Anyway, I congratulate him and wish him a happy married life," signed off the star spinner.
Image: Muttiah Muraitharan