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No one plays cricket for the love of it - Murali

CRICKET: Master spinner Muttiah Muralitharan said that the days where cricket was played for the love of it was gone and it was now totally professional.

"Money is now the motivation. People can say that players are playing for the love of the game. It's gone. It was there in the eighties and nineties. Now we are in the 21st century and people have to live. If you don't pay nobody will come and play," said the 34-year-old spinner as he prepared himself to take on England in the third and final Test beginning here at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Friday.

Muralitharan said the only way for Sri Lanka to move forward was to make the domestic competition very professional.

"If we want to become a great side our domestic system has to be good. Otherwise, it is very difficult for the youngsters to come and straight away play like they do in other countries," said Muralitharan.

"At the moment we are playing 3-day cricket, which is not beneficial. We should play 4-day cricket. In England they play 104 overs in a day and 4-day cricket looks like Test cricket. In Australia is the same. India is also going far ahead of us because they are making their cricket professional.

Cricket should be made professional in Sri Lanka as well," he said.

Muralitharan said that money was available with 40-50 million dollars on television contracts and with the 2011 World Cup scheduled to be played in Sri Lanka jointly with India, Pakistan and Bangladesh more money is due in the coffers of Sri Lanka Cricket.

"If you can't spend some of the money to pay for 100 players and the facilities improved there is something wrong. I have played four years of county cricket. I benefited a lot on that. The way they play and how seriously they take it. Every county has physios, trainers, and masseurs. Everybody is there. And they are very professional. If you don't perform your contract is not renewed. If the players don't score or take wickets their livelihood is in danger. So they play well to make more money," said Muralitharan.

"Playing 3-day cricket and trying to adjust to the Test side is a big 'ask' on the younger players. You have to make it very professional and have full time players. You cannot come after work, practice and play cricket. It is just fun cricket because the players are not putting any effort. They can't live their life playing only cricket," he said.

Muralitharan said the number of clubs have to be brought down to either 8-9. Then you will see good players playing competitive cricket and the youngsters who are good enough coming through.

"At the moment we are playing 3-day cricket, which is not beneficial. We should play 4-day cricket. In England they play 104 overs in a day and 4-day cricket looks like Test cricket. The players are all professional and that's why England is playing well. Australia is the same," said Muralitharan.

Retirement in Sri Lanka

Reflecting on his outstanding cricket career Muralitharan said family pressures and playing often in a losing side would be factors he would consider before making up his mind to retire from the game.

"My target is still the 2007 World Cup. If I am to retire I will do it in Sri Lanka. But if I put my mind I can play for five years but it all depends on the family and everything and how the team performs," said Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's leading Test wicket-taker and the second highest in the world with 624 wickets.

"All these things count. Commitment is hard when you have a family. It is not easy to travel around every other month. You cannot keep on playing in a losing side you have to win some time. I hope these youngsters come up very fast. If I am still enjoying the game, I will still play. I will have to see how it goes," he said.

Muralitharan was an exception in the second Test at Edgbaston where he single-handedly tried to stop an England victory by taking the 15th match bag of his 105-Test career. But his effort of taking 10 wickets for 115 turned to nought as England went onto register a six-wicket victory to go one-up in the 3-match series.

Muralitharan said 200 runs would have been difficult for England to chase at Edgbaston. "A target between 150 and 160 would have been touch and go."

"We didn't play well in both Tests in the first innings. To put pressure on the other side you have to play well. We haven't done it yet. We need a total of plus 300 in the first innings if we are to put pressure on England," said Muralitharan.

"It is frustrating for me as well as the other bowlers that the batsmen are not putting enough runs on the board. It has been happening in the past six-seven months and it is continuing because we have a lot of young players in the side.

They have to prove themselves.

It will take time. We can't ask them to come into the side and perform straight away because our domestic structure is very poor," he said.

Muralitharan said that there aren't bowlers of world class standards among the younger lot who could ease his burden of having to carry on the Sri Lankan attack.

"The English wickets today are flat. They are no longer seaming or spinning like when we played 5-10 years ago. It is not easy for bowlers to take wickets now because they have to work hard on their performances to improve," said Muralitharan.

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Produced by Lake House Copyright 2006 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

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