Exclusive : I wanted Murali to continue: Madhimalar
Mahendra Singh Dhoni falls, done in by a wicked turner from that man Muralitharan, and Madhimalar can't stop cheering. She has been frantically sketching away on a notepad to keep son Naren, a frightful bundle of energy at four, occupied for anything more than a minute.
But the sheafs are scattered in all the excitement as her husband celebrates out in the middle, even taking time out to wave to her. She is ecstatic, and Naren spies the opportunity to slip out of his mother's grasp and run down the aisle to practise his seamers.
Madhimalar is Indian, daughter of the late Dr S Ramamurthy of Malar Hospitals in Chennai, but now a more fervent Lankan fan than many at the ground. "Yes, there's no problem, although I grew up watching Sachin and all," she says, a broad grin on her face. "I seriously started following cricket only after I married Murali in 2005, and I've learnt the game through Lankan eyes. In India, they teach you to support your husband, don't they?"
She grins again, as if she knows the answer will perplex. The modest and forthright Madhimalar is an MBA, the 'black sheep', she says, in a family of doctors. "I guess I was destined to support Lanka. My mother (Dr Nithya Shanmugam) has Sri Lankan roots, and she was delighted when this match was made. I first met Murali in 2004, soon after the tsunami, and immediately took a liking to him. He's a fiercely determined man."
The grand farewell at Galle has overwhelmed her, but she seems sad this is Murali's last Test. "I have been watching each and every ball of this Test. I've been here day from morning to evening. He discussed his plans with me before making them public. I wanted him to carry on, but when we realized he had made up his mind there was nothing we could do about it. We wanted him to at least play the whole series, but he would have none of it. Once he has made up his mind he won't listen to anyone," she says, shaking her head.
"Murali never brings cricket or his troubles home, and I don't prod him. But this time he discussed. He said he wanted to give youngsters an opportunity and not hang on."
She waves to Murali again, who waves back and seems to keep half an eye on her all the time from the field. "The love and admiration we have got here is unthinkable and a bit scary," she says. "I loved Sri Lanka the moment I landed here. It's beautiful. Murali has been through difficult times often enough but the people here have always stood by him."
Naren keeps interrupting her, and running away to bowl when she does respond. "He loves Twenty20," she says, "All that Chennai Super Kings thing. He wants to bowl fast. Murali would love him to watch Tests too, but I guess he's too young for that. But yes, Murali would love him to play cricket of some form or the other."
Another wicket falls, and she turns back to the action on the field. "India are having a hard time, aren't they," she chuckles. "Lanka will miss Murali. For him it's just a number, but I wish he gets to that 800."
With only two more scalps to go, she won't be missing Thursday's play for the world.
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