Yardley Was The First To Say To The World: I Can Play Games, Tests, Muralitharan > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Yardley was the first to tell the world I can play Tests - Muralitharan

Yardley passed away in Western Australia after a lengthy battle with cancer at the age of 71

With more than 1300 international wickets, Muttiah Muralitharan is, rightly, amongst the greatest to have played the game. But the Sri Lankan spinner owes a lot to Bruce Yardley, the former Australia spinner and Sri Lanka coach, who helped groom him during the early years.

Yardley was the coach of the Sri Lanka national team from 1996 to 1998, and was key in helping Muralitharan grow as a world beating spinner. On Wednesday, Yardley passed away in Western Australia after a lengthy battle with cancer at the age of 71. In an interview, Muralitharan, now with Sunrisers Hyderabad as their mentor, recounts how Yardley helped him during the initial years, how he convinced him to try the doosra and his relationship with the Australian.

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Bruce Yardley had a massive influence on my career. I first met him at the age of 18 when I was selected from my school to go to a spin camp headed by him, organised by Sri Lanka Cricket. At the end of the camp, he had said that I'll be the most promising cricketer to play for Sri Lanka. Since he was picking, he provided a lot of influence. I've been fond of him for a long time because he was the first person to tell the world that I can play Test matches when I was young. He believed that I was good.

We paired up again when he had a stint as a coach again with the Sri Lankan national team after the 1996 World Cup, for two years. One thing about him that has stayed with me was the incident in New Zealand in 1997. We were playing a practice match in Queenstown, when he came up to me and said, "Murali, you're missing something. By not going around the wicket, you're curtailing your options. There is so much variety you can bring in, even more LBW options." He forced me to do that and I went in and took lots and lots of wickets.

One offspinner to another, he taught me how to use angles, and I do the same to the next generation of spinners. I learned a lot from him - how to bowl around the wicket, how to vary the pace, there were so many tricks that he taught me.

He also urged me to bowl the doosra. I had seen Saqlain Mushtaq do it. Then when Bruce came into the team, he gave me tips on how to bowl it. It took me four years to learn how to do it. Even when there was controversy over the legality of my bowling - he may not have fought for me as a friend - but he knew that I was genuine, that I had undergone all the tests. He believed in me.

He was a very underestimated bowler for Australia. He was the only spinner to win, at that time, the Man of the Series in the Benson & Hedges World Series. Not many people have won that. Wherever he played, he gave a lot of performances to Australia.

He was a very nice man and a good coach. I was in touch with him for a long time. We had a good relationship. Even after he left as the national coach, we kept meeting on and off - when I went to Perth or when he came to Sri Lanka. We enjoyed all the moments. He lived his life happily. He travelled all over the world and was also well known for his coaching and commentary. Unfortunately, he got cancer. He did get better again and again. Sadly, everyone has to go away someday.

Unfortunately, he passed away in the morning today. A message came and I spoke to his daughter.

He was a very fun loving man and had a happy, happy life. He had said to his daughter and his family before he died, "when I die, don't make a funeral, have a big party instead. I have enjoyed my life so nobody should be sad." He was that kind of a personality. The family is now going to have a big party instead of a funeral. At the end of the day, he was a happy man.

As told to Aayush Puthran

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