Murali ties the knot to his mother's relief

Pictures by Prasanna Hennayake

CHENNAI, India, Monday (Reuters) - Surrounded by brightly coloured statues of Hindu gods, Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan was married on Monday, to the relief of his mother.

Muralitharan wed 24-year-old business graduate Madhi Ramamurthy at a five-hour ceremony attended by 2,000 guests in the southern Indian city of Chennai.

"This is the happiest day of my life," the 32-year-old told Reuters at the ceremony witnessed by team mates Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas and World Cup-winning captain and close friend Arjuna Ranatunga.

Muralitharan's mother Lakshmi had been fretting for years that her son was focusing too much on cricket at the expense of his personal life.

In the end it was a shoulder injury that gave the celebrated wicket-taker the necessary push to tie the knot.

"After being injured in August and spending so much time alone, I thought a lot about the future and felt the time was right for marriage," Muralitharan said.

"We liked each other instantly and I knew she was the one for me."

The couple were engaged in November after Lakshmi, a cricket and Tamil movie fan, arranged a meeting between the pair through a Tamil movie star.

Muralitharan was convinced after a one-hour meeting that Madhi was the girl he wanted to marry. When the horoscopes matched the marriage was confirmed.

Madhi, who holds a post-graduate qualification in business administration, works as a director in charge of administration at a private heart hospital in Chennai founded by her late father.

Before the engagement she confessed to being clueless about cricket and Sri Lanka's most famous celebrity.

She has since embraced the game and furiously read up on the Sri Lankan team and players.


"He is such a simple and down-to-earth person that I liked him immediately. He is always smiling and makes you feel so comfortable," she said.

Muralitharan, former holder of the world record for test wickets, arrived in Chennai last week with his three brothers to help organise the four-day celebration.

This will conclude with a banquet for 1,000 people on Tuesday night which the entire Sri Lankan team will attend.

Formal ceremonies started on Sunday night with an engagement function. The wedding day - an auspicious day chosen on the advice of an astrologer - started early with Muralitharan arriving at the wedding hall at 6.30am.

A traditional homecoming ceremony in Sri Lanka has been cancelled as a mark of respect for around 40,000 people killed on the island by Asia's tsunami.

The couple will leave for Sri Lanka on Wednesday morning and Madhi has already made her first sacrifice to cricket - her honeymoon. Muralitharan, who had shoulder surgery in February, is going straight back into his rehabilitation programme in the hope of being able to head to England in April to play county cricket for Lancashire.




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