Gloucestershire have pulled off a major coup by signing Muttiah Muralitharan on a two-year deal to play exclusively in Twenty20 cricket during 2011 and 2012.
The 38-year-old quit Test cricket last July after taking a record 800 wickets and recently announced that he would be retiring altogether from the international arena after the forthcoming World Cup.
He will join Gloucestershire after playing in the World Cup for Sri Lanka and the Indian Premier League for new franchise Kochi.
Muralitharan said: “I am really looking forward to playing for Gloucestershire. It is a young exciting team, but will benefit from some experienced players like myself. I look forward to an exciting t20 competition with the Gladiators.”
Gloucestershire chief executive Tom Richardson said: “Signing Muttiah Muralitharan has given everybody in the club a great boost and there is a real buzz about the place. He is someone who can add huge value and we are all very much looking forward to working with him.”
Director of cricket John Bracewell added: “This is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work and play with one of the greatest cricketers in the history of the game.
“Whenever I have watched and observed Murali he has always had and shown an infectious love for the game of cricket. This is something that I personally am looking forward to working with.”
Club captain Alex Gidman said: “I can’t wait to meet and to play with Muttiah Muralitharan. From the players point of view, it will be a great experience and I am sure we will learn a huge amount from him. This has given us a huge boost going into the 2011 season.”
Muralitharan, who helped Sri Lanka to win the 1996 World Cup and was a losing finalist in 2007, has taken 517 wickets in 339 one-day internationals during a career which has spanned nearly two decades at the top level and left him as the world’s leading wicket-taker in both the major formats of the game.
In 133 Test appearances he claimed 800 wickets at an average of just 22.72. He has also played in 12 Twenty20 internationals for his country.