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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2423

Murali ready to beat Warne despite the odds stacked against him in Australia

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Muttiah Muralitharan arrived in Australia today, against the advice of his former captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, with a burning ambition and determination to break Shane Warne’s test record of 708 wickets. Murali needs only 9 wickets to beat Warne. The first test begins on November 8 in Brisbane.

But the Australians have made it difficult by fixing the two tests in Brisbane and Hobart – two of the pitches that are not conducive for spin.

"Look, it's not going to be easy," Mark Taylor, the former Aussie captain, told the Australian media.

"He's got two Tests in Brisbane and Hobart, and they're not noted for taking spin, although he gets a bit more bounce than most, so if he bowls well in Brisbane he's certainly a chance.

"I reckon he'd want to have five of them, in Brisbane, leaving himself four to get in Hobart.

"In Australia, Murali hasn't got a great record.

But throughout his 113-Test career Murali has averaged more than six wickets a game. Going by this he can easily break the record and win the coveted title of the new spin king.

Taylor, however, argues that Murali’s record is poor in Australia with only eight wickets in three Tests. The chances are that the statistic quoted by Taylor need not figure in the two tests, even if the pitches are purposely selected to disadvantage Murali. He can still beat his past record and that of Warne and be the champion.

As summed up by Taylor: "So the challenge is on Murali to do the job here for Sri Lanka."

Sri Lankan commentators are optimistic. They believe that Murali’s toughness, skills and determination to win his title on Australian soil will bring him he results he desires.

Sri Lankan commentators are also concerned about the Australians fixing the two matches to be played on the two pitches that are not favourable to Murali. A leading cricket commentator said: “That’s a part of the game. The host country has the advantage of fixing their pitches. But in this case it seem that the pitches were carefully selected not by chance. The aim clearly is to prevent any slight to Warne in his own country.”

Taylor also touched on the other aspect of calling Murali a chucker. He said: "Australia have generally played him on merit, they haven't worried if he was a chucker or not a chucker, they've just played him as a bowler and they've gone out and played pretty well against him, particularly in Australia.”

But the fact remains that most, from Prime Minister, John Howard, downwards, tends to label him as a “chucker”. This is another aspect which may affect Murali. The crowds have been taunting him and if they turn hostile it may demoralize Murali though he is prepared to face them. The Australian media too will not give the issue a rest. Australian media generally joins the sports fanatics in running negative stories to cramp the style of the opposition.

Uppermost in their minds will be that Murali has come to beat their Warnie – their idol. The test matches will be also seen as a contest not between Sri Lanka and Australia but between Murali and Warnie.

Of course, this theme will inject a new spirit to the two tests. Crowds will love it. So will the Australian media. The eyes of the cricketing world will be riveted on these two tests.
Everything now depends on Murali. He is a tough guy who has weathered Australian hostility earlier. As long as racist slurs and offensive behaviour (last time the Aussies threw bananas at him) do not overtake the game Murali has all chances of beating Warnie in his own turf.

- Asian Tribune -

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