Bloemfontein: Sri Lanka captain Sanath Jayasuriya leapt to the defence of his star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan on Sunday after the chucking controversy was revived at the World Cup. Former New Zealand wicket-keeper Ian Smith, whose team takes on the Sri Lankans in a key Group 'B' match on Monday, accused Muralitharan of throwing and wanted him banned.
"The Sri Lankan off spinner throws rather than bowls the ball," said Smith in remarks published on Sunday. "I've heard all about how he's had a deformity since birth and therefore unable to straighten his right arm. If that's the case, then that's bad luck for Murali. "He's still breaking the laws of cricket and therefore should not be allowed to bowl."
A livid Jayasuriya accused critics of trying to destroy the career of a bowler rated the best ever by cricket's bible Wisden. "Murali is under a lot of pressure and is copping a lot of stick from the press," the Sri Lankan captain said. "I'm really not sure what people want from him. If they want to try and take him down and destroy one of Sri Lanka's greatest ever cricketers, they're going the right way about it.
"Murali wants to win the World Cup, so do we, and it is affecting him. He's taken a few things personally and it's hard not to. He realises he's in the public eye and he's big news all the time, but sometimes you can destroy him if you go too far." Muralitharan's tally of 304 makes him the third-highest wicket-taker in One-day cricket after Pakistani fast bowlers Wasim Akram (490) and Waqar Younis (409). He is also third on the list in Test matches with 437 wickets behind West Indian Courtney Walsh (519) and Australia's Shane Warne (491).
Muralitharan's forte is his ability to turn the ball prodigiously even on unhelpful tracks and is virtually unplayable on turning wickets. In Australia, he grabbed headlines as much for his bowling action as his skill. He keeps stressing that uniformity is an exception rather than a rule in the world of cricket umpiring. Australian umpires believe he chucks. The rest of the world feels he does not, for he has never been called for throwing outside Australia. On the recent tour of Australia, crowds chanted "no ball" every time Muralitharan came on to bowl, prompting the bowler to say he will never tour Australia again.
| Copyright AFP 2001 |