Lankans rallying Asian support for Murali

Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Colombo:Sri Lanka's Prime Minister has vowed to drum up South Asian support and sue the International Cricket Council (ICC) over a decision to outlaw Muttiah Muralitharan's controversial 'doosra' delivery.

Premier Mahinda Rajapakse said on Wednesday that he would meet envoys of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to seek support for Sri Lanka's defence of the star off-spinner, who has been described as a "chucker" by Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

He brushed aside ICC chief Ehsan Mani's advice to both Prime Ministers to stay out of the Muralitharan row and allow the ICC to deal with the situation.

Howard had remarked on last Friday that he believed Muralitharan was a chucker, prompting the world record-smashing spinner to consider boycotting Sri Lanka's tour of Australia in July.

Rajapakse then reacted to Howard's remarks by announcing his intention to sue the ICC, but Mani said he had no concerns over the ICC's banning of Muralitharan's 'doosra', a delivery that spins away from the right-handers.

"I don't know the basis of how we'd be sued, but all our regulations are fully supported by all our members," Mani said, referring to the fact that the Sri Lanka Cricket is part of the ICC.

Rajapakse told reporters that he would also be consulting lawyers on Thursday on the action to be initiated against the ICC.

"What we are doing is not politics," Rajapakse said.

"It is my duty to protect one of our national treasures. Muralitharan is not only the pride of Sri Lanka, but the entire region."

Rajapakse said Muralitharan, the most successful bowler in Test history with 527 wickets, was a national asset and he would do everything within his power and that of the Government to defend the bowler.

Muralitharan, whose unorthodox action has seen him being no-balled for 'throwing' in the past, came under fresh scrutiny because of the 'doosra'.

The bowler was told last week that if he persisted with it he could face a year-long ban.

Muralitharan was sent to Australia to work on his action after he was reported by English match-referee Chris Broad following the third and final Test against Australia at Colombo in March.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed had already said the report, forwarded to him by Sri Lanka Cricket but compiled by the University of Western Australia, meant the 'doosra' could no longer be tolerated.

"The report forwarded by Sri Lanka Cricket proves that the degree of straightening is well outside the ICC's specified levels of tolerance," he said.

"In light of this finding, Sri Lanka Cricket has now advised the ICC that it has instructed Mr Muralitharan not to bowl this delivery in international cricket. The ICC supports this action."

The report showed an initial straightening of the arm by 14 degrees which after remedial work was reduced to 10 degrees, still five degrees more than the level of tolerance for spinners.

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