Test rivals turn mates for tsunami victims

Published: Thursday, February 10, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Colombo:Test cricket leading wicket-taker Shane Warne of Australia and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan have buried their spin rivalry for a worthy cause -- raising funds for tsunami survivors.

Warne and Muralitharan spent more than two hours together Thursday offering bowling tips to hundreds of schoolboys in Colombo, many of whom were from tsunami-battered schools.

The Australian leg-spin genius promised that he would come again to Sri Lanka to continue with tsunami relief work as often as possible.

"The devastation that I saw at Galle has touched me and it is a different experience to actually witness the destruction than to see it on television," Warne told reporters here.

"I wish I could do more for Sri Lanka."

Warne on Wednesday rushed along with Muralitharan to the tsunami-hit southern town of Galle, where he made history last March by becoming the first bowler to complete 500 Test wickets.

It was an unforgettable moment for Warne, who was playing his first Test after serving a 12-month ban for taking drugs.

"It was my comeback Test and I got my 500th Test wicket here. It was a special moment for me," Warne said after visiting the cricket ground, devastated by the killer waves that hit the country on December 26 and claimed almost 31,000 lives.

"It was one of the most picturesque cricket grounds and it's heartbreaking to see it like this," said Warne, who has so far grabbed 566 wickets in 120 Tests.

Muralitharan is breathing down Warne's neck, having claimed 532 victims in 91 Tests. He has been out of action since playing the opening Test against South Africa at Galle last August due to a shoulder injury.

"A record between the two of us is good for cricket. I hope that a spinner holds that record ... it could be either me, Murali or Anil Kumble," Warne told AFP.

The on-field rivalry has not stopped the spin greats from joining hands for the tsunami relief efforts.

"When the disaster struck, he (Warne) asked me how he could help. I just told him that his being here will help," said Muralitharan, who is playing a significant role in distributing aid among survivors as an ambassador for the UN World Food Programme.

Warne said many in Sri Lanka still needed shelter and food and promised to see what Australia could do in this regard.

"The great city of Melbourne has already raised millions for tsunami victims. I will see how it can be used for Sri Lanka."

Warne has rarely been a crowd favourite here, especially after Muralitharan was first called for "throwing" by an Australian umpire. His verbal duels with former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga have also not endeared him to the fans.

But this time around the Australian spinner was beseiged by more than 100 fans when he visited Galle, while on Thursday more than 200 schoolboys waited to take tips from him and Muralitharan.

"It's important for a spin bowler to be a friend of his captain. Otherwise, he will not get to bowl," a smiling Warne told the boys who had gathered in the hot sun to see the Australian legend.

"The two other things that you must do is stay on bowling without losing patience and always have a plan to get the batsman out."

Warne said he was happy to see so many potential spin bowlers, adding, "we do not get to see so many in Australia. It is good for cricket".

"We are interested in fast bowling, but are thrilled to see Warne and Murali," said a 16-year-old student.

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