Will Australian crowds support Murali in BBL?

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Updated: Friday, July 13, 2012, 17:18 [IST]
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Will Australian crowds support Murali?

On December 26, 1995, Muttaiah Muralitharan was humiliated at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The Sri Lanka offspinner was no-balled several times by umpire Darrell Hair in front of a crowd in excess of 55,000. That is history now.

Cut to the present, Muralitharan signs for an Australian team, Melbourne Renegades in the Twenty20 Big Bash League and could well be hearing fans signing his praises at the same ground by the same home fans. How times change.

Muralitharan has always endured a tough time in his trips to Down Under. It all began in 1995 when he was called for chucking and most of the Australian public including the then Prime Minister of the country, John Howard openly calling Murali a "chucker" in 2004.

After Howard's comments, Muralitharan opted out of his team's tour to Australia in 2004.

Whenever the Sri Lanka has played in Australia, there have been taunts from the crowd. Even former Australian players had openly criticised Murali's action.

Former Australian stumper and one of the greats of the game, Adam Gilchrist, in his autobiography "True Colours", wrote that Murali had a suspect bowling action and blamed the International Cricket Council (ICC) for allowing him to bowl.

After that unforgettable episode for Murali in 1995, again in 1999, this time, Aussie umpire Ross Emerson called him for throwing. At the time, Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga backed his bowler and threatened to take his players off the field.

Amid controversies over his action, Murali has been cleared by the ICC after biomechanical analysis at the University of Western Australia.

Though, the 40-year-old Murali has left the international cricket scene, he still plies his trade in the T20 format. He proved his worth in this year's Indian Premier League with the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Murali's last trip to Australia as a player was in 2010. After two years, he will be back on Australian grounds this December when the BBL 2 kicks off on December 7.

From being one of the hated players in a country, Murali will make that transformation of showered praises adulation during the T20 tournament later this year.

This is a great chance for the veteran to win over many Australian fans with his wily skills with the white ball. There could still be some doubters in Australia. But, like a true champion, with a huge smile, Murali is sure to do his job.

"I wanted to play one season in Australia and the opportunity from the Melbourne Renegades was there so I took it with both hands," Murali said on Thursday.

When the curtains come down on BBL 2 on January 19, 2013, Murali will be hoping to keep his smile intact and a trophy to celebrate.


Story first published:  Friday, July 13, 2012, 17:16 [IST]
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