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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Reuters > Report

Aussies, Lankans have scores to settle

Tony Lawrence | March 06, 2003 15:58 IST

Australia and Sri Lanka go through their paces at Centurion, smiling at the right people and saying the right things.

But there is bad blood in the air on the eve of Friday's opening Super Six clash. The two teams have not seen eye to eye for years. Perhaps some personal friendships have stretched across the divide between the two camps -- the players meet up often enough, after all. For the most part, through, the mutual distrust and animosity stem from one man's elbow joint.

Muttiah Muralitharan will probably end his career as the most successful and the most controversial bowler who ever lived, all because of that right elbow.

When he was first called for throwing while touring Australia in 1995-96, it created an international furore.

When he went back in 1998-99 he was called again and Arjuna Ranatunga led his side off the field in protest.

Muralitharan's action is as unique as it is bizarre. His rotating wrist, as well as an arm which cannot fully straighten, adds to the visual confusion.

The off-spinner has not been called or reported for throwing since but still the debate rages.


A year ago, former India Test spinner Bishen Bedi told Wisden magazine: "If Murali doesn't chuck, then show me how to bowl. I have nothing against him personally but it's grossly unfair to the game... Perhaps he would have made a good javelin thrower."

Australia, too, appear convinced that Sri Lanka's most successful bowler breaks the laws of the game with every delivery and they are not afraid to air that view.

Leg spinner Shane Warne -- out of the World Cup after breaking another fundamental law of the game by testing positive for a banned drug -- did not go quite as far as that in May last year but he certainly kept the pot bubbling.

"I think his action will always create speculation with people, Joe Public, just saying does he or doesn't he?," he said.

Within weeks, vice-captain Gilchrist was reprimanded by the Australian Cricket Board for saying Muralitharan's action was technically not within the rules.

Australian umpire Darrell Hair, meanwhile, who called the bowler for throwing in 1995, branded Muralitharan's action "diabolical" in his autobiography, saying he would not hesitate to call him again.

Hair, who was censured for those comments by the International Cricket Council, is at the World Cup but has not yet been assigned to any Sri Lanka matches.

With pitch microphones now the rule at international matches, Friday's matches could provide some interesting verbal exchanges, although Australia's players in particular will be wary of speaking in loud voices.

Batsman Darren Lehmann was banned for five one-dayers in January after a racist outburst during a one-day match against Sri Lanka. He later apologised.


Some exchanges, though, have not led to public contrition.

Just before the start of the 1999 World Cup in England, Warne wrote of Ranatunga in a Times newspaper column that "Sri Lanka -- and the game overall -- would be better off without him... I don't like him, and I'm not in a club of one."

Ranatunga responded: "I come from a 2,500-year-old culture... You all know where they come from."

There was also trouble at the 1996 World Cup, when Australia forfeited their match against the Sri Lankans in Colombo after a lorry bomb killed around 90 people in the city. One Sri Lankan politician responded by branding the Australian players "cowards".

Sri Lanka went on to win the trophy by beating Steve Waugh's side in the final. They also beat the world champions in the ICC Champions Trophy last year, when, said current Australia skipper Ricky Ponting, the Sri Lankans "reminded us they had beaten us in a few big games over the last few years".

Sri Lanka opening batsman Marvan Atapattu believes there will be more sparring, verbal or otherwise, to come on Friday.

"We Sri Lankans like to play our cricket quietly," he said. "But if you get it you might as well give it back."

© Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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Number of User Comments: 12

Sub: unsettled scores


Posted by SHANE

Sub: Mistake again!

In 1996 world cup final, Sri Lanka didnt beat Steve Waugh's Australians, but Mark Taylor's australians! Cheers! Feroze

Posted by Feroze Mohammad J

Sub: Lankans( True ambassidors of gentle men game)

Sri lankns are the most gentle team in the world , as they won't involve in sledging. Baring 1 or 2 all the other ones ...

Posted by Raja Shekar Appe

Sub: Mulrali's Action - What about Lee's

Well, I agree with the view that Murali's action is not right and he chucks the ball. It is not correct to allow him to ...

Posted by Raj

Sub: Know your facts

Srilanka defaeted the Australian side led by Mark Taylor not Steve Waugh ( as erroneously mentioned in your article) 1996 to win the worldcup. I ...

Posted by Sujatha


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