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Murali working with Australia: Did a patriot turn a traitor?

How a legendary off spinner has been a subject of ridicule from his own board on working with a foreign team.

Murali
Murali’s eyes were trained at helping the Australian team

The year was 1995, when a 23-year-old off-spinner who was trying to make a name for himself on the international scene was called for chucking in a match against Australia on a boxing day test by an Australian umpire, Darrell Hair. That spinner was Muttiah Muralitharan. Again after ten days in an ODI against the West Indies umpire Ross Emerson called Muralitharan for chucking but apparently, this time it was for his leg breaks rather than his normal off breaks.

The same incident happened again after 3 years when Sri Lanka went on the tour to Australia and again, it was umpire Ross Emerson. Again, Murali was cleared after testing in Perth and England which was the second clearance having being tested once back in 1996. In 2004, when Murali picked up his 500th test wicket and would have mastered the doosra by now, was again put to test on reports from the match referee, Chris Broad - this time, the doosra was particularly in question.

In a career spanning over 19 years and over 1000 international wickets, a bowler who has gone through immense scrutiny and the brunt of the opposition over the legality of his action, and still managed to be called as the smiling assassin deserves the highest respect from his own cricket board.

In recent jibes directed at the bowler, the Sri Lankan Cricket Board did not hold back when Murali helped the Australian bowling department during the Sri Lanka-Australia series and was labelled a ‘traitor’. But should this really be the case? Should one be subjected to disrespect from their own cricket board after achieving so much in the sport? Did the SLC board take into account the number of matches that Murali has won single-handedly? If Murali working with Australia is an issue for the board, why didn’t they oppose when he was given the same position about two years back by Australia?

There have been lots of other legends who have worked with other international teams as professionals after retiring from the sport. Mahela Jayawardene, another Sri Lankan legend, worked with England as their batting consultant. The SLCB has no right to call Murali a traitor or question his love for Sri Lanka, as he is just another sportsman who is trying to help out a team improve.

But the dilemma here is that the team which he is helping is playing against Sri Lanka. If we contemplate over this dilemma, then appointing foreign coaches for international teams will be next to impossible as every team has to play all other teams at least once.

Usually, in the past, SLCB has been the smarter one amongst all the cricket boards, supporting their players through thick and thin. But this is something very unlike SLCB. The next thing that we have to ponder upon is how can a board like SLCB who has appointed more Australian coaches than any other team, make a formal complaint to the Australian Cricket Board over Murali’s appointment? 

If anything, the Sri Lankans should be smug over this appointment as it was the Aussies who tried to get Murali out of the game and after all these years of calling him a chucker and testing his bowling action for various angles, they eventually sought out his help to tackle the conditions and the team’s flaws in the sub-continent.

The sub-continent has been one region where the Aussies have been particularly weak in all disciplines of the game and Murali is just another professional, providing his expert knowledge on the dying art of spin bowling.

Murali in a recent interview said, “They have no right to accuse me of being a traitor. Have they done one hundredth of what I have contributed to cricket in Sri Lanka? If they would have asked my help I would have gladly done so, but they didn’t. This is a political game to cover their shortcomings.”

Legends working with other international teams is very common in today’s cricketing circuit. Calling Murali a traitor would be not fair on the game and his own ability as a cricketer. Muttiah Muralitharan is simply a professional, a legendary off-spinner appointed by the Australian Cricket Board to consult them with their spin-bowling department and try and gain an upper hand in the coming  sub-continental touring schedule.

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