Murali sticks to decision not to tour Australia

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Sri Lanka's world record holding bowler, Muthiah Muralitharan's decision not to tour Australia next month has unnerved Sri Lankan cricket authorities.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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The decision by Sri Lanka's world record holding bowler, Muthiah Muralitharan, not to tour Australia next month has unnerved Sri Lankan cricket authorities, who are pressuring the offspinner to reconsider the move. "If Murali decides he is not going to Australia it will be one heck of a challenge for us. It will be a big struggle trying to contain the strong Australian batting lineup without him," Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu was quoted as saying by the state-run Daily News today. Sri Lanka is to tour Australia from June 24 to July 13 to play two tests at Darwin and Cairns. Muralitharan was offended by remarks by former Australian cricketers and the country's prime minister, John Howard, who criticised his bowling action soon after he passed West Indian Courtney Walsh's tally of 519 Test wickets to become the new world record holder with 527 wickets. Howard enflamed the controversy last week by saying that tests proved that Muralitharan's "doosra" - a delivery which spins in the opposite direction of the usual off-break - was illegal. Muralitharan threatened to withdraw from the tour of Australia, and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse subsequently threatened to sue the International Cricket Council for banning the spinner from bowling his "doosra". "It was in Australia that Muralitharan was called twice in his career for throwing by Australian umpires, and on his last tour to that country four years ago he was jeered constantly by a section of the crowd whenever he came on to bowl," Daily News said. "Muralitharan vowed that he would never tour Australia again," it reported. In the last series between the two countries in February-March, Muralitharan finished with 28 wickets from three Tests. "If you take our team as a whole, Murali is the most respected cricketer performance-wise in our team. You don't go around saying things about him and trying to undermine his achievements after he has broken the world record by taking more than 520 wickets," Atapattu said. "We hate to see somebody saying nasty things about another player who had achieved something. When the world says this is the best bowler in the game today you don't go and say something nasty to him." Muralitharan finished as Sri Lanka's leading wicket-taker in the two-test series against Zimbabwe which concluded Monday. He took 14 wickets for 219 runs for an average of 15.64. (AP)

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