Old grudges aside as Murali helps Australia

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 16:48

Melbourne: Sri Lankan spin great Muttiah Muralitharan announced Wednesday he will join the Australian coaching team for their series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, putting old grudges aside.

The world`s leading Test wicket taker is already working with Australia`s top spinner Nathan Lyon as part of Australia`s National Cricket Centre Spin Programme, and has agreed to become more involved.

His signing is a coup given his knowledge of the doosra delivery, which has long baffled the Australians, and with Pakistan`s Saeed Ajmal among the game`s most potent mystery spinners.

"I know the Australian team is a very good side, but hopefully I can have a little bit of input to help them do well in the series against Pakistan," said Muralitharan.

"Those conditions might help spinners and I know a few tricks that might help them on what to do as I have played a lot of matches in those conditions in the UAE and hopefully I can help them a little bit.

"Ajmal is a difficult customer for all the best batsmen in the world, but he bowls a little bit similar to me so perhaps if I can bowl to the Australian batsman it might help a little bit and give them some tips."

The 42-year-old retired from international cricket after Sri Lanka lost the World Cup final to India in 2011, and his decision to work with Australia raised some eyebrows.

He was beset by controversy over his unique bowling action for much of his international career, no more so than Down Under where he was routinely taunted by crowds.

It was in Australia in 1995 that he was first called for "chucking" by umpire Darrell Hair.

Even then prime minister John Howard, a keen cricket fan, said he felt his action was illegal. It prompted Muralitharan to threaten to boycott Sri Lanka`s next tour of Australia.

He was always cleared of any wrongdoing and ended his career with a world record 800 Test wickets.

His appointment is part of coach Darren Lehmann`s plan to enlist the support of specialist coaching consultants to assist the team`s preparations throughout the year.

Muralitharan`s role will be similar to that filled by fellow spin legend Shane Warne on the recent tour of South Africa before the World Twenty20 tournament.

"Muttiah Muralitharan is a true great of the game and his involvement with the Australian team will bring enormous benefits," said Lehmann.

"He really understands the conditions we`ll face and will be able to impart a great amount of knowledge.

"Not only will he help guide our spinners during that tour, but he will also work with our batsmen to help them prepare to play Pakistan`s dangerous spin bowlers."

Australia play Pakistan on neutral ground in the UAE in a series comprising three one-day matches, two Tests and a Twenty20 from October 3-November 1.

Pakistan have been forced to play their home series at neutral venues since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.

AFP

First Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 16:48

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