ICL: Indian Cricket League

I am mentally stronger than most, says Muralitharan


muraliMuttiah Muralitharan’s first Test tour with the Sri Lankan team to Australia in 12 years has so far been a tale of police escorts at the airport, security fears, plainsclothes people in the crowd … and plenty of hype.

While it’s true Muralitharan had received a hostile reception on previous tours from crowds who continue to chant “no-ball” despite his regular clearances from the ICC, the escorts were there, in fact, to ward off the media, while the plainsclothes are part of Cricket Australia’s normal plans.

So as Muralitharan stepped up to bowl his first ball of the trip, it was unsurprising that he found rumours of the so-called bearpit ready to bait him in Adelaide had been greatly exaggerated. In their place was a placid Sunday crowd who were quiet as church mice, save for the children playing cricket on the hill. It was hardly fire and brimstone.

Of course, this practice match, against a Chairman’s XI, has not attracted the beer-swilling, barracking kind of fans - the cold and the lack of Australian stars has made it ideal for the quiet enthusiast - but nevertheless Muralitharan couldn’t have had a quieter, easier start to his tour as he adjusts back to playing cricket for the first time since August.

In fact, the only problems came from the weather. “It was so, so windy,” he said. “Fast bowlers can’t bowl in the wind, and the wicket was so slow because of the rain.”

The day also tested his bicep for the first time in two months since he injured it playing for Lancashire against Kent. He then missed the ICC World Twenty20 and the one-dayers against England. But he confirmed his recovery was “coming along well “ and that this warm-up (30 overs today - “no problems” - and more expected on Monday) could be ample preparation for the Tests: “it depends on the management.”

Physically he looked in great shape, and he’s made of stern stuff mentally too. He ignored Arjuna Ranatunga’s advice not to tour here and has previously welcomed the rigorous public testing of his action, when Mark Nicholas and Michael Slater oversaw an experiment on television in which he bowled in a brace.

It doesn’t bother him, though, and he will merely keep trying on the pitch. “I try my best and that’s all I can do. Mentally, I am very strong, stronger than most other people. I keep fighting - if I have to bowl 40 overs, I will bowl 40 overs. I have to keep trying because if you don’t keep trying you’re not going to achieve anything.”

Far worse than any no-ball chants - “Now I’m used to it” - would be racism. “Whatever race you come from you are born with it, you can’t change anything. But no-balling, people can say whatever they want - they are opinions, that’s all. But they’re not using the filth. Before they use the no-ball if they use the filth word then it’s bad.” He says nobody has shouted anything racially-oriented at him in Australia, although things have been thrown at him, during the Super Test in Sydney last year - “Those kinds of things aren’t good.”

He’s not going to expect an entirely trouble-free tour, though, anticipating “good times and bad times.” But so far, so good, while Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds have helped by appealing for cricket fans to appreciate his craft and leave aside the no-ball chants. “I would like to thank them for saying that. Symonds is a very good friend of mine and he would have also felt very bad with whatever happened in India.

“Those things should have not happened. People have to come and just enjoy. In Sri Lanka you wouldn’t have had a problem like that, because people come and enjoy. Even if you lose they would congratulate the other team, so that’s the way it should be.”

He is about to enjoy his cricket, with the team aiming for their first Test win on Australian soil. “This is the best chance because you won’t see in a few years’ time Sanath [Jayasuriya] playing, or Marvan [Atapattu] or me or so many others playing. At this time Australia are also in a winning frame of mind, so it’s not going to be easy. We have to do something special in the middle to beat them.”

And winning is more important to him than the chance to overcome Shane Warne’s Test record of 708 wickets on Australian soil; he is nine short of the record. “If I can’t do it here I will do it against England. I’m going to be playing for another two years or three years so eventually it’s going to come, so the challenge is to win a Test here.”

Source:Cricket News

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