Gifted Muralitharan never 'chucked'
THE retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan from Test cricket marks the departure of one of the giants of the game, a player who made a difference. He is a man with a generous spirit and a love for cricket. And he is not a chucker.
From personal experience I KNOW Murali has never been a chucker as so many people believe. Shane Warne felt Murali's action was legal, though he was worried that children would copy him and adopt throwing actions. This fear was well founded, and many children, mostly Asians, had to have hideous styles remodelled. That is an unwelcome legacy of this great bowler.
The difference between Murali and the rest of the world has been an arm deformity. The Sri Lankan cannot straighten his arms beyond about 30 degrees. Added to that he has supple wrists and a ton of off-spin talent. Warne said in an interview with the Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun
: "Murali's action has been passed by scientific tests. I always thought it was probably legitimate." It was understandable that Murali was no-balled at the highest level as eyes are easily deceived, but he knew himself he did not throw.
Exasperated, Murali once strapped his right arm into a rigid casing like a plaster cast in July 2004 and bowled to me in the nets at Shenley Park in Hertfordshire to prove his point. So, with his arm immobilised, how could Murali possibly throw his off-spinners and the doosra? The answer is: He couldn't.
The spinners fizzed and the doosra nipped away. He achieved turn through a vigorous shoulder turn, fast arm and significant wrist action. I watched him from two feet away at the bowler's stumps and faced him at the other end. As always, he could not bowl a quicker ball unless he ran up faster. An ability to fire in something quicker from 'nowhere' is one symptom of a chucker, but Murali could not. That is because he was not a chucker, however much he looked like one.
There is a valid argumant that Murali and any bowler with a kinked action should never have been allowed to bowl whether analysed legal or not. Dubious actions -- the permitted flexion becomes visible at 15 degrees, the ICC limit -- are bad for cricket, but that is another debate.
Warne had a great deal of affection for his Sri Lankan opponent. "Murali simply loved bowling - he loved a challenge and was fantastic for the game," he said. "Sometimes he would pick my brain about different things and, although we always tried to outdo each other, we always got on well."
Muralitharan has one Test left to increase his tally of 792 wickets. Warne retired with 708 wickets. And unlike Murali he didn't have to bowl against Australia...
An afternoon with Muralitharan:
Posted by Charlie Randall
Zimbabwe barely pass scrutiny
FURTHER evidence of Zimbabwe's decline unfolded this week as Sri Lanka bowled them out for 67 in a one-day international at Harare a couple of days after an ICC fact-finding group had completed an inspection of the state of the nation's cricket.
This was 10th lowest international one-day total anywhere if excluding countries such as the United States and Canada, and it was just as well Zimbabwe skated past the all-time lowest score of 35, their own 'record' set in Harare against Sri Lanka four years ago. Ajantha Mendis did the damage this time with four wickets.
A three-person ICC panel, led by the West Indies Board president Dr Julian Hunte, finished their three-day mission on Wednesday and are to make recommendations on "how Zimbabwe can return to playing Test cricket", according to an ICC statement from Dubai. Judging by the start of the one-day series against Sri Lanka, the time will be never.
The ICC mission -- Hunte, Arjuna Ranatunga and the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat -- looked at the management and development of the game in Zimbabwe and assessed the effect of policies and programmes so far.
They carried out a detailed inspection of the cricket administration, facilities, resources and capabilities in this impoverished country, including all areas contained in the Full Member guidelines.
Hunte is due to make recommendations to the ICC Board at the January 2009 meeting, including constructive strategies and initiatives to assist Zimbabwe to improve its cricket in all respects.
CHARLIE SAYS: The ICC might suggest some appropriate prayers for a country ravaged by the Mugabe regime.
Posted by Charlie
Graeme Swann's time at last
GRAEME Swann has ventured out of the cricketing wilderness and should be making his Test debut in December after his selection as one of four uncapped players in the England tour party to Sri Lanka, announced this morning.
Swann, 28, is one of a number of players who fell victim to Duncan Fletcher’s whims as England coach. If Fletcher ‘liked’ or did not ‘like’ a player, he stuck doggedly to his view irrespective of any change or improvement or failings. Swann was apparently late for an England team bus on two occasions in South Africa eight years ago. For that, he was not only ostracised for the tour – with justification – but seemingly for the rest of his career, until Peter Moores corrected this injustice after the overdue departure of Fletcher in April.
Swann has been the best off-spinner on the circuit for at least four years, highly selectable in view of his excellent batting ability, rather underused at Nottinghamshire. He performed well with bat and ball in the recent one-day series in Sri Lanka, though a hamstring injury could still threaten his big chance. The first Test is at Kandy, starting Dec 1.
Monty Panesar would have been another spinner on the outside if Fletcher’s co-selectors David Graveney and Geoff Miller had not revolted. Ryan Sidebottom has been an excellent swing-bowler ignored by Fletcher for reasons not fully explained.
The uncapped players in the tour party are Swann, wicketkeeper Phil Mustard, Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad, all boosted by their parts in the recent one-day success in Sri Lanka. Owais Shah, very effective on the subcontinent, is a batsman rewarded for sparky efforts in that series – he was a player Fletcher seemed suspicious of. There must be serious doubt whether Mustard has really overtaken Swann’s county colleague Chris Read, another Fletcher victim, as a back-up Test wicketkeeper.
In the steady dismantling of Fletcher’s 2005 Ashes side, Andrew Strauss misses out at last, his limitations exposed starkly in one-day cricket and to some extent in Tests.
Chairman of selectors Graveney said at Lord’s today: “We have chosen a balanced squad which includes a number of experienced Test players together with several young players who performed well in the recent one-day series in Sri Lanka.
“Stephen Harmison is scheduled to play two four-day matches for Highveld Lions in mid-November and he will join the tour party in Sri Lanka subject to him proving he has regained form and fitness following his back injury in the summer.
“Andrew Strauss needs to recover his best form and he has not been included in the squad on this occasion. We fully anticipate that he will have a major role to play with England in the next 12 months and he will be considered for the tour of New Zealand in the New Year.
“Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara are both fine players of spin-bowling, and their performances for the one-day side recently have demonstrated that they have the temperament required to succeed at the highest level.
“We have chosen Phil Mustard as our number two wicketkeeper for the tour. Having recently toured Sri Lanka with the one-day squad, Phil is familiar with the conditions and will be ideally placed to deputize for Matt Prior should the situation arise.
“Graeme Swann made an excellent all-round contribution to the one-day squad’s series win in Sri Lanka and he will come into consideration for a place in our starting line-up at those venues where we require two spinners.
“The England Performance Squad will be in India from mid-November for four weeks and will provide nominated stand-by players in key positions to cover for any injuries to the Test squad in Sri Lanka.”
Harmison is scheduled to play for Highveld Lions on Nov 8-11 against Cape Cobras at Paarl and Nov 15-18 against Dolphins at Potchefstroom.
England’s Test squad to tour Sri Lanka
Michael Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt)
James Anderson (Lancashire)
Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
Ravi Bopara (Essex)
Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)
Paul Collingwood (Durham)
Alastair Cook (Essex)
Matthew Hoggard (Yorkshire)
Philip Mustard (Durham)
Monty Panesar (Northamptonshire)
Kevin Pietersen (Hampshire)
Matthew Prior (Sussex)
Owais Shah (Middlesex)
Ryan Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire)
Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)
CHARLIE SAYS: Having toured with Graeme Swann on England A trips to Zimbabwe and West Indies, I can vouch for his impressionist talent and for an ability to remember words of seemingly every pop song, old and new. Decent cricketer too.
Posted by Charlie Randall
MCC make mark at Galle
THE MCC Spirit of Cricket Challenge programme will break new ground in Sri Lanka this December with the introduction of a three-day children's cricket camp near Galle, another spin-off from the Tsunami match at Lord’s in 2005.
The Challenge - a coaching and playing programme designed to introduce cricket to primary schoolchildren - has been running in the UK since 1999, but this camp will be the first time MCC's programme has taken place overseas. It coincides with the England tour to Sri Lanka.
The MCC Centre of Excellence was opened in June this year by the Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene, providing facilities in the fields of business, education, medicine and sport. Funding stemmed from the proceeds of the Tsunami relief match featuring 22 of the world's best cricketers, including Shane Warne, Brian Lara and Chaminda Vaas.
Around 120 boys and girls from the Hikkaduwa area of Sri Lanka will attend the camp on Dec 15-17. The third Test starts in Galle a day later. Qualified coaches will introduce the children to the game by teaching basic cricket skills and drills. Central to the camp will be the MCC Spirit of Cricket 'play hard, play fair' message endorsed by the game's best players, including Jayawardene and Andrew Flintoff.
Keith Bradshaw, MCC chief executive, said: “Holding an MCC Spirit of Cricket Challenge camp in Sri Lanka is an exciting development for the club, a strengthening of our links with the region and a further commitment to developing the game around the world.”
He continued: "MCC's ties to Sri Lanka have always been strong. After the Tsunami disaster in 2004, the club was pro-active in its response, resulting in around £650,000 being raised to help fund a variety of recovery projects. I'm pleased that the Sri Lankan cricket camp will be held at an MCC-sponsored ground in Hikkaduwa, near the MCC Centre of Excellence, and will bring an opportunity to play the game to many children who would not otherwise get the chance.”
The MCC Spirit of Cricket Challenge is endorsed by the Government and was nominated for 'Best Grassroots Initiative' at the 2007 Sport Industry Awards. The Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe MP, has said: “Grassroots initiatives play a vital role in inspiring children to get involved in sport from an early age.”
Posted by Charlie Randall
Tsunami match pays dividend
THE MCC have received heart-felt thanks from Sri Lanka after the opening of the Centre of Excellence in Seenigama this week to aid the post-tsunami recovery.
MCC helped to fund the new centre with the proceeds of the tsunami relief match at Lord's in June 2005. Thanks to the involvement of 22 of the world's best cricketers - including Shane Warne, Brian Lara, Chaminda Vaas and Andy Flower - the match raised about £650,000 for recovery projects.
Guests at the Seenigama centre's opening ceremony included the Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, Sidath Wettimuny, an ex-Sri Lanka player and an MCC honorary life member, and three local MCC project trustees -- Vijaya Malalasekera, Ajith Dias and Mano Ponniah.
The MCC Centre of Excellence is an ambitious project to help rebuild the lives of the local community following the devastating tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. The project has been developed, and is now being managed, by the Foundation of Goodness, a charity supported by Muttiah Muralitharan and Warne.
Kushil Gunasekera, who established Foundation of Goodness, said: “I am immensely proud of what we have achieved in getting this Centre to where it is today - a unique landmark project against the backdrop of a rural community. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to Marylebone Cricket Club in the UK for sponsoring the entire project, beginning with the tsunami relief match at Lord's, which has helped to make it all happen.”
Keith Bradshaw, MCC chief executive, said: “It is tremendous to see the donations raised through MCC being used in such a positive way.”
Apart from the MCC’s contribution, the various relief programmes in Seenigama have benefited from AVIVA, Direct Relief International, Help Sri Lanka, International Youth Foundation, Nokia, the former Parachute Regiment soldier Miloš Stankovic MBE, singer Ranjan De Costa, Sri Lankan Tsunami Children’s Appeal Townsville, Stafford International School, VU Medisch Centrum in Holland, and UNICEF.
Posted by Charlie Randall
Chaminda Vaas out of hospital
THE Sri Lanka and Middlesex seam-bowler Chaminda Vaas starts his recovery at home in London this morning after suffering a frightening head injury at Chelmsford yesterday. He was released from hospital last night after being taken by ambulance from the Friends Provident Trophy group match against Essex.
The game was suspended for almost half an hour after the World Cup finalist fell backwards across the long-off boundary at the Hayes End, attempting to catch a lofted drive from Ravi Bopara. The ball flew for six and Vaas hit the back of his neck on an advertising hoarding. He lay still for 15 minutes and was immobilised on a stretcher when paramedics arrived to take him to Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford.
The Middlesex management said Vaas was being taken to hospital “as a precaution”, though that seemed at the time to be underplaying a potentially serious injury. Play resumed in the 40th over with Essex already almost certain of their nine-wicket victory. Openers Arun Chopra and Mark Pettini scored centuries.
Posted by Charlie Randall