Murali makes the right decision

Nothing sounds as good to a Pom as an Aussie whingeing and there will be a lot of that when the genius of the spinning ball, Muttiah Muralitharan, takes his 709th Test wicket, writes Ted Corbett.

October 8: So Muttiah Muralitharan decides he will not play in the rest of the one-day series. Instead he will save himself for two Tests in Australia later this winter; well, he makes the right decision there. He spends a lot of time in that savage country since 1992 and listens to all too much barracking from spectators who think he throws. He will take great pleasure in waving politely to them if — I almost say when but let’s wait and see — he takes the nine wickets he needs to pass Shane Warne’s world record and to that end he must make sure his arm muscle injury is fully recovered and that he is properly rested. My own feeling is that Murali’s action is still imperfect and that those who no-ball him for throwing have a point. However, ICC and the boffins say he does not throw and even though I am convinced they are wrong, there the matter ends. So good luck, Muttiah, go get those nine wickets. Nothing sounds as good to a Pom as an Aussie whingeing and there will be a lot of that when the genius of the spinning ball takes his 709th Test wicket.

October 9: Darrell Hair, to his credit, makes his feelings about the Murali action clear to everyone but he is not a subtle man. He is also — if you take the most straightforward viewpoint — right to stop the Test at the Oval in 2006. Within a few days however he gives his enemies plenty of ammunition with which to shoot at him and it seems to me from the start that he cannot win his case against ICC at the employment tribunal. Perhaps he is ill-advised, perhaps as in the TV show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ he ought to phone a friend when he next faces a tough decision. I cannot believe anyone believes he can claim half a million US dollars as he does and although it seems to be a small part of this case it must be in the minds of the assessors if they ever have to make a ruling. The ordinary law will take its course but from the cricket point of view disobeying an umpire is such a no-no that a way must be put in place that means there is no repeat of this action. I bet you do not know that the 18 counties have an agreement not to sue one another. Is there something ICC can learn from this precedent?

October 10: Not all cricketers are model gentlemen, not all captains behave graciously all the time which is why I have an attack of the vapours when I hear a former skipper with a notoriously short temper describe himself as “media friendly” recently. I can recall a number of occasions when his definition of “friendly” did not coincide with mine. Now relationships with the press are much different and this week one who is much closer to the team than I am reported that British press group — a snarling bunch when things go wrong — are popular with the young guys in this team despite having written them off as probable 5-0 losers at the start. Anyway this evening we are sitting in a restaurant just a few yards from Paul Collingwood who is in earnest conversation with two close friends when along comes child and dad to remind him of a previous meeting and ask for an autograph. If they receive a rebuff I will not be shocked but instead Collingwood breaks off his chat, devotes a full five minutes to the smitten lad and then turns to see us and apologise for not greeting us before. He gives my friend Ms. Joanne King a kiss, shakes my hand enthusiastically — without breaking bones, another habit of the old time player — and stays to pass the time of day. It is 24 hours after the incident in which Kumar Sangakkara walks when the England players are pretty sure he does not touch the ball. “What happens, there,” I ask. “I am sure you guys are saying ‘Where is he going?’ when he marches off.” Collingwood giggles. “He must be thinking to himself that he cannot line the ball up and that he may as well go off,” he laughs. Anyway, with no more ado he suggests we all return to our dinner — “your food is getting cold, that will never do” he suggests — and returns to his conversation as if such interruptions were all in the line of duty. If he treats the young players in his dressing room with the same consideration he shows us, it is not surprising England pull off a series victory in Sri Lanka for the first time in their history.

October 11: Socially it is going to be a busy few months for England players. Kevin Pietersen is to wed his betrothed Jessica Taylor, a pop singer before they meet, and Andrew Flintoff and Paul Collingwood are both to become fathers again. Today Ian Botham at last goes to Buckingham Palace where the Queen makes him a knight for his work in cricket and raising money for cancer research and he reveals the extent of his passion for the royal family. Although I do think he is out of order when he suggests that those who want the Royal family abolished in favour of a republic ought to be hanged. Come on, Both; that’s a third of the Australian nation for a start.

October 12: It is still amazing that cricket is still seen as being evidence of a good character. As we drive back from the ground at midnight we are stopped by various policemen. Sri Lanka is in the midst of one of its frequent security alerts. Each time our driver explains we are media people just finishing after the one-day international and is given a dressing down. Each time one member of the crew shows a press pass and off we go.

October 13: Ageing Sri Lanka may be beaten, at odds with a government who want Marvan Atapattu back and missing Muttiah Muralitharan but they still contrive to make training look fun, particularly with a catching routine that owes something to the warm-up routines of the Harlem Globetrotters. It will be interesting to see if any other team follows suit.

October 14: My first visit to Sri Lanka is in 1955 as a young soldier who thinks he is on his way to fight the might of China and North Korea. (In fact I am the new editor of Japan News, a newspaper for soldiers on the frontline but the Army, perhaps not wanting to put pressure on me, does not say anything until I arrive in Tokyo.) It is another 38 years before I return but there is a gentleness in the people, a wish to be hospitable, that makes the place unforgettable and within a few hours of my second visit I make a friendship that is still in place and this week I decide that, in the right circumstances, I may even live here. It seems to suit Arthur C Clarke, the author, now 93 and going strong.