The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘I may not return to Australia’

Brisbane: Champion Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralidharan said here Thursday he may not return to play in Australia because of persistent crowd abuse.

The 30-year-old said he was fed up with taunts about his controversial bowling action and claimed sections of the Gabba ground crowd laughed at him when he was injured in Sri Lanka’s four-wicket loss to Australia Wednesday.

Muralidharan hurt his leg in the outfield and will not play in Friday’s vital match against England in Adelaide. It is not clear how long he will be sidelined.

The injury continued Muralidharan’s difficult career in Australia, where he was called for throwing in 1995-96 and 1998-99. The International Cricket Council has cleared his action.

Muralidharan said he could no longer field on the boundary in Australian matches because of abuse from crowds. Captain Sanath Jayasuriya moved him away from his position near the boundary rope Wednesday. “They should keep their mouths shut,” Muralidharan said.

“I thought it might have been better this time, but people still say things like ‘chucker’.

“That’s not fair to say because I have been proved not to be. The crowd should realise that and if it’s going on like that I might not be able to come and play here any more. It’s ok once or twice, but it’s been going on for seven years.”

Muralidharan said he was “not sure” whether he would return for Sri Lanka’s next Test tour to Australia, which could be as early as October, depending on scheduling.

There had been speculation whether Muralidharan would play in the current tri-nations series, but he arrived in Australia last month insisting he had never considered withdrawing. But he has changed his mind after his first three appearances in the series, with some Gabba spectators chanting “no ball” last night when Muralidharan bowled.

He still claimed an excellent four for 27 from 10 overs, including the wickets of key Australians Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn.

Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, whose action has also been questioned and cleared, was teased briefly by England’s Barmy Army during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Australian batsman Justin Langer leapt to Lee’s defence, labelling the Barmy Army “a disgrace.”

Muralidharan asked why similar sentiments were not expressed about Australian crowds. “If some people are saying that to Brett Lee, it’s said to be disappointing but, if it’s me, it’s something different,” he said.

“They were laughing when I got injured last night. When some other players get injured they would never laugh.”

Many fans have been looking forward to Muralidharan returning for a Test series after Sri Lanka played their last Test in Australia in January 1996. Since then, Muralidharan has surged into third position on the list of all-time wicket- takers in Tests and one-dayers.

He has continued in form this month, recovering from a hernia operation to take combined figures of seven for 107 from 30 overs in his three appearances.

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