The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Skipper pleads for Murali breather

Bloemfontein: Sri Lankan skipper Sanath Jayasuriya has called for breathing space for his star off-spinner Muttiah Muralidharan, saying that a claustrophobic amount of interest was putting undue pressure on him.

Muralidharan has come under media scrutiny once again following another controversial tour of Australia as the bowler battles a series of injuries to return to top form.

The affable “Murali” has been kept in protective custody by the tour management who have refused media access to the record-breaking bowler.

“Murali is under a lot of pressure and is copping a lot of stick from the press,” Jayasuriya said. “I’m really not sure what people want from him. If they want to try and take him down and destroy one of Sri Lanka’s greatest ever cricketers, they’re going the right way about it.

“He wants to win the World Cup, so do we, and it is affecting him.”

The blanket ban by the country’s sports minister on all Lankan players from speaking to the media follows a scathing attack by Muralidharan on the national selectors, the Sri Lankan cricket board, and teammates on national television following a disastrous tour of England last summer.

“He’s taken a few things personally and it’s hard not to. He realises he’s in the public eye and he’s big news all the time, but sometimes you can destroy him if you go too far,” Jayasuriya said.

“It is a very big tournament, and we want to gradually ease him in. We don’t want to put too much pressure on him by getting him to do all the workload,” the Sri Lankan captain said.

“He a fantastic bowler and he wants the ball in his hand all the time. It is very hard to take the ball out of his hand in a tough situation because he wants to be in the thick of things.

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