The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Melbourne warms up to make history again
- Warne schedules Lanka visit, Murali drops vow never to return to Australia

Melbourne, Jan. 9: Lord's may have aura and the Eden Gardens capacity, but cricket's most historic moments have been at the MCG: The first Test, back in 1877, the first-ever ODI 34 years ago and, now, the first officially-recognised limited overs match between a continent and the world body.

The tsunami victims, who stand to gain from tomorrow's ICC XI-Asia XI ODI, can draw comfort from the choice of venue, too. As for those no more, including thousands in India, getting the MCG to host this unprecedented fund-raiser has been cricket's way of showing respect.

And, besides the millions to be handed over to World Vision have come extraordinary individual gestures. Shane Warne, who has featured in as many controversies as the number of his Test victims, has announced plans to visit tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka.

That's not all.

Muttiah Muralidharan, who was quoted as saying (not many months ago) that he wouldn't ever tour Australia, has not only returned but softened quite a bit. This afternoon, he talked of possibly coming back 'for a series'.

Then, our very own Sachin Tendulkar has made an appearance despite being in no position ' owing to a troubled left elbow ' to make the XI.

This remarkable canvas will become a priceless treasure if Prime Minister John Howard hugs Murali, chucking out all the bitterness of the none-too-distant past.

Well, as ICC XI coach Steve Waugh put it so beautifully, 'cricket has the ability to unite people across the world'. However, as Adam Gilchrist reminded, emotionally, 'it shouldn't take one freak act of nature to show our generosity'.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the Australian vice-captain revealed he was 'amazed' at the millions offered for the tsunami victims. 'Believe me, I didn't have a clue so much money was there to be tapped... It has been staggering...'

Appropriately, the response from the players (who aren't accepting their fee) and sponsors has been matched by the Melbournites' enthusiasm.

Having lost a league footballer to the tsunami has, perhaps, nudged them into turning out in bigger numbers.

Everyone here has, at some point in time over the last fortnight, spared at least a thought for those made to pay for no fault of theirs.

Actually, Australian (and ICC XI) captain Ricky Ponting mirrored the sentiment of most countrymen when he said he 'felt' for those particularly affected in Galle and Chennai, two cities visited by his team in the past 11 months.

On the field, though, it's unlikely that Ponting's men are going to show any generosity. Indeed, not having to contend with Sachin has given the ICC XI the edge. Shoaib Akhtar's pull-out hasn't helped Asia either.

The task appears daunting, but captain Sourav Ganguly is upbeat ' publicly, at least.

Talking exclusively at the Grand Hyatt, he remarked: 'At the end of the day, we want a good contest... Leading players from different countries isn't a problem as all are outstanding... Their calibre has made my job easy.'

Barring Darren Gough, nobody from the ICC XI turned up for nets at the St Kilda Club's Junction Oval ' not even the club's trophy-player, Warne. In fact, the West Indians and Matthew Hayden are expected early tomorrow only.

The Indians and Sri Lankans (except Maravan Atapattu, who has pulled out for personal reasons), however, did work out for almost 90 minutes. Pakistanis Yousuf Youhana and Abdul Razzaq stayed away, claiming Bob Woolmer made them train 'very hard' in Adelaide yesterday.

The Sri Lankan captain, by the way, wouldn't have played even if he didn't go the Akhtar way.

Woolmer, also coaching Asia, was present throughout the session and had a tactical-chat with Sourav. It's to be seen, though, whether their strategy to keep the rest of the world at bay is successful.

Equally, it's to be seen if coach Steve picked up enough during his 'spying' mission (at the Junction Oval) to make the ICC XI game plan that much more invincible.


Asia XI: Virender Sehwag, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yousuf Youhana, Kumar Sangakkara, Abdul Razzaq, Chaminda Vaas, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralidharan. 12th man: Alok Kapali.

ICC XI (likely): Adam Gilchrist, Chris Gayle, Stephen Fleming, Matthew Hayden, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Chris Cairns, Darren Gough, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Dwayne Bravo. 12th man: Daniel Vettori.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, Billy Bowden; TV umpire: Bob Parry.

Match Referee: Chris Broad.

Match starts: 8.40 am (IST).

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