| Muralidharan: World Cup is priority
Sydney: Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralidharan has become doubtful for next month’s triangular one-day cricket series in Australia after being diagnosed with a hernia (as reported briefly in Wednesday’s Late City edition).
The Lankan team management is considering booking the spin wizard in for surgery to ensure he’s fit for next year’s World Cup campaign.
His absence would be a significant loss for the series with Australia and England, although it would avert any problems when Australian umpire Darrell Hair returns to umpiring Sri Lankan matches next month.
Hair triggered a stormy Sri Lankan reaction when he no-balled Muralidharan seven times in the 1995 Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Muralidharan, who has taken 433 Test wickets at 23.36, first felt the hernia problem during the first Test defeat by South Africa in Johannesburg last week, Sri Lankan team physio Alex Kontouri said.
He is not in pain and is expected to play the second Test despite having stomach swelling.
Any surgery would be pre-emptive but would rule Muralidharan out of the one-day series in South Africa and the series in Australia.
Kontouri told Lankan cricket’s official website: “We are seeking specialist advice as to the chances of the problem getting worse. He is free of pain at the moment and he is fine to play in the Test, but his lower abdomen is quite swollen.
“If the World Cup was not coming up we probably wouldn’t consider surgery, because it is difficult to tell when or whether the hernia would develop into a problem. If the medical opinion is that there is a high chance of it getting worse then he will have surgery.”
Hair is scheduled to stand in Sri Lanka’s warm-up game against Australia a in Brisbane December 14 and also its first tri-series match against England, also at the Gabba, December 17.
Hair has not officiated in Lanka’s matches since that controversial summer seven years ago when Australian colleague Ross Emerson also no-balled the Lankan spinner.
The matter was referred to the ICC and although Muralidharan was cleared of throwing, it has simmered ever since.
Gibbs set to return
South African opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs is set to return to the South African team for the second Test against an injury-hit Sri Lanka starting at Centurion Park Friday.
Gibbs, who was a late withdrawal from the first Test in Johannesburg after suffering a back spasm shortly before the start of play, took a full part in the South African team net practice Wednesday.
He did not have a scheduled fitness test but physiotherapist Shane Jabaar said he would be assessed Thursday to see whether the exertions have had any effect.
If Gibbs is fit, he will probably open with Graeme Smith, with Gary Kirsten returning to the number three position which he filled against Bangladesh last month.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, were reeling from the loss of captain Sanath Jayasuriya with a right ankle ligament injury.
It was confirmed that Jayasuriya would be out of the Test and has been told he should rest for two weeks, which means he could be struggling to be declared fit for the first of five one-day Internationals, starting on November 27.