| Ricky Ponting stretches during training at the Wanderers in Johannesburg Thursday. (AFP)
Johannesburg: Australia and Sri Lanka go through their paces at Centurion, smiling at the right people and saying the right things. But there is bad blood in the air on the eve of Friday’s opening Super Six clash. The two teams have not seen eye to eye for years.
Perhaps some personal friendships have stretched across the divide between the two camps — the players meet up often enough, after all.
For the most part, though, the distrust and animosity stem from one man’s elbow joint.
Muttiah Muralidharan will probably end his career as the most successful and the most controversial bowler to have ever lived, all because of that right elbow. When he was first called for throwing while touring Australia in 1995-96, it created an international furore. Again, in 1998-99 he was called and Arjuna Ranatunga led his side off in protest.
Murali’s action is as unique as it is bizarre. His rotating wrist, as well as an arm, which cannot fully straighten, adds to the visual confusion. Australia, too, appear convinced that Sri Lanka’s most successful bowler breaks the laws of the game with every delivery and they are not afraid to say that.
Leg-spinner Shane Warne — out of the World Cup after breaking another fundamental law of the game by testing positive for a banned drug — did not go quite as far as that in May last year but he certainly kept the pot bubbling.
“I think his action will always create speculation with people, Joe Public, just saying does he or doesn’t he'”
Some exchanges, though, have not led to public contrition. Just before the start of the 1999 World Cup, Warne wrote of Ranatunga in a newspaper column that “Sri Lanka, and the game overall, would be better off without him. I don’t like him, and I’m not in a club of one.”
Ranatunga responded: “I come from a 2,500-year-old culture. You all know where they come from.”
Harvey for Symonds
Allrounder Andrew Symonds has been forced to pull out of Friday’s match after sustaining a groin strain. He has been replaced by Ian Harvey, who took seven wickets against Pakistan and Holland, in the first round.
“Symonds has strained a muscle,” captain Ricky Ponting said. “It happened at training and he didn’t pull up that well. So Harvey comes in for him.”
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Andy Bichel, Glenn McGrath.
Sri Lanka (from): Sanath Jayasuriya (captain), Maravan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Russel Arnold, Jehan Mubarak, Avishka Gunawardena, Hashan Tillekeratne, Muttiah Muralidharan, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Pulasthi Gunaratne, Prabath Nissanka, Charitha Buddhika.
Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZ), David Shepherd (Eng). Third umpire: Brian Jerling (SA). Match Referee: Mike Procter (SA).