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Since 1st March, 1999
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Holding smells a rat in Vaas, Muralidharan omission

Melbourne: Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding has said Sri Lanka’s decision to rest two key players for their Super Eight clash against Australia had opened the game to further corruption.

Sri Lanka, already missing injured strike bowler Lasith Malinga, omitted star bowlers Muttiah Muralidharan and Chaminda Vaas from the seven-wicket defeat at Grenada’s National Stadium.

“I think what it does is allow people who know what is happening to get a headstart if they are gambling,” Holding was quoted as saying in the Australian media. “I have an account with Betfair and I watch a lot of different markets.

“Before the game started, Australia were 2-1 on. As soon as the toss went to air, when they (Betfair) found out, Australia went to 5-1 on because Muralidharan wasn’t playing, Malinga wasn’t playing, Vaas wasn’t playing,” the former fast bowler told an Australian newspaper.

[In Colombo, Sri Lankan chief selector Asantha de Mel said: “It was a decision, a ploy, to keep our key strike bowlers away from the Australia game. We wanted to bring the players out for the final with Australia. We did not want to give the Australians a free dress rehearsal.”]

Holding said the only way to stop teams from manipulating results would be to shorten the Super Eight phase, which consists of six matches per team. He wanted knockout games, which currently comprise just the semi-finals and final, to begin earlier.

“The way the World Cup is structured, you are going to have people trying to manipulate it,” he said. “I remember Australia doing the same thing in England at Old Trafford (in 1999) to try to get the West Indies to qualify,” he said.

“You can’t do anything about it at the moment. What you can do is change the format and make the knockout games start earlier.”

Former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga also flayed the move to drop Vaas and Muralidharan, while ex-Australia captain Ian Chappell described it as “ridiculous and disgraceful” and called on the International Cricket Council (ICC) to “ask some questions.”

A bewildered Ranatunga, who led his nation to the 1996 World Cup, could not explain why this selection decision was taken at a time when Sri Lanka were building momentum heading into the final.

“If Sri Lanka had to rest someone, they could have done away with Sanath Jayasuriya or would have rested some of the top-order batsmen,” he said. “Why rest two key bowlers'”

Chappell said resting Vaas and Muralidharan also robbed the prospect of an exciting match in an otherwise dull tournament.

“I could not believe it and I don’t think that anybody that I have spoken to could believe it when Sri Lanka left Vaas and Muralidharan out of their side,” he said. “It was ridiculous, disgraceful and the ICC has got to ask some questions.”

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene had reasoned the two bowlers were left out because Muralidharan was carrying a slight groin injury and the veteran Vaas needed rest. “Those two guys have bowled a lot in the World Cup and Murali has had his groin strapped the last four games,” Jayawardene said. “It was a decision we had to make in the best interests of the team.”

Muralidharan, however, told spectators and Australian players he was not injured and proved as much by playing a hearty game of handball after stumps, the newspaper reported. (PTI)

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