ECONOMYNEXT, Australia’s latest spin bowling mentor, former Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan, was sulking Saturday after accusing local cricket authorities of trying to make him the fall guy in case the hosts lost.
Muralitharan was wiping egg off his face after Australia, the world’s number one Test team, lost by 106 to underdog Sri Lanka after 17 years.
During his 10-day stint coaching Australian spinners, Muralitharan also had a spat with Sri Lankan team manager Charith Senanayake over the use of the Pallekele pitch for training.
Ironically, it was at Muralitharan’s home ground that his new charges were defeated by a determined Sri Lankan side angered by his “treachery and betrayal” of supporting a side that once called him ”a chucker.”
Muralitharan, the highest wicket-taker in Test history, last week accused board president Thilanga Sumathipala of knowing nothing about cricket and angrily denounced any suggestion of being “a traitor”.
“If Sri Lanka loses, they (the board) will say it is because of Murali,” he said in a recorded statement.
“They have no right to accuse me of being a traitor. Have they done one hundredth of what I have contributed to cricket in Sri Lanka?
“This is a political game to cover their shortcomings,” he added. “I am being used as a pawn to cover their failings.”
Two other former legends, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena who rushed to defend former team-mate Murali and denounce the local board, were also left looking silly after trying to draw parallels.
“Was very disappointed to hear about SLC comments on Murali,” Jayawardena said on Twitter. “I was in the same boat a few months ago.”
Jumped in Sangakkara: “Murali is a great son of Sri Lanka and he doesn’t have to defend himself. He loves his country. He is free to consult or coach anyone.”
Cricket sources said all three legends were supporters of the “club-over-country” and had tactically retired from national duty only to play for the financially lucrative Indian Premier League or county club cricket.
Sangakkara, who had strongly backed Murali, said the Sri Lankan win was “unbelievable.”
“What a win. Unbelievable. Great team work. Patience pays off. Rangana masterclass. Belief is key. Awesome work @OfficialSLC. Very proud,” Sangakkara said on twitter reffering to the official Sri Lanka Cricket with whom he had an uneasy relations.
Mahela Jayawardena tweeted before the victory saying: “Just woke up in England to see 7 wickets down. Come on SL. This would be one of the best come back wins.” There was no mention of why Mulai magic failed to inspire Australia.
All three former greats may have sullied their reputation over the coaching controversy and hurt their own legacy.
However, Muralitharan announced before the start of the Test match that he will not be present in the Australian dressing room during the game although he was wearing Australian team clothing during the coaching sessions.
SLC chief Sumathipala pointed out the irony of Muralitharan coaching Australia.
“Professionally it is okay for Murali to coach any foreign team, but the irony is that he is supporting Australia which tried to get him out of cricket,” Sumathipala said.
He is creating long-term damage for himself among his fans. I feel sad.”
During an 18-year Test career, Muralitharan — who was born with a partially deformed elbow — was twice cited by Australian umpires for a suspect action but was cleared both times by the game’s governing body.
He once refused to tour Australia but has been a regular visitor in recent years as a star of the Big Bash Twenty20 league.
Sri Lankan tweeter Kalana Senaratne may have spoken for all Sri Lankan fans when he said after the match: “It was the (Sri Lankan) team which was too pissed with Murali; Thilanga was just the mouthpiece. But don’t tell anyone.”
(COLOMBO, July 30, 2016 – UPDATED