Murali signs with Melbourne Renegades
The two most prolific wicket-takers in international cricket are expected to be part of a cross-town rivalry in Melbourne this season, after Muttiah Muralitharan confirmed he would play for the Renegades in the Big Bash League. Muralitharan, 40, will be based at Etihad Stadium in the Docklands and Shane Warne is likely to head back to the MCG to play for the Melbourne Stars again, although his return is yet to be confirmed.
It will be Muralitharan's first taste of Australian domestic cricket after he signed for Victoria in the Big Bash in 2009 but was forced to withdraw due to a conflict with Sri Lanka's international schedule. Last season, he chose to play for Wellington in New Zealand's domestic Twenty20 competition instead of the BBL, but he was keen to test himself in Australia this year.
"I wanted to play one season in Australia and the opportunity from the Melbourne Renegades was there so I took it with both hands," Muralitharan said. "Last year I watched [the BBL] from New Zealand and it's a good standard of players and a competitive tournament.
"I think it will be interesting to play against [Chris] Gayle because he's one of the best batsmen in T20 and I played with him at the Royal Challengers Bangalore [in the Indian Premier League]. It will be good to play with him or against him. I think Shane is a great bowler and I've always admired him. I'll try to do well and he'll try to do well for his team."
Gayle has not yet been announced as a signing by any of the eight teams this year but he is expected to feature in the tournament, having been a major drawcard for the Sydney Thunder last season. Muralitharan is the fourth international player to be signed for the BBL this year, after Daniel Vettori (Brisbane Heat), Owais Shah (Hobart Hurricanes) and John Botha (Adelaide Strikers).
Muralitharan will do much of his work on a drop-in pitch at Etihad Stadium, which he said might help his cause. "Sometimes the drop-in pitches can assist the spinners so that might help me," Muralitharan said. "There's a big Sri Lankan community [in Melbourne] so hopefully they can come and watch."
Attracting Muralitharan will be a valuable boost for the Renegades, who have lost key batsmen Brad Hodge and Glenn Maxwell to the Stars. Teams have until Friday next week to sign at least 14 players, and must finalise their 18-man squads by the end of November.