Pakistan v Australia 2014-15

Muralitharan joins Australia coaching staff

Brydon Coverdale

June 18, 2014

Comments: 69 | Text size: A | A
Coverdale: 'Majority of Australians quite like Murali'

Australia have made a dramatic move in their attempts to improve their spin credentials in Asian conditions, hiring Muttiah Muralitharan as a coaching consultant for this year's Test series against Pakistan in the UAE. And while Muralitharan has no intention of turning Nathan Lyon into a master of the doosra, he is already helping Lyon add a carrom ball to his arsenal.

The two men have been working together in Sri Lanka this week and Muralitharan said he was confident Lyon would be ready to deliver the carrom ball to Pakistan's batsmen in the Test series in October. But the appointment of Muralitharan for the short-term role is not only about helping Lyon but also equipping Australia's batsmen to face Saeed Ajmal and the Pakistan spinners.

Australia's most recent Test tour in Asia was their disastrous campaign in India early last year, when they lost 4-0 and struggled to handle to R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in turning conditions. The penetration of their own spinners was also a weakness throughout the tour, although it was not helped by Lyon being dropped mid-series and replaced by Glenn Maxwell and Xavier Doherty.

Lyon returned for the final Test in Delhi and picked up nine wickets for the match, and since then has moved on to have 112 victims at 32.99 from his 33 Test appearances. Muralitharan said Lyon was clearly Australia's best spin option and he expected him to be able to deliver the occasional carrom ball in the UAE this year before mastering it in years to come.

"In a country like Australia, you don't need many spinners, you need to get the right one," Muralitharan said. "I think Nathan Lyon is the answer, for any format. He spins the ball, he is confident, he has done well and taken more than 100 wickets in Test cricket. Australia has to persevere with him and then fill the backups.

"The doosra is very difficult to teach. We are trying something else, like a carrom ball ... He is a finger-spinner, I am a wrist-spinner. For a wrist-spinner to change the wrist position is easy. But for a finger-spinner to change the wrist position to bowl the doosra is harder. So it would be difficult.

"He's already starting to bowl the carrom ball. So that is the easiest way for the finger-spinners to learn ... I think he'll be ready. He will bowl a few balls in the UAE and he will master it in years to come."

Muralitharan has been working not only with Lyon but also several of Australia's emerging spinners in Sri Lanka this week, including James Muirhead and Clive Rose. But his role in the UAE will also include bowling to Australia's batsmen in the nets in an attempt to get them accustomed to the style of Ajmal, who is the highest-ranked spinner on the ICC's bowling rankings and will enjoy the conditions greatly.

"I'm not a good batsman so I can't give many tips to batsmen, but the thing I can do is that I'm still good enough to bowl to the batsmen," Muralitharan said. "Myself and Ajmal are a little bit similar. We are bowling doosras and offspin, so they might learn from batting in the nets, rather than me trying to teach them. I can't teach batting."

Muralitharan said he was confident he would have the support of the vast majority of Australian cricket fans despite his history with the country, which was dominated by his being no-balled for throwing in the 1995 Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. His relationship with Australia has improved significantly and he was one of the most popular overseas players in the BBL during his time with the Melbourne Renegades.

His appointment has continued the push by coach Darren Lehmann to have specialists assist the team at strategic times, as when Shane Warne provided spin advice in South Africa this year.

"Muttiah Muralitharan is a true great of the game and his involvement with the Australian team will bring enormous benefits," Lehmann said. "He really understands the conditions we'll face and will be able to impart a great amount of knowledge. Not only will he help guide our spinners during that tour, but he will also work with our batsmen to help them prepare to play Pakistan's dangerous spin bowlers.

"As we've shown in recent times we'll bring in dedicated skill-specific coaching consultants to our support staff as and when we see fit. That means having more regular support from technical experts to help work on specific areas of performance.

"Most recently we had Shane Warne join us in South Africa, and throughout the Australian summer we had a range of former Australian players around the team during the Test series to help impart specialist knowledge. This time around we are fortunate enough to have Muttiah work with us."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Desihungama on (June 21, 2014, 3:26 GMT)

This would be Pakistan's third series playing No. 1 team in Test Cricket. A would like to retain their current ranking and B would like to improve on it's current. Bring on the series!

Posted by Marcio on (June 20, 2014, 3:44 GMT)

Sorry, my previous comment was meant for Kays789, not ShockValue - both submitted comments of a similar nature, and I accidentally mixed them up.

Posted by CricketChat on (June 19, 2014, 10:38 GMT)

Great move by CA to acquire Murali to coach Aussie spinners even on a short term basis. What a great opportunity for aspiring CA spinners to learn from the master. Murali's effectiveness came from the fact he was not just a traditional off spinner. He had so many variations, the standard off-spinner was just one of them, to keep the batsmen guessing. That's what CA spinners need to learn from Murali.

Posted by dunger.bob on (June 19, 2014, 7:52 GMT)

@ IndianInnerEdge: I suppose the ideal cricketer is one who can play anywhere, any time. A guy who can do his stuff early, mid or late season on any pitch anywhere in the world would have to be worth his weight in gold. Some have got it naturally but for the vast majority it's a matter of practice and putting hours in the log. I've said this before but I think it's worth saying again. It's more than likely an impossible dream but one worth pursuing just the same. .. I won't mind if every one, every where says to themselves in private 'OMG, here come the Aussies. If we're not really careful we're gonna get destroyed.' .. it might not ever happen but it's why we play the game.

Posted by dunger.bob on (June 19, 2014, 7:00 GMT)

@ Jono Makim: No need, just read the Brettrig article. Honestly, I had no idea about that before yesterday. Sheesh, talk about living under a rock. :)

@ Kays789: I can't actually find a comment by Well-Rounded97 on this thread. Nevertheless I know who you're talking about and I've got to say that doesn't sound like him. He's usually pretty switched on from what I remember. .. anyway, let's have it your way.

Posted by IndianInnerEdge on (June 19, 2014, 5:08 GMT)

The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging there is a problem. Hats of to Aus crick for taking such bold and innovative steps like hiring MM and importing indian soil to replicate spin friendly conditions and get their first and second string players to become proficient spin players. Am not saying that by hiring MM their bowlers will be bowling doosras at the drop of a hat...but surely the likes of lyon, muirhead will benefit from listening to MM, how to vary their pace, variety, how to challenge the batsmen, the field setting, the tactics etc. I wish my cric boad would do something similar to address the pathetic scenario of indian pace bowling, do something to nurture youngsters to take up pace bowling, create facilities, change the nature of our pitches etc the list being the same ever since India started playing cricket, one wonders what do they do with their quadzillions.....any ways....cricinfo please publish.....

Posted by IndianInnerEdge on (June 19, 2014, 4:28 GMT)

admire the intent by oz board to improve their boys, the other day they announced they are going to import indian soil to replicate spin friendly conditions. Compare this with the Characters in the BCCI who are busy counting the IPL riches when our team is likely to have another UK blankout. Wish they would be more pro active and innovative like CA and do something to bring about a fast bowling culture in india. Cricinfo please publish...

Posted by Meety on (June 19, 2014, 4:22 GMT)

In this day & age, this is the perfect type of appointment for the Cricket team. I personally don't think we need a full time spin bowling coach, rather a panel of willing experts (like Murali), that CA can call on for periods of time. Good work Cric Oz, definately could not of been a Sutherland idea.

Posted by landl47 on (June 19, 2014, 4:21 GMT)

He'll certainly help the Australian batsmen prepare for Ajmal- their actions are similar. Whether he'll help Lyon is more debatable.

Posted by Kays789 on (June 19, 2014, 4:05 GMT)

@dunger.bob. Just look at wellrounded87's comment. I don't expect you'll believe this either, but the trolls you refer to have not moved on, and never will. So yes, Murali is clearly the bigger man here and good for him. He's a decent human being and was always above such pettiness.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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