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June 2, 2007
Tom Moody, the former Sri Lanka coach, said he was embarrassed by the derogatory reaction and negative attention directed towards Muttiah Muralitharan by Australian crowds. Muralitharan's unorthodox bowling action came under scrutiny in Australia, where he was no-balled for a suspect action on two tours.
The treatment meted out by the crowds in reaction to these on-field episodes prompted him to boycott Sri Lanka's 2004 tour to Australia. John Howard, the Australian prime minister, joined the clamour by labelling Muralitharan a "chucker".
"As an Australian when I have been with the Sri Lankan team in Australia, or playing against them in the World Cup, it's the only situation we find in the whole of the cricketing world where we have this disgraceful slant on a cricketer," Moody told The Australian.
"My take on it, and I hope I'm right, and I've shared this with Murali, is that it's Australia's nature to show that response in a way of respect and acknowledgement of someone who is pretty special and unique".
Moody, who has taken up a coaching role with Western Australia, puts this attitude down to the competition between Muralitharan and Shane Warne, who finished his career as the world's leading wicket-taker with 708 Test victims. Muralitharan is second in the all-time list with 674 dismissals.
"They're protecting their own," Moody said. "Australia has produced the greatest legspinner of all time and Australians are very proud of that. There's that constant comparison between Warne and Murali, but I just think you cannot even begin to try and compare the two."
Muralitharan was first no-balled by Darrell Hair in the 1995 Boxing Day Test and Ross Emerson also called him in an ODI at Adelaide four years later. When the Sri Lankans walked off the field after the second incident, only an intervention by the respective boards and the ICC saved the tour.
Muralitharan's action was subsequently cleared under the ICC's 15-degree rule. He has toured Australia since his 2004 boycott and looks set to visit Australia again in November for a two-Test series.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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