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Bengal have bagged the services of Muttiah Muralitharan, the Sri Lankan offspinner, for the 2008-09 Ranji Trophy. Murali, the leading wicket-taker in Tests, will play about four matches in the tournament's second division - the Plate League, his manager confirmed to Cricinfo.
"The arrangement is very clear that Murali will be available to play only if there is no clash with his international commitments," his manager, Kushil Gunasekera, said. "Bengal have been relegated this season and they wanted his services to help them stage a comeback. Murali has signed a contract and the arrangement is for about four games, but subject of course to the condition that Sri Lanka Cricket's obligations come first."
The CAB have also got clearances from the Sri Lankan board and the BCCI, but haven't confirmed which matches Murali will play for the team. "The Lankan board chief [executive], Duleep Mendis, has sent across a fax to us, mentioning that Muralitharan will be available for Bengal in the upcoming first-class engagements," Jagmohan Dalmiya, the CAB president, said. "He is now available to play for Bengal and with his experience of 756 Tests and 479 ODI wickets, Bengal cricket will benefit heavily."
Sri Lanka have no other tours as of now that clash with the Ranji Trophy, but Gunasekera said Murali will play for his IPL team, Chennai Super Kings, in the inaugural Champions Twenty20 League from December 3-10. The group phase of the Ranji Trophy Plate League is scheduled from November 3 to December 4 with Bengal playing five games before the knock-out stages.
Bengal were relegated last season after a few of their players, including captain Deep Dasgupta and Rohan Gavaskar, joined the ICL. The CAB's new administration under Dalmiya, the former ICC president, had earlier appointed former captain Utpal Chatterjee as coach, with Mohinder Amarnath, the former India allrounder, taking up a consulting role.
Under the new BCCI rules, each state association can sign four outstation players, including one from overseas, in their squads. However, one stipulation was that the overseas player should have played at least ten Tests or 20 ODIs. Baroda have been eyeing Murali's team-mate, Dilhara Fernando, as their overseas option.